Prof Helen King on Radio 3’s ‘H7STERIA’ concert programme

h7steria_306x172Prof Helen King (Classical Studies) takes part in the interval discussion during Radio 3’s coverages of the BBC Concert Orchestra’s ‘H7STERIA’ programme, at 19.30 on Monday 3 December 2012. This event contains explicit material and is suitable for audiences aged 16+

H7STERIA is the title of the BBC Concert Orchestra’s offering — a programme of psychotic and disturbing scores. The 7 refers to Pierrot lunaire, Schoenberg’s melodrama about a tortured clown. The composer was fascinated by numerology and this was written for an ensemble of seven, uses seven-note motifs and consists of three groups of seven poems.

Peter Maxwell Davies’s suite from his music for Ken Russell’s film The Devils, Jocelyn Pook’s new Hearing Voices (inspired by a mad great aunt) and Muse’s hit Hysteria (in an acoustic make-over from Patrick Nunn) complete an unsettling evening.

As part of her work on the history of gynaecology and on the reception of ancient medicine up to the early twentieth century, Prof King has published a co-written book, Hysteria Beyond Freud (1993). There and elsewhere, she ha exposed the widespread myth that ‘hysteria goes back to Hippocrates’, pointing out that both the word and the diagnosis did not exist in the ancient world; instead, there were a series of conditions thought to be due to ‘hysterical suffocation’, which was a completely physical cause in which the womb (hystera) moved up the body looking for moisture. She explores the shifts as hysteria emerged as a disorder of the nervous system, and then as an expression of suppressed experiences and emotions.

Find out more about Prof King’s work via the Classical Studies website.

Find out more about the H7STERIA programme on BBC Radio 3 via the website.

Discover more about Music and Classical Studies at the Open University here.

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