Article: The Effect of Music On The Growth of the Hair, 1896

I have just found what is possibly my favorite article on Victorian music ever. It is from the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of 6 February 1896.



The London correspondent of Le Temps writes that an English statistician has just demonstrated by figures the effect of music on the growth of the hair. The remarkable facts which he has discovered relate less to composers than to players. Among composers baldness is as frequent as among other professions, namely, twelve per cent., a proportion surpassed only by physicians, thirty per cent. of whom are said to be bald. The instrumental performer, however, almost always retained his hair up to an advanced period of life; performers on certain instruments retain their hair longer than others.

The piano and the violin, the piano in particular, prevent or arrest the loss of the hair. We are compelled to admit this on examining the portraits of Paderewski, Frederick Dawson, Vladimir di Pachmann, Léonard Borwich, Sapelloikoff, Henry Richard, Bird, and Emile Sauer, without including the prodigy, Joseff Hoffman, whose luxuriant growth of hair might be accounted for by his youth, even if he were not a pianist, and the aged Charles Hallé who died recently at an advanced age in possession of all his hair.

The same preservation of hair must be acknowledged to the violin, but in the players of this instrument the hair grows a little less luxuriantly, and there are a few cases of partial baldness. Eugéne Ysaye, Willy Hess, Sarasate, Tividar Nachez, Joachim, Betteman, Willy Burmseter, Fernandez Arboz, Johannes Wolf, Victor Wilhelms, all possess luxuriant heads of hair, but Louis Ries is compelled to use hair restorer, and John Tiplady Canodus could easily count the hairs which remain.

Similar observations have been made in the case of female violinists. The Swedish violinist Freda Scotta has an admirable head of black hair, and the yellow hair of the Austrian, Gabrielle Wietrowetz, falls to her feet.

Players on other instruments approach the mean of the learned professions, namely, about eleven per cent., of baldness. The ‘cello, the contra-bass, the alto and the harp preserve the hair fairly well, but one is not justified in placing much confidence in the hautboy, clarionette or flute, which do not guarantee the preservation of the hair much beyond the fiftieth year. On the other hand, brass instruments have a fatal influence on the growth of the hair, notably the cornet, the French horn, and the trombone, which apparently will depilate a player’s scalp in less than five years.

Our statistician simply states the facts, and leaves to scientific investigators the task of search for the causes which underlie them. It would certainly be interesting to find out why the slide trombone makes the hair fall out, while the piano preserves it. The statistician does not tell us, but his observations are well grounded, and will be easily confirmed by studying the musicians in the orchestras at concerts and theatres. The baldness which prevails among members of regimental bands has been given the name of “trumpet baldness,” calvitié des fanfares.

It would be interesting to know whether the predominance of brass instrument which the music of Wagner has introduced, has brought with it an increase of baldness among orchestras which are in the habit of rendering the music of that composer. It is also just possible that the baldness which is said to prevail among the habitués of the front rows at the theatre may be due to the proximity of the brass instruments, or may be caught by some contagion from the players themselves.


Filed under Not My Writing

3 responses to “Article: The Effect of Music On The Growth of the Hair, 1896

  1. I am just smiling at the tags you put on the post :-) The Strad archives are full of string players complaining about the usage of the modern (German) Horn, quite rightly, so please keep some commentary on brass in reserve! I suppose dear Sir Charles passing at the “advanced” age of 76 is a bit worrying too. I know Wilma wasn’t too happy with that, hair or not? A delight to read your posts indeed, especially as an ex-hornplayer with a full head of hair (still).

  2. Ha, if I find more, I’ll just have to add more to the “the one and only time I’ll ever blog about brass instruments” tag… I hadn’t thought about it before, but now that you mention it, I bet there were a lot of disgruntled string players when the big brassy orchestration came into vogue!

    Will be in touch…someday. Life has been a bit crazy lately.

  3. Pingback: Song of the Lark 2011 Roundup | Song of the Lark

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