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Title: Henry Cowell and Dr. and Mrs Dower’s “Tonal Therapy”
Authors: Van Gelder, Pia
Issue Date: 13-Jul-2016
Abstract: In 1922 the American modernist composer, Henry Cowell published his first single­authored piece of writing. Entitled “Tonal Therapy” it was published in The Temple Artisan, a periodical of the Theosophical community of Halcyon in California. His essay did not discuss the tone clusters or dissonant counterpoint for which he would become known, but instead reported on a number of experiments conducted at Halcyon by Dr. William Dower and his wife Mrs. Jane Dower. These experiments used specialized electronic instruments, in conjunction with coloured lights and musical notes, to explore methods for diagnosing and healing diseases. Cowell’s essay was an important product of his involvement with Theosophy, a movement that brought together esoteric philosophy with science, technology and the arts. In this paper, I will examine the instruments and techniques used in the Halcyon experiments, how they intersected with Cowell's interests expressed in Tonal Therapy, and place them among other efforts from the period that sought to merge the arts and healing with new electronic means. I will concentrate on how frequency was conceived and utilized as a unifying element of the metaphysical, physical, sensory and bioelectrical phenomena involved in this convergence of multimedia and the healing arts.
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