'Tableau de l'Opération de la Taille' – The Original Urology Theatre Music
BAUS ePoster online library. Harrington-Vogt M. Jun 25, 2019; 259554; P6-1
Maria Harrington-Vogt
Maria Harrington-Vogt
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The original 'urology theatre music' dates back to 1725 when Marin Marais, a French composer, court musician to Louis XIV and virtuoso viol player, depicted in music the traumatising perineal lithotomy that he had endured, at 64 years of age, to remove his bladder calculus. Marais(1656-1728) composed a piece, for viol, called 'Tableau de l'opération de la taille'('Description of a lithotomy').

The composition lasted just over 3minutes and annotations on the score demonstrated that he described the operation in fourteen stages from the perspective of the patient(Table 1). Predictably the piece began with a slow sombre section that depicted the apprehension, and agitation of the patient as well as the mounting tension of the operation, and built up to the climactic extraction of the stone. Its musical portrayal is arguably as vivid as Samuel Pepys own diary account.

The lithotomy was clearly performed without anaesthesia, and from the annotation it is likely that Marais underwent a lateral lithotomy via a left lateral perineal incision. The operation was introduced in Paris in the early 18thcentury by Jacques Beaulieu(Frère Jacques;1651-1714) and modified by John Jacob Rau(1668-1709). Due to Marais' association with the royal court it is likely that his procedure was performed by a member of the Collot family, court surgeons who became so synonymous with the operation that they were simply called 'the lithotomists'.

Interestingly, Marais' composition was published in his 5thbook of Pièces de viole and was followed by a contrastingly lively piece entitled 'Les Relevailles', which celebrated his recovery.
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