Tonic in partnership with the Thackray Medical Museum are proud to present:

“Viewing the Instruments” A theatre production inspired by music and medicine. (Please scroll down for further info)

Thursday 6th November, 7.00pm – 10.00pm St James Chapel, St James Hospital, Leeds

A terrifying surgical procedure carried out without anaesthetic in the 18th century will be brought to life in a one-off musical concert at St James’s University Hospital on the evening Thursday 6 November

Who would expect today’s musical composers to find inspiration in a terrifying surgical procedure? And who would expect a present day physician to find common ground between his surgical work and the practice of musical composition and performance? However, this was evidently not the case at the French royal court in the 18th-century…

In 1725 court composer Marin Marais published “Le Tableau de l’Operation de la Taille”, a musical composition for harpsichord and bass viol, with accompanying text describing bladder stone surgery without anaesthetic! For centuries this musical curiosity has presented an enigma to scholars of music. Why would a composer write such a ghoulish description of pain?

Opera director Philip Parr and artist/writer Jane Wildgoose sought to solve this mystery and were delighted to find an ally in Dr Peter Isaacs, consultant gastroenterologist at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, whose modern day care procedures compare radically with 18th-century surgical practice.

The team received a Wellcome Sciart Prize to carry out their research and their investigations have given rise to Viewing the Instruments, a new music theatre performance.

Three musicians, three actors and a narrator, Dr Peter Isaacs himself, perform Viewing the Instruments. Contemporary accounts of the 18th-century procedure, which must have been a hideously painful operation, are recited by the actors in period costume, whilst Dr Isaacs provides a comparative description of the equivalent modern-day procedure. Candid comments from patients and medical staff and extracts from medical and musical history are woven into the narrative, accompanied by visual footage.

Marais’ music, describing in musical terms every excruciating stage of 18th-century bladder surgery, is performed, together with six specially commissioned musical pieces for harpsichord, bass viol and Baroque flute, inspired by the same medical themes. For example, three of the composers have addressed the feelings of fear, anxiety and hope that treat with ativan accompany any patient’s experience of surgical intervention. Two other composers have drawn on their observation of the journey of an endoscope through a patient’s body whilst shadowing Dr Isaacs at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital. Another draws parallels between the “instruments” available to surgeon and musician respectively, and the techniques each must use to “play” the respective “bodies” beneath their fingers.

The evening performance of Viewing the Instruments will also include an exhibition, from the Thackray Museum’s extensive collection, of historical surgical instruments for the removal of the stone.

Viewing the Instruments is an original and highly inventive musical and medical collaboration that will delight and instruct in equal measure.

Tickets for the performance £15.00, concessions £7.50 Contact: Paul Stones (0113) 3923941 [email protected]

(Please note that there will also be a free lecture, about the medical, musical and historical background to the Viewing the Instruments production, at Leeds City Art Gallery on 6th November at lunchtime 12.30pm)

Viewing the Instruments is appearing at Leeds as part of a national tour of UK venues funded by the Arts Council of England .


Paul Stones Arts Development Officer Tonic Old Nurses’ Home Leeds General Infirmary Great George Street Leeds LS1 3EX

Tel: 0113 392 3941 Fax: 0113 392 6161

Tonic is the Arts and Environments Programme for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

We use the arts to improve hospital environments, and to inspire health and well-being in patients, staff and visitors

Registered Charity no. 1075308