The Mozart Effect: What is it about?
A few years ago there was quite a bit in the newspaper and popular magazines about "The Mozart Effect." Many people believed that simply listening to the music of Mozart would raise their I.Q. and marketers went to work churning out CD's of Mozart's music for nearly every conceivable daytime and night-time task. As a professional musician and a musicologist, I had a little problem with that idea then and I still do. However, after talking with my friend Don Campbell, author of "The Mozart Effect" I believe that he did not try in any way to mislead the public into thinking that it does. His definition of "the Mozart Effect" is simply the use of any music at all for any healing purpose at all. That's a pretty widely encompassing concept. Because I did believe in this I submitted two stories from my own music medicine practice which he did subsequently incorporate into the book. Still, confusion exists and I thought it might be helpful to elucidate a little bit on some of the original research.
It is said that Albert Einstein was a mediocre student until he began playing the violin. "Before that, he had a hard time expressing what he knew," says Hazel Cheilek, orchestra director at Fairfax County's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school where more than a third of the students also play or sing in musical ensembles. "Einstein said he got some of his greatest inspirations while playing violin. It liberated his brain so that he could imagine." In the early 1700s, England's King George I also felt he would make better decisions if he listened to good music. Reportedly, Handel responded by composing his Water Music suites to be played while the king floated the Thames on his royal barge. Even Plato in ancient Greece believed studying music created a sense of order and harmony necessary for intelligent thought. Can music really make us think better?
In 1993, researchers at the University of California at Irvine discovered the so-called "Mozart Effect" - that college students who listened to ten minutes of Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D major K448 before taking an IQ test scored nine points higher than when they had sat in silence or listened to relaxation tapes. Other studies have indicated that people retain information better if they hear classical or baroque music while studying.
The most profound effects take place in young children, while their brains literally are growing. This year, the same researchers at Irvine's Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory found that preschoolers who had received eight months of music lessons scored 80 percent higher on object-assembly tasks than did other youngsters who received no musical training. That means the music students had elevated spatial temporal reasoning--the ability to think abstractly and to visualize physical forms and their possible variations, the higher-level cognition critical to mathematics and engineering.
Music students continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, according to the 1999 "Profiles of SAT and Achievement Test Takers" from The College Board. Students with coursework in music study/appreciation scored 61 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 42 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. Students in music performance scored 53 points higher on the verbal portion and 39 points higher on the math portion than students with no arts participation.
Mean SAT Scores for Students with Coursework or Experience in Music - 1999
Music: Study or Appreciation
- Verbal: 538
- Math: 534
- Verbal: 530
- Math: 531
No Coursework or Experience
- Verbal: 477
- Math: 492
All of this to say "you be the judge" but listening to Mozart certainly won't hurt you. My point always is that making music is preferable to passive listening and that listening to live music is always preferable to listening to recorded music. Mozart will not, repeat WILL NOT raise your I.Q. but it might help you organize your thoughts better before taking a standardized test. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, with whom Don Campbell and I have both studied and who has researched the healing benefits of Mozart's music, recommends the Five Violin Concerto above all of Mozart's other music for healing properties. Please feel free to write me with any questions you might have about Mozart or anything else related to music and healing.
Helping people to use music for Healing and Wellness, Dr. Alice Cash stresses the use of music for health, learning, motivation, relaxation, energy building, or well-being. She is known internationally for her work with music and pregnancy, surgery, addictions, and Alzheimer's disease. A concert pianist, musicologist, and psychotherapist, she has traveled around the world teaching, entertaining and bringing hope to thousands of people with various conditions.
Dr. Cash can be reached through Healing Music Enterprises; http://www.healingmusicenterprises.com