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By Don Campbell
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright ©2001 Don Campbell
All right reserved.
The Mozart Effect
"The vocal nourishment that the mother
provides to her child is just as important
to the child's development as her milk."
-- Alfred Tomatis, M.D.
Weighing just over one-and-a-half pounds, Krissy was born prematurely in a Chicago hospital with a life-threatening condition. Doctors put her on total life support. Other than an occasional pat on the head, the only positive stimulation she received was from constant infusions of Mozart that her mother begged nurses to pipe into the neonatal unit. Doctors did not think Krissy would live; her mother believes that music saved her daughter's life.
Krissy could not sit up at age one and did not walk until she was two. Her motor skills were poor, and she was anxious, introverted, and uncommunicative. Despite all this, at age three she tested far ahead of her years in abstract reasoning. One evening, her parents took Krissy to a short chamber music concert. For days afterward, Krissy played with an empty tube from a paper towel roll, which she placed under her neck and "bowed" with a chopstick. Enchanted, her mother enrolled Krissy in Suzuki violin lessons with Vicki Vorreiter in Chicago, andthe four-year-old girl could immediately reproduce from memory pieces several levels beyond her physical ability. Over the next two years, her strength and coordination on the instrument began to catch up with her mental capacity. With the support and encouragement of her parents, teachers, and fellow students, who were trained to perform in a group spirit, Krissy stopped wringing her hands in fear and began to socialize. Through a combination of pluck and grace, the little girl who was born weighing less than her violin could now express herself -- and be whole.
In the last several years, many stories like Krissy's have emerged. The enhanced effects of music -- especially Mozart and his contemporaries -- on creativity, learning, health, and healing have become more widely appreciated. Let's look at a few examples:
- In monasteries in Brittany, monks play music to the animals in their care and have found that cows serenaded with Mozart give more milk.
- In Washington State, Immigration Department officials play Mozart and Baroque music during English classes for new arrivals from Cambodia, Laos, and other Asian countries and report that it speeds up their learning.
- "Beethoven Bread" -- set to rise to Symphony No. 6 for 72 hours -- is offered as a specialty item by a bakery in Nagoya.
- At Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, patients in critical care units listen to classical music. "Half an hour of music produced the same effect as ten milligrams of Valium," Dr. Raymond Bahr, director of the coronary care unit, reports.
- The city of Edmonton, Canada, pipes in Mozart string quartets in the city squares to calm pedestrian traffic, and, as a result, drug dealings have lessened.
- In Tokyo, noodle makers sell "Musical Udon" made with tapes of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and the chirping of birds playing in the background.
- In northern Japan, Ohara Brewery finds that Mozart makes the best sake. The density of yeast used for brewing the traditional Japanese rice wine -- a measure of quality-increases by a factor of ten.
Another Rosetta Stone
The power of Mozart's music has come to public attention largely through innovative research at the University of California in the early 1990s. At the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory in Irvine, a research team began to look at some of the effects of Mozart on college students and children. Frances H. Rauscher, Ph.D., and her colleagues conducted a study in which thirty-six undergraduates from the psychology department scored eight to nine points higher on the spatial IQ test (part of the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale) after listening to ten minutes of Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major" (K. 448). Although the effect lasted only ten to fifteen minutes, Rauscher's team concluded that the relationship between music and spatial reasoning was so strong that simply listening to music can make a difference.
Mozart's music "may 'warm up' the brain," suggested Gordon Shaw, a theoretical physicist and one of the researchers, after the results were announced. "We suspect that complex music facilitates certain complex neuronal patterns involved in high brain activities like math and chess. By contrast, simple and repetitive music could have the opposite effect."
The day after the Irvine findings were reported, music stores in one major city sold out of Mozart recordings, The researchers, intrigued, likened the Mozart Effect to a "Rosetta stone for the 'code' or internal language of higher brain function."
In a follow-up study, the scientists explored the neurophysiological bases of this enhancement. Spatial intelligence was further tested by projecting sixteen abstract figures similar to folded pieces of paper on an overhead screen for one minute each. The exercise tested whether seventy-nine students could tell how the items would look when they were unfolded. Over a five-day period, one group listened to the original Mozart sonata, another to silence, and a third to mixed sounds, including music by Philip Glass, an audiotaped story, and a dance piece.
Excerpted from Mozart Effect by Don Campbell Copyright ©2001 by Don Campbell. Excerpted by permission.
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