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Stephen Jackson
Dr. Erin McLaughlin
Writing and Rhetoric 13300
24 November 2015

Music and Education


Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination,
and charm and happiness to life and everything. Unknown
Music has always been an integral part of human existence. Music was traditionally one
of the subjects of the quadrivium, an integral component of the full human education of the free
man. The study and appreciation of music in America seems to have fallen into decline in recent
years. This might appear as a paradox, since now more than ever before music is being listened
to. The majority of Americans spend a great part of their day listening to music through their
earbuds. Unfortunately, most of the music that is listened to is not what most music scholars
would classify as a true art form. The appreciation of Western music which reached its
culmination in the Baroque and Classical periods has largely declined. Many schools no longer
insist on the importance of including music in the general curriculum of studies. However, there
have been recent attempts to revive the waning interest in classical music, especially the music of
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In addition to these attempts, in an almost completely unrelated
field, neuroscientists have been researching the link between music and the human brain.
In this paper, I will attempt to present the recent efforts made to promote classical music
in America in juxtaposition to the recent neurological studies regarding classical music and the
brain. I will conclude with a reflection on the current state of musical education in the United

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States, with possible ideas or remedies to continue the promotion and revival of classical music
in America, which include first and foremost the new possibilities presented by modern
technology.
The So-called Mozart Effect
Scholars continue to be fascinated by Mozarts music. One of the pioneers of the
relationship between music and the brain, a Frenchman by the name of Dr. Alfred Tomatis, began
incorporating the music of Mozart into his scientific research in the 1960's (Campbell 3). He was
able to show that listening to music, and especially Mozart had a positive effect on certain brain
functions (Campbell 3). More recently than Dr. Tomatis, in 1993, researchers from the University
of California performed a study from which the Mozart effect would eventually derive its name.
In the study three separate groups of college students listened to music for ten minutes. The first
group listened to a Mozart piano sonata, the second group listened to relaxation music, and the
third group merely stayed in silence. At the end of the ten minutes, each of the groups was given
a spatial reasoning test. The scores of the test were then converted to an IQ scale. The group that
had listened to the Mozart piano sonata scored on average eight to nine IQ points higher than the
other two groups (Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky, Music). As a result of this experiment, the socalled Mozart effect began to be widely publicized, and reached a high amount of popularity in
the United States.
The Mozart effect also had its critics. There were some who claimed that this study was
empirically unsupported and that brain research is being misappropriated to the service of
misguided, quick fix solutions to more complicated, systemic issues (Jones and Zigler 355).
While one experiment probably wasn't enough to provide complete scientific backing to the
theory that listening to Mozart's music had positive effects on brain functions, nevertheless there

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were many people who claimed that exposure to the music of Mozart had been beneficial for
them. One student who attended the University of Massachusetts claimed that Mozart was the
key factor which helped him throughout college. He writes: I have a severe learning disability
that impairs my ability to write and to ignore distractions. Mozart was the single most important
external factor in allowing me to do the kind of writing that I needed to do (Campbell 183).
There are many other success stories of the same nature. Is this just imagination, or is there
something deeper here that neuroscience is on the verge of discovering? That is a question that
hopefully will be answered by neuroscience in the near future.
There was also another study that was carried out, but different from the research
conducted with the college students at the University of California. Whereas Mozart had been
used with the college students to improve reasoning skills that were already present, this time
Mozart was used rather as a cure for a disease. Twenty-nine patients who had been diagnosed
with epilepsy listened to the Mozart piano sonata K448 (the same sonata used in the test at the
University of California). Twenty-three of the patients showed an improvement. More
specifically, an electroencephalogram showed a significant decrease in epileptiform activity in
those patients (Jenkins 171). It is interesting to note that one of the patients showed an
improvement even when unconscious (Jenkins 171), which means that a conscious appreciation
or taste for music was not necessary in this case for the music to have its effect.
Like the previous study at the University of California, the effects that were noted in this
study were only temporary. However, there was another test performed to assess possible long
term effects of exposure to Mozart. The patient for the test in question was an eight-year-old girl
also suffering from epilepsy. Before the experimentation with Mozart's music began, she would
suffer around nine seizures in the course of four hours. The testing involved playing Mozart

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while she was awake but only for ten minutes of every hour that she was awake (Jenkins 171).
In the second period of four hours, when she normally would have had nine seizures, she only
suffered one seizure, and the duration of focal discharges in the brain had decreased. The day
after, the girl suffered only one seizure in the course of more than seven hours (Jenkins 171).
Skeptics may still try to claim that all this is merely a coincidence, or that the causal link
between Mozart's music and the amelioration of the brain function cannot be proven. It is true
that neuroscience is a vast field, and there is much that remains to be discovered. However, the
cases mentioned are only a few examples of many situations in which listening to Mozart
seemed to benefit the person in question. It will be helpful to now consider some of the relations
between music and the brain as studied in neuroscience, abstracted from the music of one
particular composer.
Music and Neuroscience
At this point in the discussion, one might be tempted to ask the question Why Mozart?
or Is Mozart the only composer with a noticeable effect on the brain? In fact, some of the
researchers of the Mozart Effect have themselves answered this question. Rauscher, Shaw, and
Ky state: We chose Mozart since he was composing at the age of four. Thus we expect that
Mozart was exploiting the inherent repertoire of spatial-temporal firing patterns in the cortex
(Listening to Mozart 46). One model of the brain proposes the cortical column of the brain,
which is the basic network of the brain cortex, to be made up of trions which in turn have a
large repertoire of inherent, quasi-stable, periodic spatial-temporal firing patterns which can be
excited (Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky, Listening to Mozart 44). Some have proposed that music is
able to access these inherent firing patterns in the cortex at an early age, which can actually
improve other functions of the brain (Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky, Listening to Mozart 44). Since

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Mozart was so young when he first began composing, the researchers made the link between the
part of the brain that can be accessed at a young age (which deals with spatial-temporal firing
patterns), and the spatial-reasoning skills that seemed to improve after listening to Mozart.
Another less complicated explanation to answer the question Why Mozart? takes into
account the actual qualities contained in Mozart's compositions. A computer analysis of several
pieces of classical composers including Mozart, J.C. Bach, J.S. Bach, Chopin showed that the
works of Mozart, J.C. Bach, and J.S. Bach shared a common characteristic that of long term
periodicity (Jenkins 171). In addition, the analysis showed that there were three notes (C, B, and
D) that appeared very often with a high level of intensity (Jenkins 171). Jenkins concludes by
saying that it is suggested that music with a high degree of long-term periodicity, whether of
Mozart or other composers, would resonate within the brain to decrease seizure activity and to
enhance spatial-temporal performance (171). From this statement one could conclude that the
music of Mozart is not unique. This does not lessen the value of Mozart's music it rather
widens the scope of music that is potentially beneficial for the brain.
The New Element in Music: Technology
There is a new element nowadays that was not present at the time when the first
experiments and tests with the hypothesis of the Mozart Effect took place. That is the element of
technology, which makes music so easily accessible at any time and in any place. With the aid of
technology, it is easier than ever before not only to access and listen to any kind of music, but
also to create music. With all the possible avenues of social media available nowadays, it is very
popular to post which is one's favorite type of music to listen to. This is where technology and
peer pressure can actually dissuade someone from liking classical music (or at least
acknowledging that liking by posting it). Research from the past has shown that what kind of

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music someone likes can be a reflection of their educational background or their social status
(Yang and Cong 2797). In addition, there is a tendency for people to stereotype those who like
such forms of music as opera and classical music as higher class and better educated, and to
consider those who like pop music as lower class or of a lower education level (Yang and Cong
2797). What is perhaps most interesting to note is that those who like classical music are widely
considered unattractive, though intelligent, whereas those who like pop music are considered
enthusiastic and attractive (Yang and Cong 2797). This is one aspect then that would tend to
dissuade the youth (who seem to be the primary users of social media) from liking classical
music, or at best, from admitting a liking for classical music. Unfortunately, this is a slight
obstacle to the regrowth and spread of a new appreciation for classical music.
However, the positive aspect in favor of classical music outweighs the obstacle
mentioned above. Practically everybody today has a smartphone, and apps are the most popular
tool for performing various functions with the phone. The digital software publisher Touch Press
recognized the fact that classical music is on the decline in America, and decided to do
something about it, using the means at their disposal. Touch Press developed an app which
allowed the user to interactively listen to Beethoven's ninth symphony. The success of the app
was astonishing more than 620,000 Apple users downloaded the app (Isacoff). This is
definitely a reassuring sign for those who are concerned about the future of classical music in
America. It would seem that the easiest way to promote the appreciation of classical music
would be in primary and secondary schools. However, some statistics reveal that even in schools
the appreciation for music is dropping. Based on a trend in statistical data, some have concluded
that only around seven percent of high school students in Florida, to take one state as an
example, will participate in voluntary music classes in the year 2025 (Williams 51). However, it

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is not inconceivable that this trend can be reversed through the aid of new apps that promote
classical music, and make it within hand's reach to people of all ages.
A Glance to the Future
After having taken an overview of some of the beneficial effects of listening to Mozart,
and having discussed the recent insights that neuroscience has added to the links and relationship
between music and some key cerebral functions, it is perhaps time to take a glance into the
future. As has been mentioned, the new technology has the potential to distance the youth from
classical music, but luckily it can also be an easy tool to promote the spread and appreciation of
classical music. While I don't think it is reasonable to expect a sudden or drastic change in the
musical taste and appreciation of Americans, nevertheless it can be hoped that little by little
classical music will once again find a place in American culture.
The discussion certainly is not finished. With the way that science advances day by day,
with more fascinating and insightful discoveries being published, it is not unreasonable to
assume that neuroscience will be able in the near future to provide even more detailed scientific
evidence demonstrating the benefits of Mozart, or any music of those recognized as great
composers. There are skeptics that remain, most certainly. Hopefully the facts presented in this
paper will be enough to make even the most skeptical critic reflect for a few moments on the
possible benefits of classical music, especially for the youth. May parents and educators in
particular take note of what they are missing out on if they choose to disregard the use of
classical music in the education of their children and students. As a result of the influence of such
great men as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, coupled with the convincing proof of neuroscience (if
taste for fine art were not enough) and with the aid of technology, Americans have the great
opportunity of using what has been handed down from previous generations to make the world a

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better place.

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Works Cited
Campbell, Don G. The Mozart Effect for Children : Awakening Your Child's Mind, Health, and
Creativity with Music. 1st ed. New York: William Morrow, 2000. Print.
Isacoff, Stuart. "Music Education: Saving Classical Music: An App for that?" Wall Street
Journal, Eastern edition ed.Aug 29 2013. ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
Jenkins, J. S. The Mozart Effect. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 94.4 (2001): 170
172. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Jones, Stephanie M., and Zigler, Edward. "The Mozart Effect: Not Learning from History."
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 23.3 (2002): 355-72. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
Rauscher, Frances H., Shaw, Gordon L., and Ky, Katherine N. "Listening to Mozart Enhances
Spatial-temporal Reasoning: Towards a Neurophysiological Basis." Neuroscience Letters
185.1 (1995): 44-47. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
- - -. "Music and Spatial Task Performance." Nature 365.6447 (1993): 611. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
Williams, David A.. The Elephant in the Room. Music Educators Journal 98.1 (2011): 5157.
Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
Yang, Qinghua, and Li, Cong. "Mozart or Metallica, Who Makes You More Attractive? A
Mediated Moderation Test of Music, Gender, Personality, and Attractiveness in
Cyberspace." Computers in Human Behavior 29.6 (2013): 2796-804. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.