Is the ‘Mozart Effect’ real or bogus?
The ‘Mozart Effect’ claims that listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music will have a positive short-term effect on spatial intelligence. First announced in 1993, The ‘Mozart Effect’ has reached legendary status now. But does it make you smarter?
The Original Study
Once upon a time, a University of California at Irvine psychologist named Frances H. Rauscher conducted a study on college students. The students were required to perform some spatial tasks. Some listened to a Mozart tune, the others did not. Those who didn’t listen to the Wolfgang scored lower.
When the results of the study were released, the public went crazy. Stores across the country were cleaned out of their Mozart CDs and tapes. Yes, tapes. It was 1993, the same year Guns & Roses performed their last concert together; the same year some of us made ourselves look (not) awesome via pegged pants.
The slippery slope was set, and the results of the original study began to be blown out of proportion. The New York Times announced that listening to Mozart might help students score higher on the SAT. Fuel was added to the fire when a couple books came out saying that listeing to Mozart made kids smarter. Heck, the governor of Georgia even passed legislation that gave every kid born in his state a classical music album. Not even Charlie Daniels could claim that honor.
In 2010, researchers at the University of Vienna denounced the original Mozart study. They found that in over 40 studies with over 3,000 participants done to replicate the original findings of the ‘Mozart Effect’, that none could conclusively do so. In fact, the ‘Mozart Effect’ even got listed as No. 6 in the book, “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology” (Scott E. Lilienfeld). But myths have a way of becoming truth. The ‘Mozart Effect’ was and is here to stay.
Is There Value in Mozart?
I am a crossover musician--meaning I’ve crossed over from Classical music to pop/rock and contemporary styles. In fact, one of my favorite genres to in which to compose is the often-mocked “New Age” style, popularized by musicians like the very cheesy Yanni. Yanni and I differ in some regards--namely that he is famous beyond belief and has an awesome mustache. But after being immersed in both contemporary and old-school music worlds, Classical still remains my first love.
Why? Classical music contains the highest order of creative genius. It represents an era in which art music was held in the highest esteem. It was commissioned by music's highly-educated and passionate patrons, furthered by its very best musicians. It has deep and multiple layers that stir unique emotions and thoughts. These unique layers are kind of like an onion--whenever you peel a layer away, there always seems to be a fresh new one underneath. And like all great art, Classical music does not necessarily offer instant gratification. It takes work to understand it and time to appreciate it. Mozart won’t make you smarter, but he offers something special that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Do you see value in Classical music? Please share!
Adam Bendorf and his wife, Anna, are private piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA. They also are the founders of Alberti Publishing, a digital sheet music company for piano teachers.