Campbell, D. (1998).
The riddle of the Mozart effect.
Natural Health, 28,
The riddle of the Mozart Effect.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Weider Publications
The Chinese are producing musical albums with some curious titles. Obesity and Constipation are two. Insomnia is another.
There’s Liver, Heart, and Lungs, and also an orchestral piece that I’ve nicknamed “The Kidney Bladder Suite.” Most of the
albums use traditional Chinese instruments and are flawlessly performed. The Chinese “take” these musical compositions like
they’d take an herbal medicine, to help them get over the problems described in the album titles, or strengthen the organs
named in those titles. On a recent visit to Japan, I came across more compilations of classical and romantic music with
prescriptive suggestions. For headaches and migraines, the Japanese suggested Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song,” Dvorak’s
“Humoresque,” or even a dose of George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” And at hospitals throughout India, traditional
Indian music is used medicinally. In Madras, the Raga Research Center has assembled an interdisciplinary team of doctors who
experiment with different ragas for use in music therapy. They have found two particular ragas beneficial in treating
hypertension and mental illness. This is nothing new, really.
The roots of shamanic and indigenous music reach back to the
dawn of civilization, when the sound of the drum, rattle, and other primitive instruments would bring communities together,
launch crop plantings and harvests, and march tribes into battle. People believed that music and sound magically allowed the
powers above and below to come together.
Humans, we have to assume, have known since they first sang or played their first musical instrument (a bone flute between
43,000 and 82,000 years ago) that music evokes powerful forces. Evidence even suggests that dance and song preceded speech,
which means that music is humanity’s original language. Researchers, in fact, have found that two-thirds of the inner ear’s cilia
-- the thousands of tiny hairs that lie on a flat plane like piano keys -- resonate only at the higher “musical” frequencies (3,000
to 20,000 hertz). This would seem to tell us that at one time human beings communicated primarily through song or tone.
Modern scientists agree that many different kinds of music can be therapeutic. Some people respond well to reggae or jazz.
Others are uplifted -- indeed healed-after listening to Gregorian chant, or heavy metal. But researchers lately have learned that
the work of one composer in particular -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart -- mysteriously rises above all other forms of music in its
power to heal the human body. This special ability of Mozart’s music to heal is called the Mozart Effect. Scientists are not only
beginning to understand that some forms of music are more healing than others, with Mozart’s at the top, but they’re also
starting to understand why.