Wednesday, January 13, 2010

“The Mozart Effect”, the Power of Music

Music is a holy place, a cathedral so majestic that we can sense the magnificence of the universe, and also a hovel so simple and private that none of us can plumb its deepest secrets—Don Campbell

If, indeed God moves us to express that within us which is divine, then poetry is the language of the heart and music is the language of the soul—Nina Munteanu

Don Campbell calls it the “Mozart Effect” in his book of the same name: the ability of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind and unlock the creative spirit.

You’ve all felt it—its rhythm resonating with your throbbing heart, soothing your mind, calming your breath. Or you’ve felt the reverse— depending on the music. Whatever your response, says Campbell, music produces mental and physical effects in you; and—I would venture to add—in all things animate and inanimate (see my next post on Cymatics). Therapeutic uses of music are many:
  • Music can slow down and equalize brain waves: music with a pulse of about sixty beats per minute can shift consciousness from the beta wave (ordinary consciousness at 14-20 Hz) toward the alpha range (heightened awareness at 8-13 Hz), enhancing alertness and general well-being

  • Music affects the heartbeat, pulse rate and blood pressure: a study of expectant mothers at the College of Nursing at Haohsiung Medical University (Taiwan) demonstrated significant reductions in stress, anxiety and depression after two weeks of listening to Brahms lullaby, Beethoven and Debussy and traditional Chinese children’s songs

  • Music can regulate stress-related hormones: Anesthesiologists reported that levels of stress hormones like ACTH, prolactic and HGH all declined in those listening to relaxing music

  • Music and sound can boost the immune function: A Michigan State University study demonstrated that listening to music for fifteen minutes increased levels of interlukin-1 in the blood from 12.5 to 14 percent (interlukin is involved in the immune system, protecting against AIDS, cancer and other diseases)

  • Music improves productivity: a University of Wisconsin study of ninety people copyediting a manuscript found that accuracy in those listening to light classical music improved 21.3% compared with those listening to a popular commercial radio format at 2.4%
Music can strengthen memory and learning: studies have shown that music increases stamina during exercise in addition to the ability to concentrate.

When I was pregnant with my son, I felt an overwhelming urge to listen to classical music (mostly Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel and Mozart) and soft “new age” Celtic music (mostly Enya). What I’d intuitively felt is now known: music calms or stimulates the movement and heart rate of a baby in the womb. It has also been shown that children who receive regular music training demonstrate better motor skills, math ability, and reading performance than those who don’t. High school students who sing or play an instrument score up to fifty points higher on SAT scores than those who don’t.

These observations are borne out by another observation: that adult musician’s brains generally exhibit more EEG (brainwave) coherence than those of non-musicians.

Music is a language understood instinctively by all peoples because it communicates directly to the soul. Darwin suggested that music may have played a role in the evolution of language, comparing the sounds of speech to the way birdsong is used in courtship, reports Caroline Green in the Jan/Feb 2010 Issue of BBC Knowledge. “Some have referred to this as a ‘musical proto-language’.”

In an article in the Fall 2009 Issue of Super Consciousness Campbell eloquently described music as, “the sounds of earth and sky, of tides and storms. It is the echo of a train in the distance, the pounding reverberations of a carpenter at work. From the first cry of life to the last sigh of death, from the beating of our hearts to the soaring of our imaginations, we are enveloped by sound and vibration every moment of our lives. It is the primal breath of creation itself, the speech of angels and atoms, the stuff of which life and dreams, souls and stars, are ultimately fashioned.”

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Calming music would be very beneficial to a pregnant woman and her child. Heavy metal rock might be a little stressful.

Anonymous said...

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." William Congreve

The power, the breadth, the joy and the danger of Music. Present at the dawn of time, persistent till the end. It could be said that time is but the spawn of music(sound). Our measurement of time is based upon the measured increments of a generated frequency.

You may wonder why I included the danger of music. How could somthing so wonderful and good be dangerous?

Music often accompanies military action. Communicating the cadence of the march, the attack. Bluster to strike fear in the heart of the enemy.

Resonance (key component of musical sounds) can destroy - Shatter Glass, Rend Bridges asunder and splinter stone.

Music is often used to stop people from loitering in areas. Music has been used as torture (sleep deprivation, dischordant sounds to upset the mind and body).

Music has often been used to manipulate people. Pied Piper anyone? Of course the hallmark of a scary movie is the spooky music.

Thankfully, as the blog entry points out, Music has many more positive effects than negative.

Go forth, use music for good and develop your whole brain.

Now back to the studio to polish a song I am working on.

Musically yours,


Nina Munteanu said...

Beautifully said, Limberger... Any way you look at it, music is both enthralling and highly influencial -- for good or for ill -- and so easily manipulates feeling and thought. Yes, frequency has a lot to do with it. We are creatures of frequency, being mostly water and ionized particles and waves. Music -- and sound (vibration and frequency) -- is certainly our core language.

Nina Munteanu said...

Jean-Luc... I felt the difference with my son... When my son was young, he was very fond of Celtic new-age jazz-folk fusion like Enya's stuff. Now he has quite an ecclectic taste in music and likes not just rock-metal and all its forms but also the more lyrical retro 80's. We'll see about classical... :)

Anonymous said...

Recent news reports are touting improvements in weight gain by premature babies in incubators by playing Mozart Sonatas. The hypothesis is that the babies are more relaxed and burn fewer calories allowing for more development of tissue/fat for the body.


Nina Munteanu said...

Very cool, Limberger! Thanks for the info and the link.

Now that I think of it, my mother listened to Mozart all the time. He was her fav composer/musician... Explains a lot, huh?...:)

(silly little chuckle...)

Diane Dehler said...

Hi Nina,
I completely agree with you and particularly love classical music. I couldn't imagine my life without music. Great post.

Nina Munteanu said...

Hi Princess! Nice to hear from you again! :) Yes... hard to imagine life without music. It is such a powerful medium of our soul's expression. I liken the feeling to life without the beautiful sound of birds. Imagine that...

Faith Dyson said...

The thing about "music" is that its frequencies affect our Genomes and their Patterns. They make "Genometric Shapes" that become our Geometric forms.

Once upon another "Timing System" we were allowed to make any "scales" we wanted. Not any more. Now the "scales" are standardized - allong with our clocks that measure out their waves - and our Genomes don't like being limited by such "compositions" of Time and Space.

Our cells want their infinite Patterns back - again. Those they get only from Mother Nature's unending frequencies.

Nina Munteanu said...

Yes, so so true, Faith!Thanks for the cool Youtube link! I look forward to more correspondence on this and other important topics with you...


Vanessa Rottner said...

What a wonderful article, I in particular loved the section about resonating music with respect to the beta and alpha waves. Feyza Sancar wrote an article on the Music Brian: Processing and Responding. "Anecdotal evidence seems to imply that music and activate areas of the limbic system which are important in producing arousing as well as pleasurable effects. In fact, it has been observed that music which increases arousal (is 'uplifting') activates areas in the limbic system which release endorphins".
Like a powerful meditation music has the ability to center us into that inner place of harmony. In listening to music we can often feel the very vibrations through our muscles, evident in organ musical recitals.
As a premature baby, I always enjoyed music even into my adult years.

Nina Munteanu said...

Yes, music is vibration and so are we... Thanks, Catmum, for your thoughtful comments.

Vanessa Rottner said...

I recommend the following book by Oliver Sacs for your readers:
Thank you for your reply to my comments, I couldn't agree with you more. There is so much to learn.

Nina Munteanu said...

Thanks for the suggest source material, Catmum! It looks like an interesting book...a bit dated but still very relevant.