Posts Tagged ‘The Mozart Effect’
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Lately, it seems like the younger generation is divided into two. One half is permanently glued to their digital device, drowning in social media, and can hardly imagine their life without Netflix and Instagram. The other half are rebelling, attempting something easily described as a “digital detox”.

A Digital detox can be defined as a period of time during which a person steps back from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers in order to disconnect to the online world. By many, it is regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on real-life social interactions. Stress is proven to be caused by being connected, being online (literally), being available to anyone’s whim 24 hours per day, every day. A recent study from regulator Ofcom concluded that, on average, UK adults spend 25 hours a week online. And that number is constantly increasing.

So can classical music help us to escape the digital chokehold?

Listening to classical music

It is generally accepted that classical music has many positive effects on our brains, sometimes known as “the Mozart effect”. Listening to classical music is proven to boost memory function, sparks creativity, improves productivity and generally makes us feel happier and more relaxed. It can even improve the quality of our (much needed) sleep and help to ease symptoms of depression and melancholy. So why not to turn your phone off, take a deep breath and meditate while listening to classical music after a long working day or just before going to sleep? In our busy and over-connected world it is important to have some time for yourself, to slow things down and classical music is a perfect source of relaxation.

Learning an instrument

From recent research, musical instrument training can have a surprising effect on the structure of our brain. This concerns not only children but also adults and the elderly. Learning an instrument increases the capacity of our memory, enhances spatial reasoning and improves literacy skills. Moreover, musical training requires us to concentrate on one task at once. Concentrating on one task can help us to stay productive; not only while learning an instrument, but one can apply this knowledge to many other crucial tasks.

Attending classical music concerts

Listening to classical music encourages us to think deeply, connect better to ourselves and also connect to the people around us. Going to venues also means connecting to real people, talking to them, and socialising in real life. Sometimes we all need to take a step back from technology now and again. Attending classical music venues reminds us of being fully present in the world. Moreover, classical music concerts are beautiful, not only aurally, but also visually.

Considering all the benefits of classical music, we can utilise it to make our digital detox easier and our life more mindful and deliberate. Likewise, classical music helps us relax and put ourselves in a better mood. So, let’s switch off our mobile phones from time to time and allow us to be unavailable. Or, to put it in in the words of Chris Baréz-Brown: “Get lost in music with others and you might just find yourself.”

(Written on November 29, 2017 )

Controversy surrounding Nicola Benedetti’s interview with Scotland on Sunday last month, in which she argued that children should be exposed to classical music whether they like it or not, certainly has sparked debate as to whether this approach helps or hinders children’s learning and appreciation of the great classical works.

The benefits that music has on the human brain are largely undisputed. Neuroscientist and musical educator Anita Collins elucidates these, with particular attention to the playing of instruments, in a TED-Ed talk. In short, listening to music stimulates the brain, and playing it is even more constructive – ‘stimulating practically every area of the brain at once…and especially the visual, auditory and motor cortices’ and we’ve all heard of the Mozart Effect.

This is interesting stuff, but we are all aware that children and teenagers would rather listen to the Top-40 or perhaps the latest indie record from those bands that you or I wouldn’t have heard of. So shouldn’t we just let them? And if we do let children listen to what they want, when they want, what does the future of classical music look like?

Concert pianist James Rhodes seems to hit the nail on the head in his article in the Guardian where he explains the necessity for music to be taught in a different way to fractions or the Ottoman Empire. It is, after all, there to be enjoyed, as well as promoting brain development. He tells of his own experience and the 30 years it has taken for him to ‘undo the damage’ of being dragged to the opera against his will as a child. And he was one of the lucky ones. Many people never do have this musical epiphany, and go through their whole adult life without ever truly appreciating classical music, or even giving it a second chance. Perhaps the reason for this is purely down to the fact that we associate classical music with school, exams, and being forced to practice scales against our will.

So what is the solution? Eliminating classical music from the curriculum and hoping children will stumble across it by themselves seems like a risky strategy. Rhodes suggests stopping the segregation between genres – presenting classical music alongside hip-hop and rock. However, this will not be an easy task – hundreds of years of technological advances, changing mind-sets and cool new bands lie between Tallis and Taylor Swift, but perhaps today’s teens would be surprised and maybe even interested to see just quite how close the links are between Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’ and Monti’s ‘Czárdás’? And do they know that it’s Handel they’re hearing each time they flick over to watch the Champion’s League?

It’s only a start, but if we show children just how ingrained classical music already is in their daily lives, at least they’ll be engaged. Then we can start to branch out into some tracks that they might not already know. Who knows, maybe some will even be inspired to do some research of their own and ‘discover’ some of the great works before we even get there.

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Young girl playing the piano, UK...B5T28D Young girl playing the piano, UK

Photo: Edward North/ Alamy

(Written on June 22, 2015 )