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"Mozart Effect" Has A Molecular Basis

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the baby-chloe-is-a-genius dept.

Biotech 88

pingbak writes "The 'Mozart effect,' where students were observed performing better after being exposed to a Mozart sonata, appears to have a basis in reality. According to New Scientist, two researchers have found the underlying biomechanics in mice stimulated by the effect. They don't know the details why Mozart's sonatas really cause this effect, but they know where to look. Guess I'm going to have to switch Shoutcast streams now..."

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What a waste. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961448)

Now find me the music that gets the ladies "in the mood," and there's some research I'll be happy to see my tax dollars funding.

(Boy, am I opening myself up with this one!)

P.S. 1st post.

~~~

Re:What a waste. (2, Funny)

soleblaze (628864) | more than 10 years ago | (#8961470)

now see, if I was listening to Mozart I could'av made first post!

Re:What a waste. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961501)

. . . If I were listening to Mozart . . . :)

Re:What a waste. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961757)

Boy, those unlimited editor mod points sure do come in handy.

~~~

Re:What a waste. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8971743)

. . . If I were listening to Mozart . . . :)

The past subjunctive form is considered archaic and is falling out of usage.

Re:What a waste. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8977033)

Doesn't make it incorrect. There's no arguing that it sounds more elegant and proper.

Now quit showing off the fact that you remember what "past subjunctive" means and get back to work. You've impressed nobody.

Re:What a waste. (1)

zedmelon (583487) | more than 10 years ago | (#9001154)

so...

If I had been listening to Mozart.

You're Welcome.

Re:What a waste. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8962722)

You might try bathing, you smelly GNU/hippy!

Re:What a waste. (1)

kurosawdust (654754) | more than 10 years ago | (#8969023)

That's easy - Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." The trick is it only works when played anywhere other than your parents' basement.

Re:What a waste. (1)

ACPosterChild (719409) | more than 10 years ago | (#8976470)

When Doves Cry, by Prince

That was a good evening :)

Underlying biomechanics? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961486)

Just the opposite. They seem to have found some end results of this process in some gene expression. How the hell listening to Mozart could cause this has yet to be explained.

Duh. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961492)

People who listen to Mozart score better on their exams than those who listen to Britney Spears. I'm sure this is all about some kind of mysterious electromagnetic interaction with synapse electric fields and not about better taste being highly correlated with higher intelligence. When those rats start quoting Shakespeare, get back to me.

Re:Duh. (3, Insightful)

Professor Cool Linux (759581) | more than 10 years ago | (#8961523)

Which rats the RIAA (and its followers) or the test subjects

Your face! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961579)

N:T:

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961922)

The Britney Spears listeners are preocupied thinking "wow she's hot! and she's singing to me!"

The Mozart listeners are thinking "ugh, he's not hot, better apply myself so I can get something as hot as Britney".

Re:Duh. (4, Interesting)

sydb (176695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962020)

I agree that people who like Mozart are inately superior; I myself enjoy his works.

However I'm pretty sure my performance does in fact change when I listen to Mozart. In fact I find the two best things to listen to, which seem to promote logical thinking and motivation to act, are Mozart (and similar music) and noise (like Aube).

I suspect they have different modes of operation.

Mozart's music is very well structured, like a good program, so the mind can latch on to the motifs therein and engage in the rythmn of the music without an overriding desire to get up and dance.

Noise encourages the imagination gently, by providing a relatively blank canvas, but, given decent composition, also a sense of rythmn in the sound.

I find music with lyrics is useless as an adjunct to work as the words are distracting. Most other types of music are dance-provoking.

Mozart and Noise are great!

Re:Duh. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8963443)

You should check out Juno Reactor. Their albums Beyond the Infinite, Bible of Dreams, and Trasmissions are tops notch. I would suggest finding some MP3s on the net. If you like what you hear, treat yourself to buying on of their albums :)

Re:Duh. (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 10 years ago | (#8978521)

Try Banco de Gaia. See if you can find Drunk as a Monk to start out with. Very evocative stuff.

Re:Duh. (1)

cornjchob (514035) | more than 10 years ago | (#8963471)

This new learning amazes me, sydb. Explain again how sheep's bladders can be employed to prevent earthquakes.

That was the least substantiated thing I've read all day--and I've been doing a lot of research into Christianity. What evidence at all could you possibly conjur to even remotely assert that as a theory? I know it's only a theory, but c'mon--latching on to 'motifs therein' and to 'engage' in rhythms is dancing, regardless of mental or outward physical manifestation. That would insinuate that the brain is actually having attention diverted, anyway; if it's latched on to something else, then its attention is not in the fore.

Wow, just...wow.

Re:Duh. (1)

sydb (176695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964087)

I'm so sorry my post did not achieve the high standards of scientific integrity demanded by you. Now I know that Slashdot is a journal of the highest pedigree I'll be more careful to provide detailed references, and to back up any new claims with rigorous experimental data.

Regards.

Re:Duh. (0, Flamebait)

sydb (176695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964091)

Oh, I forgot to use the word "prick" in my other post and I don't want to be incomplete in my synthesis so here it is:

Prick.

Re:Duh. (1)

zero_offset (200586) | more than 10 years ago | (#8971803)

Quiet, you! He's "inately" superior.

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8968910)

I find listening to music in a lagnauge similiar to my own, but that i cant understand gives me the same affect. Mostly german for myself

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9008622)

Sure, if you like tinkly garbage. The real thinking man listens to Bach.

Re:Duh. (4, Informative)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962066)

If you actually read the study, it has nothing to do about musical preference.

Subjects in the human study were recruited randomly and placed into one of three conditions: Mozart, No Music, Popular Music.

They performed better under the 'Mozart' condition.

Re:Duh. (5, Informative)

outlier (64928) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962727)

There have also been a number of studies that challenge some of the claims of the Mozart effect. For example:

"Listening to Mozart does not improve children's spatial ability: Final curtains for the Mozart effect" McKelvie, Pippa; Low, Jason; British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Vol 20(2), Jun 2002. pp. 241-258.

"The mystery of the Mozart effect: Failure to replicate." Steele, Kenneth M.; Bass, Karen E.; Crook, Melissa D.; Psychological Science, Vol 10(4), Jul 1999. pp. 366-369.

"Failure to confirm the Rauscher and Shaw description of recovery of the Mozart effect." Steele, Kenneth M.; Brown, Joshua D.; Stoecker, Jaimily A.; Perceptual & Motor Skills, Vol 88(3, Pt 1), Jun 1999. pp. 843-848.

"The Mozart effect: An artifact of preference." Nantais, Kristin M.; Schellenberg, E. Glenn; Psychological Science, Vol 10(4), Jul 1999. pp. 370-373.

Abstract: Replicated and extended the findings that were reported by F. H. Rauscher, G. L. Shaw, and K. N. Ky (1993, 1995) about the Mozart effect, which indicates that spatial-temporal abilities are enhanced after listening to music composed by Mozart. In Exp 1, performance on a spatial-temporal task was better after 56 college students listened to a piece composed by Mozart or by Schubert than after they sat in silence. 28 college students participated in Exp 2, which found that the advantage for the music condition disappeared when the control condition consisted of a narrated story instead of silence. Results suggest that performance was a function of listeners' preference (music or story), with better performance following the preferred condition. (emphasis added)

"The Mozart effect: Not learning from history". Jones, Stephanie M.; Zigler, Edward; Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol 23(3), May-Jun 2002. pp. 355-372.

Abstract: This paper critiques the links between recent reports on the impact of early experience on the developing brain and proposed policies and interventions for young children. Using the "Mozart effect" as a contemporary example, as well as several examples from history, the case is made that brain research is being misappropriated to the service of misguided, "quick fix" solutions to more complicated, systemic issues. The paper concludes with a brief summary of research that, by contrast, illustrates the substantive contribution of high quality, intensive, multidomain interventions to early cognitive and social development. (emphasis added)

Of course, this doesn't really say anything about the current study. It may very well be that some features of Mozart's work (or classical music, or music, or certain types of sounds) do have distinct effects on gene expression at the hippocampus. It may also be that lots of other stimuli have similar effects. Take this, and the whole "Mozart Effect" thing with a very large grain of salt.

Re:Duh. (1)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962770)

I get it. I actually study music in psychology. =)

I was simply poining out that the poster's criticism (people's taste affects their intelligence, that's why the mozart effect manifests) isn't really a good one in this case. =)

Re:Duh. (1)

danila (69889) | more than 10 years ago | (#8963845)

Of course, even if the effect is entirely fictitious, those of us who enjoy Mozart can improve our performance by means of his music and a well placed placebo. :) I am certainly going to try it now.

Re:Duh. (1)

fruitbane (454488) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964691)

Indeed. My fiance has a music therapy degree and professional certification and has expressed to me that, while music does affect people greatly, the so-called "Mozart Effect" has been soundly disproved. In fact, it was over this very discussion that we originally fell in love. The study had a very flawed methodology that renders the results inconclusive.

Confused - Please Repeat (1)

4of12 (97621) | more than 10 years ago | (#8973733)


People who listen to Mozart score better

Not that I've seen.

But if you've got proof of scoring better with Britney then I'll reconsider that conclusion.

Re:Duh. (2, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8974340)

> When those rats start quoting Shakespeare, get back to me.

"Pondreth thou that which I ponder?"

"Indeed, fair Brain, but how would the use of iambic pentameter aid us in overtaking the globe?"

"Silence, else I shall injure thee!"

"BARD!"

Mozart can't be that special... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961541)

This sort of phenomenon has to be triggered by something _other_ than Mozart. Like the pitch or frequency or some voodoo like that. But not because Mozart wrote it. I'm sure the same thing works with lots of classical music.

Mein Arsch, Dein Elend. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961567)

Mein Elend, Dein Arsch!

HOW UP DO HIGH KNEE (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962271)

Obwohl Sie Leuten benennen möchten, haben Sie bitte das Anstand zum es in ihrer eigenen Sprache oder in Ihrem eigenen Namen zu tun.

(Probably full of errors, but wtf)

Re:HOW UP DO HIGH KNEE (1)

Colonel Cholling (715787) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964500)

Obwohl Sie Leuten benennen möchten, haben Sie bitte das Anstand zum es in ihrer eigenen Sprache oder in Ihrem eigenen Namen zu tun. (Probably full of errors, but wtf)

"Whether you peoples want to name, please have the decency to the it do in your own language or in your own name."

wtf, indeed.

Re:HOW UP DO HIGH KNEE (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964789)

Even though you want to call people names, please have the decency to do it in their own language or in your own name.

Ihr ist 3. person pluralist.

Did you use a translation engine? I admit the translation was faulty, but not that faulty.

I need more coffee (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964808)

Always check your spelling before you post:

Ihr ist 3. Person pluralis.

Re:Mozart can't be that special... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961672)

This sort of phenomenon has to be triggered by something _other_ than Mozart.

Yes, other studies have found any stimulating (fast) music works. Certain people still like to pretend it's an endorcement of classical music.

Re:Mozart can't be that special... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961897)

I endorse classical music anyway! Haw haw haw!

Re:Mozart can't be that special... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962035)

hmmm, maybe it's *complex* music of any kind that has this effect? Most popular music is very simple in structure and lyrics. As an aside, there are animals that make more complex songs than most rap "music".

Re:Mozart can't be that special... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8964455)

Listen to Tristania then... complex music.

Re:Mozart can't be that special... (2, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8974533)

> hmmm, maybe it's *complex* music of any kind that has this effect? Most popular music is very simple in structure and lyrics. As an aside, there are animals that make more complex songs than most rap "music".

I tend to agree. Someone mentioned Juno Reactor - a good case in point; it's techno that features lots of interwoven beats, three or four different strands of music being played simultaneously, and I find I'm more productive when listening to it.

As for rap, ditto. Hip-hop today grates on me - I can't even read for comprehension when someone's blaring it within earshot - and the music seems to be engineered to maximize the range of "earshot" per decibel.

That wasn't always the case. Old-school (thinking Public Enemy, ca. 1987-1989) rap used to feature a lot of sampling/looping and very strange/innovative rhythms. Try You Gonna Get Yours or She Watch Channel Zero for a taste. Once the lawsuits started flying and sampling was effectively banned (Caught, Can I Get a Witness?), rap slid into a downward creative spiral that's culminated into today's simple basslines that appear to function only as a broadcast of territorial markers: "This is our territory now, and if you think you can listen to your music - even in headphones - while you're in our territory, think again."

I'd love to do a study that correlates the reinforcement of stereotypical black culture with the influx of major record label interest in hip-hop music. I mean, who benefits most from the portrayal of "yo, fuck da ho's, kill whitey, bein' a thug iz all u can hope 2 be" as "authentic" black culture?

Hint: It sure as fuck ain't the blacks.

Re:Mozart can't be that special... (3, Interesting)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962100)

"Yes, other studies have found any stimulating (fast) music works. Certain people still like to pretend it's an endorcement of classical music."

Not a big fan of classical music myself, but I can sort of see it working. Classical music has more of a pattern to it than modern dance music. Memorizing it takes a little more mental resources, depending on the song that is. I remember listening to a well made techno remake of Beethoven's 5th. (It's from the Jaguar Game Defender 2000, you can find it here [66.102.7.104] , it's Trak 8 Bonus level..) I remember listening to it and thinking about how rich it felt. I never cared for the original orchestral version but the techno one was done very artistically. It felt like it had more artistic patterns to it than my typical library of techno music.

I really can't rationalize this on a a scientific level, but there's far more to this song to appreciate than I normally run across. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if more of my neurons were firing off pulses as a result of it.

I really don't think, though, it's because it's classical music specifically. I think it just has more to do with the way the composers had to make the music back then. Writing notes down on paper. One can imagine how, during the creation of that song, they'd make the notes themselves as artistic as possible. These days, I don't think music is quite made like that. Seems to be more about making the lyrics work and attaching a few loops and beats to it to chain the words together. I think the more 'engaging' music could easily be made today, it's a matter of focusing the artist down to making art from the patterns of notes.

Or maybe I'm just on crack. I just couldn't help remembering how much I appreciated hearing that techno remix of that song after reading the article today. Lots of ideas about that.

Re:I've noticed that (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962186)

I find that I have an easier time thinking when I'm listening to certain kinds of electronic music, such as some (say what you will) IDM.

I always figured the must be similar to the Mozart effect since a lot of the electronic music I like to listen to is structurally similar to various kinds of Classical music.

Neural stimulation. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8961950)

The article lists a few things Mozart's music stimulates. However, I wonder if there are any chemicals that have same or similar effects? The jocks have been doing steroids for years now. Don't you think it's time for us geeks to develop better learning aids than caffeine and a few other common stimulants?

Or does anyone know of a few already? If so, enlighten me. I'd love to try them out if they can really help me concentrate or if they help me memorize things better.

Re:Neural stimulation. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8962303)

I find alcohol helps. After a few beers, I feel like I can program anything.

I've written some of my best Perl after a couple of Sam Adamses. I know it's great Perl because I can't read it afterwards, and it doesn't work.

Apart from powdered Kola nut, (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962328)

there's also that old german stuff, what's it called? I believe it's non-addictive [com.com] , if anything. Yeah.

The powdered Kola nut, however, is dangerous unless you dose it properly. Apart from that, it's completely legal (at least in DK) and harmless. I can really recommend trying to look it up on the net. If you really want what you describe, you will take the time to find out what it is, what it does, and where you can buy it - for yourself.
Remember, dose low.

Re:Neural stimulation. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8962408)

I'm no scientician, but the following might help:

Learn to play an instrument. Well.
Study new things.
Read more.
Stop jerking off.

Re:Neural stimulation. (2, Funny)

hobbsbutcher (753062) | more than 10 years ago | (#8964360)

Yeah, yeah, yeah; but is there some other way to do it. A pill perhaps?

Anything's better than rap (5, Funny)

billcopc (196330) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962003)

I'd much rather see a Honda Wigger blasting Mozart in his car, than the wretched "Niggas N Hoes" shake-fest. If it has any positive effect on his intelligence that's a much needed bonus.

But I think these research efforts would be better invested towards designing rap music that kills its listener.

Re:Not likely (4, Funny)

Bastian (66383) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962152)

That would be a violation of the first law of car stereo dynamics: The price of the car stereo system is inversely proportional to the quality of music that it plays.

(On a side note, I'm curious if there's a way to create some sort of HERF gun that reliably disables subwoofers but nothing else. Is this even theoretically possible?)

Re:Not likely (1)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962655)

A magnetron from a microwave oven + a suitable waveguide , whilst not being very selective, would likely knock out any power amps / head units at quite a distance.

It'd also only (probably) cause minor heating effects to people at any appreciable distance from it, considering the amount of time it would take to fry the electronics (a few seconds,say) .... well, maybe as a precaution you shouldn't point that thing at yourself :-)

Re:Not likely (3, Funny)

UID1000000 (768677) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962660)

Here is how you get that to work:

1. Buy up 1st tier suppliers for radio mfgs.
2. Implement "secret" feature to disable these with a simple RF frz.
2.5 ...
3. Wait 5 years.
4. Enjoy the ability to disable almost anyone's car radio and equipment.
5. ...
6. Build a device that disables your disabling system. Sell to youngsters.
7. PROFIT!
8. See secret item 2.5 where you built in a second disabling device.
9. Enjoy your power.

Re:Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8962948)

(On a side note, I'm curious if there's a way to create some sort of HERF gun that reliably disables subwoofers but nothing else. Is this even theoretically possible?)

Wouldn't an ordinary CB and a 100 watt linear mess with the electronics?

Re:Not likely (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 10 years ago | (#8970864)

Sure. The woofers should have a fairly narrow freq. range. Inductance is the word you're looking for. Second law of car stereo dynamics: the louder the music, the cr4ppier the car.

Re:Not likely (1)

slntnsnty (90352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8972790)

Disable!? Why not find some way of causing the subwoofers to explode! Now that would be much more satisfying =)

Re:Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8973930)

more like why not find a way to delete the subwoofer?

DELETED!!

www.homestarrunner.com

Re:Not likely (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 10 years ago | (#9001854)

I wish I could design a HERF gun that disable blanket statements.

Subwoofers existed well before rap was born. We just didn't call them subwoofers back then, we called them ground pounders. Ask any classic rock fan and you will be shown 15 and 18-inch woofers that can turn Keith Moon's drumming into a deadly sonic weapon.

I use a subwoofer right at my feet as part of my home studio/stereo. It is tuned very low so that it admirably completes my near-field monitors' frequency spectrum almost transparently. You can hardly tell it's there, you're just led to believe my monitors have exceptional sub-bass (which they definitely don't).

Now in the car I do have roughly a kilowatt of sound, about 3/4 of it being subs. It's not nearly as obnoxious as a Honda with rattling license plate and no high-range, but it is certainly "loud enough". Most importantly, it's FUN! Play any music in there and it sounds great, whether it's Finger Eleven with the kick drum shaking your rib cage, or Diana Krall's bassist lulling you into a mellow jazzy groove.

Overly compressed? (5, Interesting)

Kaali (671607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962154)

Maybe it has something to do with overly compressing music, as seems to be the case on 98% of modern records. In classical recordings the music has it's ups and downs volume-wise, on modern recordings the volume is almost flat. Maybe our brains get the energy for listening to progressing sounds of pitch, rhytmical qualities and volume? I trust that these scientists tested on music that is not loop-based, but progressive.. but did they test on a record that is not overly compressed?

Re:Overly compressed? (2, Informative)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 10 years ago | (#8962419)

So I guess a .WAV file would be better than an MP3, which would be better than OGG? Too much compression? :^)

But seriously, I agree with you. There are human aspects to music performance, the rhythm of the bow on a violin, the concordance of keys being hit on a piano, that are no longer limitations on the production of music using a synthesizer.

It's a well known effect of rhythm to induce hypnotic states that is used by revival preachers all the time, while it may be they don't know how they do what they do, but that they have a "feel" for what works. Mozart could easily have had just such a "feel" for what positively effected people. Remember that he started writing in the Baroque period, where mathematical precision and principles were being explored in music. See Bach for instance.

I was listening to the closing theme for Full Metal Alchemist, and I realized that right at the beginning of the song is a scale sequence that climbed well beyond any physical instrument I've ever heard of. It was a very eery effect, still perfectly in tune but just plain *wrong* to my ear. I have heard several performances of Baroque by modern artists who "interperate" the rhythm, and that too just sounds so *wrong*, so imprecise and chaotic compared to how it was written to be played.

Just musing.

Bob-

Re:Overly compressed? (5, Informative)

SW6 (140530) | more than 10 years ago | (#8963933)

So I guess a .WAV file would be better than an MP3, which would be better than OGG? Too much compression? :^)

I might have guessed that Slashdot readers immediately think of reduced file sizes when somebody mentions "compression" and "audio" in the same sentence.

Compression when applied to (analogue) audio means changing the dynamic range of the signal - i.e. making quiet parts louder - so as to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. The Dolby B system for audio cassettes should be known by many. Such compression usually includes a decompression step to recreate the original signal. This is why tape players without Dolby decoders will have a different sound - because you're still listening to the compressed signal.

Compression can also be used to make the dynamic range "flat", i.e. that the signal has a constant average volume. Many radio stations compress like this so that they sound the loudest on the dial. However, the music tends to sound terrible as a result. Such compression is destructive because everything is made equally loud and a decompressor cannot determine the original volume to recreate the original signal.

So, the former kind of compression is fine, even desirable, whereas the latter is not. Try not to confuse them, but if somebody does, they're probably on about the latter ;)

Re:Overly compressed? (1)

alleycat0 (232486) | more than 10 years ago | (#8972999)

There's another reason radio stations typically use high compression on their audio - so that listeners (especially those in cars) do not need to make adjustments to their stereo when the volume of the piece (or between pieces, or during commercials) changes drastically...

Re:Overly compressed? (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 10 years ago | (#8997309)

Hey, SW6, that was a joke! You even quoted my smily. :^)

Bob-

It's about the symmetry (3, Interesting)

rakeswell (538134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8973290)

Remember that he [Mozart] started writing in the Baroque period, where mathematical precision and principles were being explored in music. See Bach for instance.

This statement is misinformed.

While Mozart was born in the same year that Bach died, there was no stylistic relationship between them. It wasn't until much later in his life that Mozart even discovered the works of Bach. Even in his day, Bach was considered old fashioned, and was very much "out of style".

While Bach looked back to the old contrapunctal methods of structuring a piece of music, Mozart (and his contemporaries) were involved with largely homophonic music written in the Sonata form. In terms of texture, music from the classical common practice (including Mozart) consists of a melodic subject, and an accompaniment, whereas textures in Bach's music relies heavily on imitative counterpoint.

My thinking has always been that if the "Mozart effect" actually has any basis, it's in the structure of the melodic phrasing: antecedent consequent.

In classical common practice, melodic phrasing usually followed the convention of an Antecedant phrase (often moving harmonically from the region of tonic to dominant), followed by a Consequent phrase (often harmonically moving from dominant to tonic). This creates a very strong sence of symmetry. To pick a tune probably everyone here is familiar with, think of the opening phrases (or any other for that matter) from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

It is this powerful effect of aural symmetry that I suspect has the most profound effect on our minds. It also typifies classicism in every sence: reason, order, symmetry.

BTW, I really find no basis for the all-too-common assertion of the link between mathematics and music. Composers (excepting people like Stockhausen perhaps) do not conceptualize music in mathematical terms. There is a relationship in that both music and mathematics have a symbolic notation, and that one can describe anything using mathematics, but that's about it.

Re:It's about the symmetry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8981276)

BTW, I really find no basis for the all-too-common assertion of the link between mathematics and music.

Symmetry, balance, interval, dynamic. Notice, for example, that a very strong argument can be made for Mozart's intending perfect ratios of tempi between sections.

Composers (excepting people like Stockhausen perhaps) do not conceptualize music in mathematical terms.

Uhhh... yes, we do. The rest of your post is nice but this is just off the wall. Music and mathematics were in many ways the same field for a while there, and many of us now do appreciate and compose with a tangle of aesthetic sensibilities, very much including mathematical elegance / precision.

Re:It's about the symmetry (2, Interesting)

rakeswell (538134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8982788)

It's too bad you posted AC, as this could have been an interesting discussion. Never-the-less...

You quoted all but my last sentance, in which I state that the relationship between mathematics and music are that a) music and math use a symbolic notation, and b) you can describe anything using math. Note that I am making a distinction here between describing music mathematically and the way a composer actually conceives of music.

You mention that since one finds symmetry in Mozarts phrasing, he must have conceived of his musical ideas in mathematical terms. This is nonesence. If that's the basis of asserting the relationship between music and math, why don't people commonly insist on the same link between math and the visual arts? Classicism was keen on symmetry in all the arts, not just music. This hardly means, however, that artists conceived of their subjects in mathematical terms.

Music and mathematics were in many ways the same field for a while

I assume you are refering to the ancient Greeks and their discovery of the ratios that describe the natural harmonic series.Yes we are aware of the theoretical contribution, but this hardly consitutes classical Greek musical practice. In fact, what's left of the fragments of Greek music hardly suggests that it was mathematically obsessed or conceived.

...many of us now do appreciate and compose with a tangle of aesthetic sensibilities, very much including mathematical elegance / precision.

Well good for you and Stockhausen. The problem with the vast majority of that kind of music, is that it's very interesting theoretically, but it's not terribly musical and usually rather uninteresting to *listen* to. Don't get me wrong, this kind of stuff interests me a great deal, but I find that with most of these kinds of works, they are better appreciated in the abstract, rather than their implementation. An example of the contrary would be Ligeti's piano etudes -- there is certainly an abstract basis underpining the etudes, perhaps mathematically conceived in terms of the mechanism he wanted to compose out, but the etudes themselves are consumately musical, and once the *framework* was conceived, the rest was purely musical.

Re:It's about the symmetry (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 10 years ago | (#8997349)

My first girlfriend studied Music Theory, ah the memories your posting brings back. ...few of which have to do with music...

Bob-

PDQ Bach (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 10 years ago | (#8997410)

"...visited a young Wolfgang Mozart, who was three days old at the time.

"PDQ sensed a great potential in the boy, and told his father that with the right training and encouragement, he could become one of the greatest billiards player the world had ever seen."

Re:It's about the symmetry (1)

krzysztof (684977) | more than 10 years ago | (#9064877)

While Mozart was born in the same year that Bach died... Quick fact-check FYI: JS Bach: 1685-1750 WA Mozart: 1756-1791

Specifics ? (2, Insightful)

Jtoxification (678057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8963570)

That's all well and good, but regardless, can someone at least give the name of the sonatas in question ? Even if the report is to be believed, (and heck, if one reads the linked article, it makes sense, especially the part about mouse toys) there are a lot of compositions by Mozart ... to say they do better than other music in general, is, in and of itself, too vague and unscientific. I'd like titles, please ?

And while we're at it, shouldn't we examine what makes them so powerful ? We certainly have no shortage of great minds: every University and College *I know of* has an incredibly grueling music theory degree, and after taking a simple piano appreciation class, this CS student knows better than to take any more music courses regarding song analysis!

PS - (I'm actually *shocked* no one has said it yet, but... this story reminds me of Neal Stephen's book, Snowcrash !)

Re:Specifics ? (2, Interesting)

Jerf (17166) | more than 10 years ago | (#8969021)

every University and College *I know of* has an incredibly grueling music theory degree, and after taking a simple piano appreciation class, this CS student knows better than to take any more music courses regarding song analysis!

Hmmm. Speaking as someone who got a Masters in Comp. Sci., I found music analysis to be almost trivial, certainly I found it much easier then my fellow musicians. In particular, I was very easily able to straddle the line between "the rules" and "the feel".

(For those who have never done it, music analysis is interesting and useful for composers and players, but there is a strong element of "post hoc" analysis to it; analysis is really more interested in exploring the effect music has and sometimes a given theory will say X is happening when a quick and critical listening will say Y is happening. In the complementary direction, you'll see musicians use things like double-flats because even though E-double-flat is "literally" D (tonal pedants need not apply), in the theoretical context it makes more sense as an E, doubly-flatted. This is almost isomorphic to the relationship between software engineering theory and software engineering, complete with the "theory uber alles!" contingent and the "who the hell needs theory?!?" contingent. I'm one of the few people in the early theory classes who correctly used a double-flat on a test.)

(Then again, to be fair, I'm one of the rare comp. sci. types able to navigate theory and practice easily, so I'm probably an odd bird anyhow.)

What would be interesting would be to qualify various music genres along various lines and see which qualifications match their observations. Mozart was a genius and his music is like no other, but I can't think of any single attribute he holds a monopoly on (though the combination is unique, IMHO). A lot of "concept albums" share some of the off-beat regularity and interest in themes, for instance, though they obviously differ from Mozart in more ways then they are in common.

Re:Specifics ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8977834)

mozart roxors ! that's why we should listen to him ! it does not matter that we don't know which songs make better paths !
THE POST IS ABOUT MOZART, AND YOUR EGO STROKING YOURSELF ! AND 2 MODERATORS GAVE YOU POINTS FOR IT ????!!!!
can u say "i'm full of myself?" jeezus man, anyone who can complement himself, and only post about their damn college classes, or college degrees, has got a fucking 50 foot pole wedged up their asshole ! get back to the conversation !

Re:Specifics ? (1)

MonsieurX (643704) | more than 10 years ago | (#9007733)

I would say cumbias, calipso and Ska are my secret to happiness ;)

Form? Structure? What? (5, Interesting)

wafwot (739342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8965625)


As a composer and an on-going student of music (you never really stop learning), I feel I should comment on this.

Mozart's music may be extremely structured, but it was also innovative because of it's lack of structure. If you listen closely, you can see that Mozart would write out "improvised" sections, as his best asset was his ability to improvise just about anything. Calling a simple chord progression structure is like saying, "This pile of mud is a house."

A lot of new music, and I don't mean anything you can find on the radio, is highly structured. Minimalists, such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, build their music off of a few (or many) simple rhythmic/melodic elements that are repeated.

In all honesty, there may not be any logical explanation. Have they tried other recordings of this piece? Or just one? What about some of his other piano sonatas? Or maybe Beethoven's Piano Sonata in Cminor (which was based, nearly measure by measure on Mozart's Piano Sonata in Cminor)? What about Bach? Or Haydn?

Before they can make any real conclusions, I think they have a metric butt-ton of research to do.

Deaf as a Doornail (0)

dialate (774369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8969971)

Mozart was deaf, remember. All he really had to go on was how the music looked and felt, but not really heard. They say when you lose a sense, your other senses become more acute. Perhaps he was "tuning" his music to some sensory reference we wouldn't normally be conscious of, which had something to do with neuron development.

Re:Deaf as a Doornail (2, Informative)

wafwot (739342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8969993)

Actually, Beethoven was deaf, not Mozart.

But... is it a superpower? (1)

feloneous cat (564318) | more than 10 years ago | (#8974298)

Well, I'm slowly going deaf and frankly the only sense that I've noticed getting sharper is the ability to smell the litter box before my mate.

Frankly, I think that kinda' sucks as a super-power.

such a boring choice! (1, Troll)

grepistan (758811) | more than 10 years ago | (#8971461)

Why is it always Mozart used in these kinds of tests? Why not some more interesting classical music? Mozart always sounds like elevator music to me. How about some Lizst or Rachmaninov or even Bartok? Something with a little "chest hair"?

Let's face it, Mozart was the Britney Spears of his period...

Re:such a boring choice! (1)

Tree131 (643930) | more than 10 years ago | (#8974525)

How about some Lizst or Rachmaninov or even Bartok?

because those are Romantic and Modern composers and Mozart was a Baroque composer.

Baroque = structure, math, set formulas, chord resolution (Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor), cuteness.

Romanticism = no math there, just a main theme, sometimes based on a folk tune, with variations, a peek inside the mind of someone in love or preoccupied with other thoughts, like Dvorzhak's New World Symphony, or Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

Modern (in a classical sense) = mostly experimentation with dissonance (I'm thinking of Shostakovich), I usually compare it to schizophrenia = mostly crap, however some people will disagree.

Let's face it, Mozart was the Britney Spears of his period...

Not really... he didn't have the boob job and didn't lip sync, and was able to play blindfolded and give 5-hour concerts and compose [mozartproject.org] a lot of music by the age of 34.

Re:such a boring choice! (1)

grepistan (758811) | more than 10 years ago | (#8978554)

I'm not sure that it is relevant which period the composer came from. I am simply trying to point out that Mozart is very boring and cutesy.

However now that I think about it your logic is a bit funny; you claim that there is "no math" in the music of the romantic composers I cited. True, there is a less rigid structure, with more room for variation and creativity, but that doesn't make it unstructured...

And Mozart was like Britney only in that he was unbelievably popular for his day... he certainly was a lot more talented than Britney (and every other pop "musician" for that matter!

Re:such a boring choice! (1)

wafwot (739342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8979797)

Actually, he was more like a Michael Jackson. Britney was 17 or 18 (I think?) when she made her "pop debut". Mozart was less than half that age. (And, if you want to get picky, Beethoven was one of the first "pop" artists. Until him, most composers/performers had patrons -- Beethoven supported himself through his publishing deals, and even had an agent: his brother.)

And actually, the period is very important. Mozart might sound boring now, but at the time it was new and innovative. All of the composers from past years that we're familiar with, including the ones you mentioned, are famous for exactly that reason.

But you are right about the whole structure thing. The only composers who actually stepped away from structure were the impressionists, such as Debussy, who introduced people to the idea of "through-composed" music that had no repetitions or formal structure. (But they did it for a reason.)

Re:such a boring choice! (1)

grepistan (758811) | more than 10 years ago | (#8979963)

Sorry, sorry, Britney was a very poor choice of analogy. I should have chosen someone with actual musical talent, like you did! I didn't realise that Beethoven was an early adopter of the musical profession, that's very interesting!

However, I'm afraid I still don't quite understand how it is that Mozart is supposed to have this magic quality and no other music works... what about Bach? If it's structure and innovation that is required, surely JSB has it in spades. Needless to say I'm not trying to find fault with you here, rather the researchers who always seem to use the same old Mozart.

It is true that Mozart was very innovative for his time though. Revolutionary composers are generally the most famous, as you point out.

thanks for the information!

Re:such a boring choice! (1)

Tree131 (643930) | more than 10 years ago | (#8985302)

you are right, there is less rigid structure, but I guess in my mind, Baroque music is very mathematical... I can't explain why it feels that way, but it does.

Once you start loosening the structure, it becomes non-math... just like the original pentium, where 2+2=5 for very large values of 2 :)

Re:such a boring choice! (2, Informative)

grepistan (758811) | more than 10 years ago | (#8991681)

It's true, Baroque music is indeed more mathematical than later, especially romantic, music. Although, my pianist flatmate says that strictly speaking, Mozart is known as a 'Classical' composer rather than as a Baroque one... JSB is Baroque. Unfortunately I get confused very easily between using terms like Baroque to describe a composer's style and using them to describe the period they were around in!

Re:such a boring choice! (1)

grepistan (758811) | more than 10 years ago | (#9037502)

I am beginning to get very fed up with idiots with mod points marking serious posts as 'troll'. Try reading the rest of the discussion below, then tell me I'm a troll? Morons.

classical isn't always the best choice (1)

WebMasterJoe (253077) | more than 10 years ago | (#8972465)

I've found that the way I improvise has a lot to do with what I listen to on the way to a gig. This was most wonderfully illustrated one day when I was listening to some really abstract jazz (Coltrane, Sun Ra, Sam Rivers) before playing a gig that was predominantly rock and blues. I had a lot of fun playing my solos that night, but the audience didn't want to hear whole-tone scales and half-step transpositions during a Rolling Stones song.

The moral of the story - get your head into the style you'll be playing.

Re:classical isn't always the best choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8986402)

The moral of the story - get your head into the style you'll be playing.

Did the article talk about the performance of students TRYING TO PLAY A CERTAIN STYLE OF MUSIC?

The science of beauty... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8973525)

I'm reading so many comments about the way listening to Mozart may affect genetic expression or the firing of neurons, etc., and it's seems fairly obvious that the spiritual side is being left out of this discussion. For those who don't believe in Creation, there is still the classical definition of the soul of man (gender inclusive) - see Aristotle.

The point to be taken is that the physical and spiritual are tightly integrated in human being, such that an influence on one necessarily affects the other. Styles or categories of music affect us differently. It's universally recognized that some music relaxes us, while another type gets us pumped up. Given this, it seems hyper-logical to me, to the extent that it's really boggling that we even question it's validity.

The only explanation I can think of is that maybe we don't want to admit that we have tastes that don't contribute to our fullest potential, and that recognizing such would imply some responsibility to reassess our listening habits?

On a related vein of thought, there is the argument that there is an objectiveness to beauty, and the beauty has degrees. Assuming it to be true, this certainly is related to the above.

"The qualities of measure and proportion invariably constitute beauty and excellence."

Plato (Philebus).
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