Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Mozart Effect, Sendak, and Dara

In Tammy Grimes’ recording of Maurice Sendak’s children’s books—Kenny’s Window, Higgledy Piggledy Pop, Very Far Away, Where the Wild Things Are, Alligators All Around, etc.— Mozart’s piano sonatas were the background music. So, I cannot hear Mozart’s Piano Sonata 11 without also “hearing” Tammy Grimes’ distinctive voice and expressive renderings of these stories. I also “hear” and “see” Dara reciting these Sendak stories in a remarkable impersonation of Grimes’ inflections and style. Dara essentially unconsciously memorized the books through repeatedly listening to them from her infancy. This turned out to be to her great advantage in a children’s theater class in college, where she performed several of the pieces. She can still, at the drop of a hat, launch into any Sendak story.


Certain studies have suggested that listening to complex classical music—such as found in Mozart’s piano concertos—can produce “the Mozart effect” which entails enhanced mental clarity and mental performance. Classical music stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. This effectual double whammy boosts learning and information intake, therefore augmenting cognitive skills. Learning may be increased at least fivefold. The power of the music to do this may, in part, explain Dara’s facility with memorizing Sendak’s stories, because the music and the stories were so intertwined.

I personally found, during the time that I was a BYU student required to write 8- to 10-page essays on a regular basis, that listening to classical music while I was composing my latest paper would put me “in the zone.” My thoughts flowed effortlessly. I was unaware of time passing. And I invariably got an A. I was (and still am) convinced that listening to classical music (of the right sort) is a potent elixir for the brain.

If your sound is on as you read this, Mozart's Piano Sonata 11 is at the top of my music playlist. I am also enjoying listening to it for an additional reason (besides the fact that it is making us all smarter), I have missed the sound of live piano music emanating from my living room for the past year (since Dara and my piano moved away). She liked to play Mozart.



6 comments:

shydandelion said...

Do you remember what I would do? I would take the little tape recorder you bought me, and I would sit in your closet and listen to the tapes over and over again. I don't know why I found your closet so special but it was. Maybe it was all the mommy clothes in there that made it so homey...

Katscratchme said...

Ah me.. yet another reason to be jealous of Dara..

Dad mentioned something about you starting up a blog for Grandma. Is it up yet?

Chris said...

I found that when I did my math homework, that if I listened to the radio right after, I listened more to the words rather than only listening to the beat. Is music connected mathmatically? Or is it because math opened up a port on my brain, which allowed me to do more than just drool while I drive and listen to the radio? It seemed like after I did my math homework, everything seemed clearer, and that I was able to get things done quicker.

Trillium said...

Music is intrinsically mathematical--especially classical music which is highly organized and orderly in nature.

shydandelion said...

yes, that is why I am so smart. Ahem...E=Mc 2 (that's supposed to be a tiny 2 in the upper right corner...) Actually, while completely fascinated by math, I was really bad at it...Maybe it's because all my professors wanted to zoom through 20 chapters each class period..

Zaphod said...

I have always been an Impressionist in my music listening, particularly Ravel and his ilk But Mozart was so extraordinarily versatile, his pieces almost painfully delicate, as if they would break while you were listening to them. The Dara Effect becomes even more profound when she gets agitated just a little, lashing out with lines of poetry when something has got her dander up. It makes me laugh.