Music Therapy and its effects.1
A powerful force that is commonly taken for granted, music can be consciously used to serve many purposes. Such purposes include motivation or reward, a means of reducing boredom and even manage time, by setting a desired pace for the listener (Ortiz, 1999, p. Introduction xv). Considering the breadth of such a subject, it is essential to contain the contents of this essay into a focused discussion. Namely, music, its use in therapy and the effects it generates. This essay will also discuss the different arguments for the support of various therapeutic effects of music, along with its detractors.
In recent decades, an enormous amount of research has been conducted on specific ways in which sound, rhythm and music, in general, can improve human lives. Arguably, one of the most interesting of them all is the “Mozart Effect”.2 Supporters of this ‘phenomenon’ claim that listening to Mozart’s music can affect you positively in a number of ways. Mainly, it improves one’s spatial-temporal reasoning skills and that early childhood exposure is beneficial for mental development. Let us take a closer look.
Spatial-temporal reasoning skills refer to the ability to visualize spatial patterns and mentally manipulate them over a time-ordered sequence of spatial transformations. This ability, often referred to as "thinking in pictures", is important for generating and conceptualizing solutions to multi-step problems that arise in areas such as art, science, mathematics and everyday life (Spatial-temporal reasoning, 2006, para. 1). In his foreword for Don Campbell’s The Mozart Effect for Children, child development expert, Joseph C. Pearce, mentioned that when the Nobel laureate – and neuroscientist – David Hubel was asked whether he had any interest other than his specialty, his reply was, “Actually, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of my life at the piano.”. It was also stated that in the 1940s, atomic scientists at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, gathered at spare moments in the evening to play string quartets,3 and that Einstein – arguably the greatest scientist of our time – had a ‘love affair’ with the violin (Campbell, 2002, Introduction xii). Assuming that all scientists are smart, intelligent human beings, there is little doubt that Pearce’s statements of associating scientists with musical instruments was a deliberate attempt of portraying the idea that music begets intelligence. But how far is this true? Could it be that mere coincidence plays a part in linking some of the greatest scientists to music? According to Campbell, studies show that schools that include music in their curricula produce the highest achievers in the country. A study in Hong Kong found that adults who had received music training before age twelve have a better memory for spoken words than those who did not. Furthermore, Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California has shown that taking piano lessons and solving math puzzles significantly 1
For the purpose of this essay, the word “therapy” will not only mean “any treatment designed to improve a health problem or to cure an illness” (Oxford dictionary, 1999, p. 1238), but also, any other positive effects that derives from it.
It is unclear who first coined the phrase, but it undoubtedly came into being as a result of attention aroused by countless scientific studies conducted on the effect of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music on its listeners. The phrase has since been trademarked by Don Campbell, Inc. 3
A string quartet usually consists of 2 violinists, a viola player and a cellist.
improves specific math skills of elementary school children (Campbell, 2000, p. 185). Mozart’s music has similar effects. In a study of nineteen children aged seven to seventeen with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADH),4 researchers played recordings of such Mozart compositions as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Piano Concerto No. 21 in C...
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