“He that hath an ear, let him hear”

Posted 11.11.2008

The controversial “Mozart Effect”, was first coined by the French physician Alfred Tomatis, M.D., who began researching the effects of Mozart’s music on health, education and emotional well-being, over forty years ago. Tomatis is also well know for helping a little known French actor overcome a wisper soft voice and profound stammer. Gérard Depardieu suffered faulty hearing in one ear, which was said to compromise neural functions responsible for concentration and memory and result from deeper emotional issues. For two hours a day for the next several months Depardieu listened to a Mozart violin concerto with certain modifications and filtering appropriate for his condition. Within several months, the hearing in his right ear was restored, improving the neural functioning, leading to improvements in sleep, appetite, memory and confidence. Of course the most famous result was the rich, beautiful voice which has been the actor’s trademark. Depardieu said:

Before Tomatis, I could not complete any of my sentences. It was he who helped give continuity to my thoughts, and it was he who gave me the power to synthesize and understand what I was thinking.

The musician and researcher Don Campbell (author of The Mozart Effect) was also originally introduced to the concept by Tomatis. Campbell has gone on to work exclusively in the area of sound and music therapies, devoting much of his work to furthering the Mozart Effect. Recently he was commissioned as the soundscape architect for the Good Samaritan Medical Centre in Lafeyette, Colorado, in the belief that music can heal the mind, body and spirit. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s recent report based on 600 studies showed that design in hospitals (including light and sound design) dramatically impacted the speed and quality of patient recovery.

Campbell’s idea is to designate separate “harmonic zones” within the hospital, and create an around-the-clock, revolving (never repeating) musical selection culled from over 9000 specifically selected musical works, for each of the separate stages of recovery, as well as for the benefit of staff and visitors. Bravo!

I don’t think Mozart would be surprised by these research findings. Most artists are either consciously or unconsciously working to make an art which can heal themselves, firstly, and by virtue of that, be of worth to others. Picasso and Matisse proclaimed this, and the French theatre maverick Artaud famously expressed that no artist works except “to get out of hell”.

By now, you know where I’m going with this. Yes, I believe that the conscious use of sound/light/frequency/resonance for purposes including art, religion, medicine and philosophy are all expressions of, or parallel with what physicists are calling quantum mechanics.

O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life have you left in our souls!

Franz Schubert, Diary, 1816

photo credit: British Museum