More on music therapy: “The Mozart Effect”

Recently I’ve been looking at some research into the therapeutic aspects of sound (Tango: dance/movement therapy or music/sound therapy?). The question then is what sort of music or what sort of sound is beneficial or therapeutic? I personally have experienced significant psychological benefits from listening to classical music and playing classical guitar. I’m a big fan of J.S. Bach and Scarlatti, so mainly the Baroque period. Recently I started looking at Mozart and I came across an article (The Mozart Effect: Does Music Make Us Smarter) discussing research on the cognitive and therapeutic effects of listening to classical music.

I like a lot of what the article is saying and want to pursue this line of research further. But I already have a couple of reservations in that I’m a bit sceptical that just listening to any random classical music, or even any random music by Mozart, on any random equipment is the best idea. I’ve tried this and it just becomes background music, a bit like hearing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in the elevator. You’re not really engaged and paying attention and you’re not really immersed in the music. It can actually turn you off listening to classical music. I want to look into the exact pieces as well as the audio set up used in the cognitive experiments. From personal experience careful selection of the music and playing the music at a high quality, and sustained listening, makes a lot of difference. I also think that you need to know something about how to listen to the music.

I certainly believe that this warrants more thinking and research. I also feel that in tango we might do well to give the music greater consideration and pull back on the other stuff. Going back to my comments on economic incentives (Economic incentives in tango: empiricist vs. praxeological view), spending more time, money and effort on getting live music and better recording music, on encouraging live musicians to invest in tango, and less on all the dancing classes might be a better investment in the longer run.

One idea is that when we have the experience of being immersed in the music played on live instruments that are not amplified but that are acoustic—violins, bandoneons, piano, guitar, etc.—we have a better sense of what they offer and then have a better sense of what to look for in the reproduction of recorded music. The main problem that I see is that unless people have experience of live musical performance they have no point of reference to understand why certain music reproduction equipment is better at delivering that immersive experience that is engaging and satisfying.

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