Mozart and the Mosh Pit

“Music soothes even the savage beast”. Another perfect example of how misguided our education system is. Although this is possibly one of my favourite quotes, it is also one of the most misquoted.

It was the other William

Many believe that it was uttered by the Master Word Smith, William Shakespeare, when in fact it was from a play entitled The Mourning Bride written in 1697 by the English playwright, William Congreve.

William Congreve

William Congreve

The actual line reads “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,” which is the first line of the play, spoken by Almeria in Act I, Scene 1. (The word “breast” is often misquoted as “beast”, and “has” sometimes appears as “hath”.)

As a quick point of interest, this guy was really done in by history as another famous quote was also attributed to Shakespeare – “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” spoken by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII. (This is usually paraphrased as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”).

But anyway…

It’s a scientifically proven fact that music affects our brains. And different music affects different areas of our brains depending on a lot of things, including whether we are actual musicians or not. One thing i for sure though: we learn quicker when things rhyme. Case in point is the ABC song we were taught as kids. Why this is an affective learning tool boils down to how our brains process information.

When it comes to music

One side of our brain processes the words while the other processes the music. This activates the entire brain and ensures far better retention of information. Our short term memory can only hold seven bits of information, and by combining information into a song, you are effectively taking two or three bits and making them one. This means you can actually force feed your brain through music. Surprisingly though, the sound of music has more impact on us than the actual lyrics, which is comforting to me personally as a parent considering the amount crap the modern rappers and pop groups “sing” about.

courtesy of Huffington Post.

courtesy of Huffington Post.

It is also important that you stimulate your brain with the right type of music. And by that I don’t mean doing the world a favour and never using the words “talented musician” in the same sentence as Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus ever again. I mean that you need to listen to complex music if you are going to get your noggin vibrating sufficiently.

Like for example

It’s been accepted for a while now that to ensure your child’s brain gets stimulated properly, one should play classical music to them while in the womb and after birth. You know, classical, like Mozart or Hendel or Bach – real instruments and composers and stuff (for the kids reading…wait…oh well). But is it only classical music that has this affect, and if so why?

The Mozart Effect

Like “Crossfit” and other buzzwords being thrown around by people wanting to sound cool, this term is really misunderstood. It plays on the premise that listening to classical music makes your child smarter…much like how doing burpees and chin ups till you puke makes you stronger. So what’s behind this popular notion, what does it really mean and is it all hype or does it carry some weight…relax Crossfitians, we don’t care about your PB.

Basically in layman’s terms the reason the classical stuff works on your brain is because of all the different pitches and hundreds of different notes all clustered together making pretty sounds that get your neurons firing like the lights on your Christmas tree. The key being the combination of many different notes in highs and lows in short, dramatic bursts…like…a…really good…guitar solo…in a hard rock or metal song.

Meet the Slipknot offenders.

Meet the Slipknot offenders.

Before we continue…

I feel it is my duty as a musician and music enthusiast to set the record straight. Metallica is not metal. Seether is not metal. Disturbed is not metal. Linkin Park is not metal. Chad Koeger and Nickleback are neither metal nor rock musicians…in fact they are almost country rockers…like Crossfitians are exercisers, not athletes.

Alright so what I’m saying is…

Some clever people in white coats have found that classical, jazz and metal music have similar affects on the brain because of the dramatic time signatures and changes in the patterns and progressions of the various musical pieces. It also dictates that the brain is more stimulated by technically difficult to play pieces of music than repetitive melodies such as loop-tracks used in today’s rap and hip-hop genres.

Many argue that heavy metal is negative and causes rebellion in children. “Just look at those boys who killed all those kids at that school because they listened to Slipknot”. Really. Blaming music on school killings or teen suicide is like blaming spoons for fat people being fat.

We can experience music as something sorrowful, distressing, forceful, or aggressive, all in the comfort of our own home without feeling a shred of any real threat or danger. In the same way we look at art and perceive the emotion, we can understand the emotion of the music without really feeling it ourselves.

There is the fear of course that in the same way listening to cheerful music can lift one’s spirits, listening to angry music can actually make you angry enough to pick up a gun and start killing bunnies. Paradoxically, people often tailor music to their current mood, rather than use music to try and change their mood. Also…does listening to sexy music make you wanna hump your sister? Thought not. So drop it.

In closing (Phew)

To date, there are many theories on whether or not music makes your child smarter. Some believe they have found concrete evidence to validate this. They’re lying and want to sound cooler than their white coats and thick glasses make them look.

The reality is a report by McMaster University Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour in Hamilton, Canada which states that “The opposing sounds of Mozart and Slayer are presented but their difference not explained…at the sensory-cellular level there is no difference.”

Because we are all different,some people are drawn to heavy metal music for it’s perceived sonic qualities which means that this music is not making anyone more aggressive or violent than they already are.

Yes, really.

Do you agree? Tell us what you think. Join in the poll, it’s fun and you’ll get that great satisfaction of knowing you upset someone.

 

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