Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mozart for Babies

          I was doing some chores this morning and turned to our on-demand music service, MOG, to soundtrack my efforts. I usually use these house-to-myself opportunities to blast show tunes, which I sing at the top of my lungs.  I wasn't feeling quite that energetic. I wanted something I could turn on and let rip without much song-skipping or fear of getting randomized to something that would be stuck in my head all day. I turned to the search function and typed in  'Search albums by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart'. *click* Wow. So many choices. I took a whirl through the virtual 'album covers' and stopped, amazed at a lengthy series entitled 'Mozart for Babies'. Now, I'd heard about the 'Mozart Effect', the idea that classical music makes kids smarter or somesuch, though a study seems to point to this being largely hooey. Hooey or not, I have a friend who successfully soothed all of her children to sleep with classical music when they were small, so the albums labeled 'Calm and Soothe', 'Relaxation', and 'Peaceful Sleep' made perfect sense to me. Heck, I may try them myself.  I kept flipping, though, and it got a teeny bit ridiculous. The rest of the albums were:
  • Communication
  • Concentration
  • Confidence
  • Controlling Energy
  • Harnessing Emotions
  • Inquisitive Minds
  • Memory

My first question is, who decided which particular piece of  music improved which functions? Was there a control group of babies who were given concentration and memory tasks while listening to Vanilla Ice or Clay Aiken? I'm not sure I want to know what the 'confidence' control group had to listen to. And it occurs to me that if you want a child to 'harness emotions' or 'control energy' you'd give him something that would stir up a mosh pit. Get those emotions all harnessed in a big ol' circle. You can even surround it with baby fencing to give them the total concert experience.  And since they lack the balance and muscle tone to crowd surf you don't have to worry about anyone getting dropped on his head.

Don't get me wrong. I wish this worked. More so, I wish it worked for adults. If only music could be piped into public places that would encourage people to balance budgets, to pick up litter, maybe a 'Mozart for Considerate Behavior'. No more leaving a mouthful of scorched coffee in the office pot or two squares of toilet paper on the roll. Amid the swell of strings and the silvery piping of flutes people would share taxicabs, use phrases like, "Please," "After you," and "Thank you." Bloodless coups could be a mere Violin Concerto in D Major away.

What role has music played in my development into a passable-if-satisfactory human? I developed a fondness for classical music in my teens courtesy of WFLN, the now-defunct classical station in Philadelphia. Far too late to hone my hormone-addled brain. My earliest music memories are more of the Top 40 radio variety. I was one of those kids that sang songs word for word LONG before I had any understanding whatsoever of WHAT I was singing about. Here are a few of my formative 'concertos'. Do treat yourself to the videos, there are many golden 'What the...." moments here.

Believe it; I was 'git cha git cha ya ya da da'-ing all the way to afternoon Kindergarten. I figured out what this song was talking about roughly 23 years later. I have no explanation for the outfits. I guess my Mozart effect lesson here was, er, Effective Merchandising'.

My mother tells me I knew every word to this song when I was four. The only explanation I can offer is that it was probably on the radio ten times a day. It mentioned trains and I always associated it with my father's commute into Philadelphia for his manager job at Grant's. Mozart effect lesson: Dealing with 'The Man'.

This is a song I associate with riding in our Camaro in the summer, my legs sticking to the back seat (which was probably good since my feet didn't touch the floor and I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. You have to dig this video--I suspect the set designer for the Smothers Brothers was doing some serious acid. Mozart effect lesson: Respecting Gravity.

This is one of those songs that was just creepy. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was about, it just gave me a weird feeling when I heard it on my bedside radio late at night. Staring at the luminous dial I imagined all sorts of things, some probably darker than the song's intent. I also thought Helen Reddy was awesome. Don't judge me. Mozart effect lesson: If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit. (I think.)

Now if I could just find that Mozart for Housecleaning and Organization album.....I'll be all set.


Carol said...

I especially like the "Mozart for Considerate People" idea! I'm moving into the period requiring a need for "Mozart for Considerate Tourists who can absorb the values and behavior of the natives" concerto!!

meleah rebeccah said...

"I usually use these house-to-myself opportunities to blast show tunes, which I sing at the top of my lungs."

I'm officially in love with you right now!

*goes back to read the rest of your post*

meleah rebeccah said...

"Believe it; I was 'git cha git cha ya ya da da'-ing all the way to afternoon Kindergarten."

That's it. You have to be my new best friend!

Shieldmaiden96 said...

Aunt Carol: And we both know the subtitle for that would be 'Adagio for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts'. ;)

Meleah: Oh, you have no idea how many times my dishes were washed not so much by hand, but by 'Chicago'. Though because my next door neighbors are good Christian folks with small children I have to temporarily retire 'Hair' and 'Avenue Q' once the windows are open all the time.

Lin said...

I can do a mean "Rent" while I clean house. Or "Wicked". Sigh. I love showtunes.

DA in EP said...

When we speak of songs you sang word for word as a child, even though you didn't get the words, for me it will always be "Greased Lightning". I knew that song backwards and forwards and loved it. And never knew until I was about 10 years old just how dirty it was. Good times.
And Helen Reddy rocks. Loved her. Soundtrack of my 5-10 years.

Pearl said...


Was Angie Baby not just the creepiest song ever? :-) I rmemeber hearing that as a child and thinking What?! What just happened there?!


Shieldmaiden96 said...

Lin: Housecleaning is the only time I attempt 'Seasons of Love'. (an aside. I used to belong to a women's ensemble of the most wonderful yet unfunky women you can imagine. We did that song. It was painful)

Deb: I KNOW! I remember listening to that song thinking, "The chicks'll WHAT? I don't get it." The whole message of the movie is kind of disturbing if you unpack it.

Pearl: There were so many songs like that in the 70s. Remember 'Run Joey Run'? Good lord. Its like someone was making story songs out of 911 calls.