At one point or another, just about every student has heard the widely-debated claim that “Mozart makes you smarter.”
The original evidence for the “Mozart effect” came from a 1994 study conducted by researchers at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine.
The study found that listening to one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sonatas prior to taking a spatial-temporal reasoning IQ test temporarily improved college students’ scores.
Spatial-temporal reasoning is the cognitive ability to create, maintain, and manipulate images in your mind when you do not have a physical model to work with. This type of reasoning involves being able to visualize conceptually how different parts of a picture, puzzle, or pattern can fit together.
For instance, solving complex mathematical equations is an example of spatial-temporal reasoning; you are not actively adding and subtracting physical units, but rather you are dealing with the numbers in an abstract and purely theoretical way.
Spatial-temporal reasoning is also valuable when writing a paper, playing chess, creating a work of art, solving a jigsaw puzzle, and doing mostly anything else that involves bringing a preconceived idea or goal into fruition.
Of course, other research studies have found conflicting results on whether or not Mozart (and/or other classical music) actually makes its listeners smarter.
So maybe Mozart will improve our test scores, maybe not; either way, we are college students, and it couldn’t hurt to try.
Here are a few Mozart music suggestions for your upcoming midterms:
Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 488
This is the very piece that was used in the music and spatial-temporal task performance study. It produced results for those college students; maybe it can help us too! Regardless of whether or not it helps you study, though, this piece is absolutely worth a listen. It is written in the authentic Mozart style of brightness and clarity, but it is unique in the fact that Mozart did not typically write many compositions for two pianos. Keep an ear open for some of the interlocking melodies between the two pianos in this piece.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467
This piano concerto is widely recognized for its very expressive, lyrical melodies. You will probably recognize the second movement; it begins with a very soft, sweet combination of muted string instruments. Eventually the solo pianist joins in, repeating similarly gentle, dreamlike melodies. I fondly recall listening to this specific piece numerous times as a child while I was doing my homework. Though my parents are not exactly music gurus, they loved having classical music playing in the CD player of our family room each night.
Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major K. 219
This piece is so majestic and charming! It is a very famous violin concerto, and for a good reason. It is actually nicknamed “The Turkish Concerto” because halfway through the third movement, the tempo abruptly changes as the instrumentalists play an upbeat section of Turkish-sounding music. Listen for the cellists and bassists tapping the wood of their bows against the strings. This playing style is called “col legno” or “col legno battuto,” which is Italian for “hit with the wood.” Fun fact: Mozart composed this beautiful piece when he was just 19 years old (the age of a young college student today). What
was that midterm you were worrying about again?
Good luck on all of your exams and projects in the upcoming weeks. May the music be with you!