The Mozart Effect


Dear Artist,

The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell makes some startling claims. By listening to Mozart you might just turn out to be more creative, productive and healthier. This book is full of scientific studies and lots of anecdotal evidence. For example, premature triplets were separately incubated; one was fed Mozart, one silence, and one Rock. Guess what? The Mozart-fed kid gained weight faster, didn’t fuss, was smarter, and did more with his life. That sort of thing.

Why Mozart? Campbell claims that Mozart, above all others, was “in utero” already a composer. His dad practiced the fiddle nearby while his pregnant mom sang lullabies and hummed a lot. According to Campbell, Mozart’s music also mimics the gurgles and beats that the essentially underwater fetus hears. The result is a mantra of creative security and a feeling of wellbeing. Mozart grew up able to compose several concertos at once. The author goes on to show that the Mozart effect can be used to good results with arthritis, autism, burns, cancer, depression, grief, headaches, hypertension, substance abuse, trauma, etc.

If you feel like it I thought we might put young Wolfie to a test. We’ll publish your results or observations. There are three things you might try: A constant low level of Mozart in the workspace for several days, sporadic motivational blasts, and specific symphonies or concertos by headset tailored to high-energy work periods. For the latter I chose a CD of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K525, Serenade in G (St. Martin-in-the-Fields version). Campbell recommends this one for those with Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s 17 minutes long. I took breaks for rethinking when the music ended and replayed the piece four times to the completion of a 12 x 16. In the end I was a human tuning-fork. I’ll tell you about my painting later.

Best regards,


PS: “How powerful is your magic sound.” (William Amadeus Mozart, The Magic Flute)

Esoterica: Not just Mozart. “Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Corelli give a sense of order and create a mentally stimulating environment for study or work.” (Don Campbell)  Haydn improves concentration, memory and spatial perception. He also says there’s a place for jazz, blues, salsa, rhumba, maranga, macarena and samba.

The following are selected responses to the above and other letters. Thank you for writing.


Hero Worship?
by Kyle Nitzsche


“Great Meadows”
oil painting by Kyle Nitzsche

Every mind and creative spirit learns from and is enriched by the complex and beautiful human thoughts and creations to which it is exposed. In this way, we are beautifully and intricately connected to each other and to those who have preceded us in time. Of course Mozart’s music is an especially advanced and wonderful example of the complex creations of which human beings are capable. I have spent countless hours playing his gorgeous sonatas on the piano. But, the notion that he alone has especial powers to encourage in infantile minds (or adult minds for that matter) a uniquely beautiful flowering of creative spirit under emphasizes the contributions of so many other worthy human beings. Yes, he was a unique genius. But so were Scarlatti, Bach, Verdi, and so many others. This line of reasoning borders on idolatry and hero worship. The mimics-a-mom’s-gurgling theory strikes me as a real stretch… past the breaking point. We all need to surround ourselves and our children in rich examples of human brilliance… and avoid simplistic hero worship.


Include all music
by R. Duane Hendricks, Calgary, Alberta

It seems obvious that actively listening to (and playing/practicing) music of quality and compositional order will have a positive effect on one’s life and work. It would seem that there is a possibility that using certain kinds of background music, would result in nothing more than background noise after a while. This might prove to be more mind numbing than mind stimulating, especially if the choice is to use the overly repetitive patterns of pop, rock, new age, etc. So, listen to Mozart certainly, but be careful not to choose only music of the past. Include excellent music from all historical periods, especially from our own time, because, after all, that is where we live.


Celebrate our gifts
by Susan T. Kerry

I read your Mozart piece with interest and I see that it has also been forwarded to me by another artist who is also ADHD. I would be interested in hearing more about ADHD. What rewards it has for you, how you cope with it and what you need to overcome to deal with it daily. I have my own list along with 2 children who are also ADHD. It is time to celebrate our gifts and contributions, instead of criminalizing it. Interestingly, just before opening my e-mail, I tuned my radio to a classical music station, looking for NPR and left it to play, and it could be Mozart, I couldn’t tell you!

(RG note) Information and opinion on this and how ADD affects artists can be found at Artists and Attention Deficit Disorder and at Attention Deficit Disorder


by Stephen Connor

I will go back and give Mozart a try. My problem with classical music while working has been the dramatic changes in volume. I find it distracting for getting into a creative groove. Try Dexter Gordon’s Ballads CD, or Gene Harris on Black and Blue.


Thomas Tallis
by Ron Mains

I would add another form of music to your list — Gregorian chants, in their many forms, as well as the works of Thomas Tallis, particularly as performed by the Tallis Scholars. I find that the harmony of these pieces feeds directly into my soul and creative spirit, as well as having a decidedly positive and smoothing influence on my temperament.


It makes me happy
by Barbara Mason

I don’t know about Mozart, but I listen to a lot of those Chopin Nocturnes and they seem to be good to work to. Also I listen to the oldies rock station, now, I am 56 so oldies to me are the early rock and roll of the ’50s and ’60s. I think this music is musically terrible, lots or repetition and not much content. However, it always seems to make me happy, so guess that is important. Being a printmaker I usually listen to it when I am printing and the work is repetitious as the creative part has already been done and I am doing the “work” part of producing an edition. They say babies that hear Mozart in utero have perfect pitch. I think it must have something to do with the connection between the right and left brains, as music is really mathematics in creative flow. This is just my own theory and probably has not been studied. Maybe it should be!


New age
by Elzire, Princeton, MA, USA

I’ve always painted to “New Age” music and find that it takes me away, so much so, that often times I finish a painting and look at it in wonder, “Wow, did I do that?” Artists from the Windam Hill label, and Narada are always a safe bet. The latest cd that has me mesmerized, is the K-Pax soundtrack by Edward Shearmur. I consider my music as essential to my painting as my paints.


by Jane Champagne, Southhampton, Ontario, Canada

Mozart does improve creativity. Years ago, in the 1980s, when I was in the editorial end of magazine publishing, a couple of articles dealt with a book called Superlearning, wherein academics in Eastern Europe tested students learning French by using Mozart compositions to enhance their ability. It worked. Someone in the U.S. cottoned on to the method, and it proved astonishingly effective. I doubt the book is still in print. In Romania, Mozart was also used to enhance training speed and effectiveness for athletes, by the way.

(RG note) Superlearning by Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder, was first published in 1979.

The book outlines some of the early development of “superlearning” techniques by Bulgarian researcher Dr. George Lozanov. His system made use of Baroque background music as a key element to catalyze “superlearning”. A newer version is now available called Superlearning 2000.


Soother of fear
by June Raabe, Ladysmith, BC, Canada

It’s not about Mozart, but I have to say that music is a powerful soother of fear. I had to have surgery a few years ago. I could not have general anesthesia, and was slated for a spinal block. I was understandably a bit alarmed at the idea of surgery while being awake (even if pain free). So I decided to take my little Walkman type cassette player and a copy of Pachabel’s Canon in D, having discovered the merits of this piece some time before. The surgeon allowed me to listen to my tape, and I relaxed to the Alpha brain wave inducing music. It’s interesting that this particular recording also incorporates the sounds of waves crashing on a beach and a faint distant fog-horn, at one point. I will now try Mozart and see if he inspires me to better painting!


DNA and music
by Ursula Reese

There are many other classical composers who lend themselves to creative painting. I have always used their music in my Studio (or car). Recently I heard a lecture on DNA, and learned that your leaning towards a certain composer is written in your DNA. I need the drum rolls of Beethoven for inspiration.


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 81 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2002. That includes Paula Timpson from East Hampton, Long Island who says, “Creativity flows beautifully in the process of Music.”


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