Category Archives: Music Education

The Chosen One: Mozart

Convinced about the importance of hearing and the possibilities of reeducating this ability, Tomatis developed a method which, with the aid of electronic equipment, the Gregorian Chant and the music of Mozart, determined the muscles of the middle ear to perform an osteo-muscular exercise meant to give the ear its natural ability of optimal hearing.

Tomatis considered that the Gregorian Chant invigorated the subject and facilitated his connection with his inner ego. The argument behind his claim is the fact that the rhythm of this music matches the rhythm of a beating heart and the breathing pace of a person who is resting. Moreover, it provides a great load of cortical energy due to its richness in high frequencies.

The choice of Mozart and his music out of all the great composers was not made at random. At the beginning of his studies, Tomatis used different types of music in various Eastern and Western cities, and realized that the only music that worked on everybody was that composed by Mozart. Therefore, he started to analyze the reason why this was happening and to study the concrete characteristics that made this music have a beneficial influence on all his patients.

Taking account of the principle which states that different frequencies influence concrete aspects of the evolutionary development, the music written by this composer is ideal for treatment, because Mozart “used very high frequencies, especially with flutes and violins, and is uniquely suited for hearing treatment, as his music is between 125 and 9000 Hz, the necessary interval for therapy”.

Apart from its frequencies, the music is perfectly suited also due to a distinctive feature that separates it from the others and gives it therapeutical properties: its freshness. This might have been caused by the fact that Mozart started to compose at the age of 4, before being introduced in the strict framework of cultural norms. His music was created with freshness and spontaneity, in the harmony of the spheres and the joy of childhood. This way, Mozart managed to store these characteristics until he reached adulthood, always adding to the riches of his own growth.

The scientific explanation is that sound gives us energy. A study on this matter, conducted by North-American researchers, concluded that the human nervous system needs to receive three billion stimuli per second, for at least four and a half hours a day, in order to reach the level of alertness (consciousness), and that more than 90 percent of this load of nerve stimuli are provided through the ear.

This offers a scientific basis to the statement regarding the therapeutical properties of Mozart’s music because, as mentioned previously, its combination of high frequencies proves ideal for achieving psychological and, eventually, nervous balance.

The Tomatis Effect and its Addiction to Mozart

Tomatis discovered that the fetus can hear from four and a half months into pregnancy, and that he mainly listens to his mother’s voice. From this moment on, the baby starts to establish a communicational bond with his mother. He starts developing a desire to listen, to maintain the bond, to keep receiving emotional nourishment: he is yearning to live. The voice of his mother, music and rhythm contain all the linguistic structures on which the baby’s language will be built.

The baby listens to his mother’s voice in a distinctive way, with great prevalence of higher frequencies. Tomatis and his colleagues managed to establish very precisely how the fetus listens. The vibration of the voice descends through the spine and makes the hipbones resound like the case of a violoncello. The fetus, who is completely immersed in amniotic fluid, receives the sound directly in his internal ear. Later, when the baby grows and wants to hear the voice of his mother more clearly, he will try to get his head closer to his mother’s pelvic bones. Tomatis claims that this way, the baby turns and settles in the headfirst position, preparing for birth.

The Tomatis Effect

Alfred Tomatis received his medical otorhinolaryngology diploma in Paris, 1949, and started receiving his patients, many of whom were opera singers, friends of his father – a famous French baritone. They came to show the young physician their vocal cords and ask for advice regarding tuning problems, loss or lack of voice color and timbre quality, loss of control on the vibrato, problems related to volume or vocal placement, and many other issues regarding voice, singing and speaking.

Tomatis helped them using the techniques and medicines of that time. He said that once, while trying to tighten the vocal chords of a singer, he increased the dose of strychnine to such extent, that the man was on the point of choking on scene, and still continued to sing flat.

One day, while looking at his patients’ audiograms, he found a resemblance between those of factory workers who had suffered acoustic trauma and those of the singers. He realized that in spite of their different professions, they presented a similar graphic in regard to their acoustic responses. Both had a drop in acoustic sensitivity at 4000 Hz. He examined a great number of audiograms, and after analyzing them and finding the same characteristics, he concluded that voice depends on the ability to hear, and if hearing is damaged, voice is automatically affected, too.

He performed experiments on singers, using audio filters. He had them sing in front of a microphone and he directed the sound towards an electronic machine which allowed him to reduce or amplify frequency as he liked. Then he transmitted the modified voice to the singers through headphones, thus controlling the voice emission. The results were surprising. Tomatis modified the voice of the singer the way he wanted. If he prevented the singer from hearing frequencies superior to 4000 Hz, for example, the voice immediately stopped producing those frequencies which affected the quality of the voice and the music. Likewise, when he resumed transmitting those frequencies clearly to the ear, the voice recovered all its qualities, its musicality, timbre and color.

Music and its effects on the development of the brain

Research on the effect of music on the brain of children has shown that music activates the cerebral cortex, particularly the frontal and occipital areas, which are responsible for spatial-temporal reasoning. Moreover, by evaluating the effects of music by means of EEG recordings, it has been observed that music provokes an alpha-type electrical brain wave. All these discoveries show the following things about music (particularly in respect to classical music composed by Mozart):

  • Enhances memory, attention and concentration in children.
  • Helps improve the ability to solve math problems and complex reasoning questions.
  • Is a means of expression.
  • Familiarizes children with the sounds and meanings of words and reinforces learning.
  • Offers the opportunity for children to interact to one another and also with the grown-ups.
  • Stimulates creativity and imagination in children.
  • When combined with dancing, it quickens the senses, supports balance and promotes the development of the muscles.
  • Evokes memories and images that enrich the intellect.
  • Encourages the overall development of the child, influencing all the areas of development.

Teaching your kids music

When parents look their babies in the eyes, the great majority of them do not imagine the countless latent abilities in their children’s life. Babies’ brains grow at an astonishing pace, extremely fast, and they absorb information much easier than adults. For a long time, music has been known as an essential activity for the development of the brain, and many studies have repeatedly confirmed its long-term benefits. It is never too early to teach music to your child! By following the steps described in this article, you will set your baby on a musical path which not only will bring him happiness and satisfaction, but will also make him more intelligent. You can offer your child an education in the music field, and next we will present you some advice on how to do it.

  1. Select a wide variety of music CDs, either from your personal collection, or from the local library. Let your child listen to various music genres, such as classical music, country, disco, rock etc, right from his first days of life. Dance with your child while listening to music. This way, you will help him enrich his censorial information and the depth of his learning. Clap, or pat his arms and legs on the beat or rhythm of the music. Use the music as an opportunity for the baby to have a positive interaction with you. This will teach the child different types of music.
  2. Show your baby different CDs or DVDs about learning music. On television you can watch short musical programs that teach babies, little and older children to read music and to train their ear for music in order to achieve what is called a perfect ear, or perfect pitch. These shows also explain the notion of rhythm and teach how to recognize musical instruments in a piece of music. So start practicing with your child, trying to identify the musical instruments in a melody you listen together. Move and dance with your child on the rhythm of that CD or DVD and sing the notes with him.
  3. Make an inexpensive set of flashcards showing keys. Start with the notes in the G-clef. Show your baby several of them daily, and change the order every few days. You will see that before long your baby will be able to identify them correctly, like you have shown him. Resist the temptation of testing your child, as this might make him reject the activity and be reluctant to repeat it. Depending on the age of your child, it might be necessary to print the flashcards in bigger size. During this period, your baby may find it much easier to acquire all these abilities, a task that could be very daunting after a few years. When you perform this activity with your child make sure it is entertaining and worthwhile for both of you (or the three of you, if Mommy, Daddy and Baby are working together).
  4. Give your baby the chance to create his own music. Pots and pans can be funny music instruments. Encourage your baby to imitate you and guide him to follow various and complex rhythms. As the child is improving his skills, you can have him to keep the rhythm while you play another rhythm.
  5. A keyboard or, even better, a piano (but not a toy piano, which is usually out of tune and pitch) is perfect for your baby to exercise on. If you cannot get one of these instruments, then a xylophone or marimba might be helpful. Having access to an instrument gives little children and preschoolers the opportunity to practice and overcome problems and learn to recognize both the sound and the music.
  6. Take your baby to free pop and classical music concerts, either outside, or in the local library. By letting him attend these concerts even for a few minutes, you will help stimulate your baby’s curiosity and love for music. Tell the child where you are, what you see and what you hear. Draw his attention to the different types of instruments that are used most during the concert or presentation.
  7. Consider taking music classes with your baby or buying CDs/DVDs that teach music, and enjoy them together with your child.
  8. Sing nursery songs to your baby, as these tend to be babies’ favorites and can also provide information that your baby needs to know for his growth and development.