Leading Article: A dose of Mozart a day keeps the doctor away

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The Independent Online
FEW lovers of classical music will be surprised to learn that listening for 10 minutes to a Mozart piano sonata has been found to enhance performance in a subsequent intelligence test. The experiment, reported in Nature, was sadly limited. The comparison was solely between Mozart, 10 minutes of relaxation exercises, and silence.

How much more intriguing it would have been had the tests been taken after listening variously to, say, Mozart, Wagner, Debussy, Barry Manilow, Dolly Parton and the Rolling Stones. The authors admit this, suggesting primly that 'other compositions and musical styles should also be examined', and predicting that 'music lacking complexity or which is repetitive may interfere with, rather than enhance, abstract reasoning'.

In all probability, however, Mozart would - however comprehensive the sample - still prove the most performance-enhancing composer. That is certainly the conclusion of a remarkable French ear, nose and throat specialist, Alfred Tomatis, who found himself increasingly consulted by singers suffering from both physiological and psychological problems.

After extensive analysis of all manner of instrumental and vocal recordings, he found that Mozart's instrumental music was more effective than any other in helping patients overcome certain actual hearing difficulties as well as problems of concentration, lassitude and depression.

These healing qualities came, he concluded, partly from Mozart's instrumentation, with its extensive use of strings, and partly from the sheer energy with which he infused his music. Their effect was to recharge the brain, especially if the upper register was enhanced.

A series of clinics in France testify to the effectiveness of his treatment, and a recent book, Pourquoi Mozart?, to his love of the Austrian genius.

The moral is clear: next time you face a challenge or feel depressed, take a large dose of Mozart. Whether the aim is to relax or be stimulated, you can only gain from the experience.