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Friday | Jan 15, 2010

Mozart 101 with Sheri – Class #2

I’ve been listening to Mozart for a month and I can safely say there’s been no increase in my IQ. I proved what scientists have known for years—there’s no real ‘Mozart Effect.’ Listening to music-any music-that transports you to a relaxed and peaceful state of mind will prepare the brain for mental challenge. Although, I would argue, hearing Ave Verum Corpus elevates even the most stoic listener to a higher emotional plane.

During the second class of Mozart 101, Dr. James Sorrell attempted to clarify what constitutes genius. One of the most fascinating aspects of Mozart’s genius was his ability to span various forms of music. From the bawdy Leck Mir den Arsch to the transcendent Ave Verum Corpus, he treats each composition with equal care and reverence. He wrote operas that appealed to kings and statesman as well as butchers and bakers.

My friend Tara would argue that whatever soothes a child to sleep is the result of pure genius. Even an infant is sensitive to the peaceful strains of String Quartet No. 14 in G Major versus the enthusiastic bowing of an adolescent cellist. Human beings are sensitive to music. I write fiction and I have a musical library to match the emotional mood I’m attempting to convey in the story. Weepy self-introspection calls for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 14 in C sharp Minor. When I need energy, only Mozart will suffice.

Dr. Sorrell points out that Mozart defied the common myths of genius: fading talent, the trap of unattainable standards, the shaky pedestal of a Boy Wonder and the insidious poison that is boredom. Mozart highlighted common themes in his operas that still resonate today: love, loss, anger, forgiveness, jealousy and abandonment. Mozart remained a prolific composer until his death.

I’m not a genius and I’m honest about my complete lack of musical knowledge. But over the few last months of immersing myself in classical music, I’ve become adept at identifying the composer. I still can’t name the symphonies, but I’ve learned the musical personalities of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. And, hey, if I can learn—anybody can. Perhaps there is a Mozart Effect.

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