Mozartian mind grease

How do you keep going when you have a looming writing deadline or overwhelming word count to achieve, or when you’re writing something that is far outside your comfort zone?

In other words, what do you do when you are so intimidated by what you have to do that it stops you in your tracks and you’re left staring at the vast edifice of blankness before you, seemingly unable to continue?

Why, we procrastinate, of course. We make a cup of tea; we do the washing up; we tackle that DIY job that’s been left for months but suddenly seems important; we spot an article in a magazine that simply has to be read now; or, worse, we fall down the YouTube hole, watching music or instructional videos (or both) in an endless stream until we feel disgusted with ourselves.

And then we look up and see that the edifice is still there, gleaming and bright, just waiting for us to chip away at it.


Mozart’s music “has the effect of a fountain of youth”. I couldn’t agree more.



What do we do then? Of course we have to Do Something. We can’t just ignore it forever. Eventually, we realise there is no way around it, and start we must. So we have to uncomfortably, self-consciously, creakily start, word by sorry word until the flow comes and we can continue without thinking.

Getting over that initial hurdle is one of the most difficult, and most well-known, problems among writers. However, I think I have found the one, reliable, sure-fire way of igniting the spark, forgetting about the size of the edifice and just getting on with the damn thing. Its name? Mozart.

That’s right, that Mozart. The classical composer Mozart. Writer of the Magic Flute, the Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni Mozart. Wolfgang Amadeus. Him of the giggly laugh and bawdy habits in that film. He that wrote that gorgeous piano concerto (No. 21 in C major, if you’re wondering), as well as countless other concerti, symphonies, string quartets and quintets, religious music and operas that delight the ear and lift the soul.

As the great conductor Karl Bohm said, Mozart’s music “has the effect of a fountain of youth”. I couldn’t agree more.

But it’s not just the rejuvenating effect that helps me when I’m overwhelmed by deadlines and intimated by the edifice. Mozart’s music literally improves the performance of your mind.

The first paper on the impact of Mozart on the brain was published in 1982, in which his music was found to have a beneficial effect in depressive individuals.[1] While that was an interesting curio from the corners of medical research, the vast majority of papers published on the composer up until the mid-1990s were speculating on his demise, with academics arguing over his medical history and causes of death.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the first paper detailing the impact the effect of Mozart’s music on cognitive performance appeared. In this study, Rauscher et al were able to show that listening to a Mozart piano sonata produced a significant short-term enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning in college students.[2]

That year went on to see a flurry of papers on the purported benefits of listening to the composer’s music, which was immediately dubbed ‘the Mozart effect’.

While other authors were initially unable to reproduce any beneficial effect on mental acuity,[3] interest in the idea continued unabated. Indeed, a study published earlier this year showed that Mozart’s music has anti-epileptic effect in children. The researchers, from the University of Edinburgh, consequently recommend that the role of 'Mozart therapy' as a treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy should be further investigated.[4]

(It should be noted, in the interest of balance, that another study, published this October, found that Mozart's Symphony No. 40 does not reduce anxiety in women undergoing colposcopy.[5] Although why anyone would consider that particular symphony, which has been described as “a work of passion, violence, and grief”,[6] to be restful and calming, especially during a procedure such as colposcopy, is beyond me.)

Such scientific musing aside, I find that, when I put on the great man’s work, my mind calms, I am able to put aside any fears over what I am working on, and the cogs notably start to turn faster. You could call it a form of mind grease, and I could not recommend it highly enough.

References
  1. Reinhardt U, Lange E. [Effect of music on depressed patients]. Psychiatr Neurol Med Psychol (Leipz) 1982; 34: 414–421.
  2. Rauscher FH, Shaw GL, Ky KN. Listening to Mozart enhances spatial-temporal reasoning: towards a neurophysiological basis. Neurosci Lett 1995; 185: 44–47.
  3. Newman J, Rosenbach JH, Burns KL et al. An experimental test of “the mozart effect”: does listening to his music improve spatial ability. Percept Mot Skills 1995; 81: 1379–1387. doi: 10.2466/pms.1995.81.3f.1379
  4. Grylls E, Kinsky M, Baggott A et al. Study of the Mozart effect in children with epileptic electroencephalograms. Seizure 2018; 59: 77–81. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2018.05.006
  5. Hilal Z, Alici F, Tempfer CB et al. Mozart for Reducing Patient Anxiety During Colposcopy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Obstet Gynecol 2018; 132: 1047–1055. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002876
  6. Symphony No. 40 (Mozart). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._40_(Mozart)

To listen to the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 In C Major, K.467, performed by Géza Anda with Camerata Academica des Mozarteums Salzburg, click on the link below.

blog comments powered by Disqus