Mozart activates your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

The argument as to whether or not Mozart, or classical music in general, makes you smarter may never be resolved.  One writer says his experiences with music in multiple settings proved that it might not have made him smarter, but it might have enabled him to get smarter.

Frank Oteri is someone I have know for quite a long time. We met through music. Most of our common interests are related to music. Good bourbon is one exception, but it does go well with music. He has an encyclopedic mind when it comes to music, it’s performance, it’s purpose, it’s meaning.  So imagining him as anything but deeply musical is nearly impossible.

He wrote recently about growing up in what I would term a dysfunctional environment.  Because of that, he “started playing the piano not so much in order to be listened to, something I intuited would be next to impossible, but as a way to drown out the other sounds.”

Oteri goes on to describe his gradual assimilation into the world of the musically aware.  His experiences, I believe, are probably similar to most of the rest of us, such as trips to outdoor performances in the summer where many things vie for your attention as the music is playing.  From there, he moved on to Broadway shows, where he found an audience actually listening to the music, rather than using it as background noise.

Then someone gave him a ticket to a concert at Carnegie Hall, where he was amazed to see people “sitting quietly to listen to music without words. What were these sounds communicating to them?”

That. He said, is when he decided to find out what they were listening for, which meant he had to learn how to listen.

Oteri says it took decades for Beethoven’s music to speak to him.  In my opinion, Beethoven was speaking to him the entire time, just in different ways.  In this age of instant gratification, I fear that most people are not willing to give classical music that kind of time.  If they don’t get it right away, forget it.

On the other hand, I believe Oteri’s experiences should give us all hope and resolve.  None of us is born understanding even the simplest of music, so why would we expect to walk into a concert hall and immediately understand something about which musicologists have written volumes of analysis?

I love watching planes.  I have little understanding of the mechanics and science behind keeping an aircraft aloft, but it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment.  If I am standing next to a pilot, we both enjoy the same thing on different levels.  By the same token, if I am seated next to a musician, we both enjoy a performance, but from entirely different perspectives.

Does Mozart, or any classical music, make you smarter?  Probably to some degree.  However, the way it makes you smarter may be by inspiring you to seek to learn more about it and to understand the composers inspiration to write it.  In the meantime, while you pursue that knowledge, just enjoy it for what it is…beautiful and entertaining music.

Read: Listening does much more than make you smarter (New Music Box)