Why Play Classical Music to Babies In Utero? Because They Like It!

One British classical music writer says babies boogie in utero to classical music.(Photo: Jennifer Hambrick, WOSU Public Media)
One British classical music writer says babies boogie in utero to classical music.(Photo: Jennifer Hambrick, WOSU Public Media)

We’ve all heard of the Mozart Effect, the idea that listening to Mozart’s music an make you smarter. Maybe so. But if you’ve ever been relaxed or uplifted by a classical music concert, then it’s pretty clear that listening to this music does something – maybe many things – deep within our minds, our souls and our bodies.

Just ask a child. Not long ago, I wrote a blog post about children’s innate tendencies to move around when they hear music. I opined in that post that classical music concert organizations should turn their passive “cry rooms” into more active “engagement rooms” designed specifically to allow children under close parental supervision to move safely to the music. Freed from the tethers of adult behavioral expectations, children could embody their musical instincts in authentic movements, allowing the music to impress itself ever more deeply into the fiber of their beings.

More recently, British music writer Michael Tumelty wrote about a musical experience designed for very small children and found himself wondering: how young can children be and still soak up the benefits of classical music? Much earlier, he had asked the same question of a staff member at Helsinki’s Finnish Music Information Centre, in a nation that has boldly supported music education, and was told that children can reap the benefits of hearing music even in utero.

Tumelty writes that he was reminded of this exchange years later when he took his wife and their unborn twins to a concert conducted by Estonian conductor Olari Elts. Tumelty had a front-row seat to his unborn twins’ response to classical music – a response that foreshadowed life in their house ever since.

“In the early stages of the concert the twins were, relatively, at rest. But when Elts launched the orchestra into an energetic and action-packed performance of a Beethoven symphony (I think it might have been the Eighth Symphony) all hell broke loose beside me as a double bump began to gyrate and boogie to almost seismic effect, and strangely in rhythm. One of them, nine years on and totally out there, is still doing it, ignited even by the rhythm of tooth-brushing at night. Hyper? You have no idea: have you ever been in a boogie-ing bathroom?”

So, what to expect when you’re expecting? The unexpected, of course. But also expect babies to boogie to great music – even before they’re born.

Read more: Music Exposure In Utero Transforms a Chore into a Boogiesome Pleasure (The Herald)

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