By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jan 10, 2012
Ever since word got out that our almost-10-year-old daughter will be going to Yale in the fall, people have been asking how she got in.
She’s not the most dedicated scholar; until recently, when asked to write three to five sentences, she stopped at three. She’s not especially athletic; she says her favorite sport is “getting into bed.” And as for outside activities, does sitting in the window seat and playing with Calico Critters count?
A few years later, others poked some holes in “The Mozart Effect.” Still, there was considerable evidence that Mozart's music does affect brain function. Lab rats raised on Mozart ran through mazes faster. Alzheimer's sufferers functioned better after large doses of Mozart. Epileptics had milder seizures.
A new musical series ----"Music For The Mozart Effect: Strengthen the Mind" --- was rolled out, to predictably big sales. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
And because parents want their kids to have every possible edge, a version for children --- "The Mozart Effect for Children: Tune Up Your Mind" --- was rolled out. Big seller? What to you think?[To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
We did not subject our kid to daily applications of “Music for the Mozart Effect.” We did, however, play a bit more Mozart than usual when she was in the room. Not the exciting symphonies, not the operatic music, not the choral music.
We are --- well, I am, anyway --- highly caffeinated and a touch jangly. This calls for the calmer, more delicate Mozart, the Mozart of the flute concertos. As played by James Galway. Accompanied by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
Mozart is said to have loathed the flute. But the evidence is frail. In a 1777 letter to his father, Mozart wrote that a Dutch businessman had asked him to produce three easy flute concertos and four flute quartets. Fee: 200 gulden. But Mozart had been otherwise engaged --- that’s code for: in love with Aloysia Weber, whose sister Constanze became his wife --- and, by the deadline, had delivered only three of the quartets and two concertos. He had his reasons, or, anyway, rationalizations: "It is not surprising I have been unable to finish them, for I never have a single hour's quiet here.... Moreover, you know I become quite powerless when I am obliged to write for an instrument I can't stand."
For someone who had a hate on for the flute, Mozart did uncommonly well by it. Musicologists praise the Adagio of the Flute Concerto No. 1 in G. And although the second concerto, in D major, was an arrangement of an oboe concerto he had already written, it hums along quite nicely.
There are times when you want to be excited and then brilliant, and times when a modest increase in brainpower will do just fine. “The artist is the antenna of the race,” Ezra Pound said. Yes, but in my business --- and maybe in yours --- that’s not a compliment. That is, it’s good to be able to think three months ahead, but if you can see deeper into the future, you’d better prepare for shrugs and rejections. The Flute Concertos don’t over-deliver like the Symphonies; they’re lattes, not Five Hour Energy.
And James Galway, Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin’s for $8.10 – get outta town.