Therapeutic Effects Emerge as Themes of Albums, Concerts

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), June 21, 1999 | Go to article overview

Therapeutic Effects Emerge as Themes of Albums, Concerts


As recounted in the Greek myth of Orpheus, which tells of a musician who soothes the beasts and makes rocks shed tears, there is more to music than sweet melodies. Scientific studies have found that music has a role in healing the mind and body of the listener, and this knowledge has given birth to a school of medicine called ``music therapy.''

The idea of using music as a supplement to medical treatment has been around since the late 18th century and documented uses of music as therapy can be traced back to World War I. However, the recent trend has more far-reaching ramifications than just the congenial relationship between the patient and the therapist in the laboratory, it goes so far as to have the effect of creating a market for the music of specific composers that are listened for specific medical uses.

A group of progressive theorists has vastly expanded the medical function of music beyond curing patients and crusaded to propagate the idea of ``prescribing music'' by well-known composers.

From the thoughts of such theorist, new words have entered the already complex pseudo-medical vocabulary, such as the ``Mozart Effect'' and ``Bach Effect,'' referring to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) that have been attributed with having beneficial medical effects. Musical theorists argue that these works relieve stress, improve creativity, and boost scholastic achievement, especially among infants and adolescents.

Riding on the wave of this trend, a number of albums containing a helpful selection of their music was introduced in early 1997. The first album of its kind, the Mozart Effect produced by Warner Music, sold 380,000 copies since its debut here in January 1997, ranking in the top 10 charts of the classical music category. Follow-ons to the Mozart album include the Baroque Effect and Bach Effect albums. The latest music therapy album is Alpha Music Clinic, produced under the Pony Canyon Music label, a collection of music designed to generate Alpha brain waves that are emitted when the body and mind are at their most comfortable condition.

Don Campbell, one of main architects of the Mozart Effect and the author of a book of the same name said, ``Mozart is clean and simple, not overly passionate like Beethoven or emotional like Debussy, not abstract like modern music, not complicated as Bach and simply void of complaints.'' The fact that Mozart, a child prodigy, did not compose in the strictly academic sense, but simply wrote down what he heard in his mind seems to appeal to the public. Campbell, who came to Korea last February, went on to say that some reports have stated that 20 percent to 60 percent less anesthesia is needed during operations that have Mozart playing in the background.

Following heightened recognition through publications and albums, a string of concerts devoted to reinterpreting classical music as functional music are in the pipeline.

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra set the pace last April, staging a Mozart effect concert featuring participants such as Seoul National University student Oh Sung-un, who earned the top score at the nationwide college entrance examination last year, and Cho Soo-churl, the medical professor at the same university who translated Don Campbell's book into Korean. …

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