The Mozart Effect for Children is Don Campbell’s sequel to - and extensive application
Of - musical and extra-musical benefits suggested in the original The Mozart Effect, 1997.
The author focuses on sensory-motor stimulation and neuronal connections in the growing
brain and body associated with the ages and sequential stages of child development.
Campbell, enraptured by Mozart and his music and buttressed by the initial research on
therapeutic sound by Dr. Alfred Tomatis in France, pulled together neuroscience research,
case studies, and testimonials to propose fetal-intrauterine communication with soon to-
to-be mothers. Methods of sound communication included possible changes in heartbeat rhythms, breathing patterns, tone of voice, physical vibrations, verbal chants, humming,
light tapping, varied muscle movements, personalized stories with music (preferably by
Mozart), singing, and family music-making renditions. This available usable human
repertoire of sound methodology and love of Mozart leads the author to develop a rather ambitious, if not audacious, goal.
In the prelude, Campbell is asked, “Can music make your child more intelligent?” He
responds, “True, many influences contribute to the molding of a life, and music is only
one of them. But, unlike our genetic inheritance, which is fixed, our musical inheritance
is expandable. We can turn up the volume and make it as positive a force as we wish…
my goal is to simply give as many children as possible the incomparable gift of music—
and, in doing so, to help them reach their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual potential.”
Campbell will go on to describe in what ways varied, soothing tones, repetitive movements, “catchy” rhythmical lyrics, lullabies (e.g., Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star), patting the stomach
and related loving activities can work for soon-to-be parents and mothers/fathers willing to
share and pursue this noble goal with newborn family members. Consequently, Campbell’s Mozart Effect turns out to be not one objective, measurable, or wished-for effect. In fact, as
the stated goal suggests, the Mozart Effect, is produced if at all by overlapping, multi-dimensional, expressive, physical and empathetic activities that may be communicated to stimulate brain growth, perception, cognitive organization and understanding, visual-spatial benefits, the reduction of stress, motor enhancements, improve language, facilitate emotional, social, cultural, and academic skills, improve reading, procedural memory, creativity, aesthetic sensitivity, a stronger sense of identity, and the joys of community (pg. 8-9). The author asserts such effects (or the Mozart Effect?) are real and measurable. Research scientists might ask if they are robust, testable and disprovable.
In Chapter 2 the author covers pre-birth through birth. He summarizes some of the science underlying his general assumptions: “The ear is the first sense organ to develop in the womb… (to) “The human fetus is therefore capable of learning before birth at a level that can affect
her postbirth behavior.” Campbell provides the mother-to-be practical suggestions for listening,
playing, and singing music to stabilize her own internal emotional/hormonal status as well as help keep the unborn recipient relaxed, attentive, less stressed, and responsive to musical messages.
In Chapter 3, the focus is on the baby’s birth and coping with a new sensory world while
bonding and learning to communicate with mother. Internally, the baby is generating vast numbers of neurons, synaptic connections, and potentially organized pathways for learning through out the growing body in tune with the mother’s focused attention, feeding/nurturing
care, emotional and vocal support. Campbell views parent talk from the very beginning as
an important opportunity to make vocal expressions, varied rhythmical movements, and
baby play for fun with music (e.g., parentese).
Each succeeding chapter focuses on a developmental stage (6-18 months, 18 months to 3
years, 3 to 4 years, 4 to 6 years, 6 to 8 years, and 8 to 10 years). Each chapter offers themes
of rhythm, repetition, improvisation, playing, mimicking and spontaneous movement of
hands, arms, face, and voice to engage and create with music. The book provides examples
of activities, musical selections, and adaptive materials mothers, parents and family members
can use to engage in elements of musical activity with their growing child. Parents are
always encouraged to listen, play (with or without musical recordings and instruments)
and share musically-oriented activities that may stimulate, explore, and generate qualitative values. The author believes these loved and valued intangibles will mature and help youngsters
integrate total mind/body experiences and sustain meaningful, healthy, life purposes.
The Mozart Effect, whether based on sound, convincing research or not, is not limited to
an elite, economically privileged few in society but rather appeals to and strikes a chord
in most of us who recall our earliest exposures to music or who may feel we missed out
on some of the benefits described in the book. We may have only a limited appreciation
of Mozart and little to no musical training, yet Campbell’s positive, sweeping approach
carries no risks or negative side effects to adult or child. The work and musical selections
may be used with the youngest of children and school kids of all ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds, interests, and levels of educational achievement. Highlighted applications,
chapter notes, and a variety of resource materials, in addition to many of Mozart’s works,
are included for interested readers to investigate, individualize, and enjoy.
The book has much more to offer than what meets only a classical ear. I highly recommend
it to soon-to-be mothers, parents, school teachers, counselors, child-care providers, and any
one seeking to appreciate the inherent influence, power, beauty, and creative artistry of music
in our lives.