February 2005

February 23, 2005 19:55

I have played the violin for nine years, and have been part of a musical family all my life. I've made many friends, both musical and non-musical. We have a lot of things in common, but music is not one of them.

While I listen to classical music almost everyday; Mozart, Sarasate, Vieuxtemps, Beethoven, kids my age listen to rap, rock, and popular music. Until I was started school I didn't have a lot of exposure to music that wasn't classical or jazz, opera or musical theater.

I asked my dad why our family didn't listen to popular music. He told me that when he and my mom were younger they used to listen to other styles of music, like the Talking Heads and reggae, but when our family grew to 6 people, we were too busy to listen to any music, really, except the sound of four girls sawing away at Suzuki. And when things calmed down a bit, pop music wasn't so much to their taste. I also asked him what problems he had with today's rap, rock, and pop. He said that, being a doctor, what bothered him most was the amount of noise being played into your ears during a song. Pop music is often amplified, and if there's percussion, and screaming vocalists, it can't be the best thing for your ears. He said to expect to see a big increase in people who wore hearing aids.

One thing in particular that annoys me about some music that I've heard is the incredibly stupid lyrics. This only applies to a small section of pop music; I've heard many songs whose lyrics have moved me, but a certain part of pop music has always had me saying, "Did she just use the word 'dead' twice in two lines? Did I hear that right?" This probably comes from the fact that my mom is a writer.

If I said this to any kid my age, they'd probably say, "So what? You like classical, I like rap. We have our differences, and listening to what I like to listen to is not hurting me." Which sounds like a perfectly solid, sensible argument. But it's not entirely true.

Studies have been done linking the music teens listen to with their arrest records. Kids that listen to heavy metal music are more apt to end up in residential treatment facilities or group homes than others, and kids with classical music education have the least trouble with the law. Some people think that the reason for this is the lyrics in music like heavy metal, which are filled with hate and death which encourages the listeners to act violently. It's not a surprise that soldiers in Iraq listen to heavy metal before launching their offensive attacks.

This kind of music doesn't only have effect on teenagers. When doctors played heavy metal next to the stomachs of pregnant woman, the fetal heart rate went up and the baby started kicking violently. But when the music was replaced by classical, the heart rate steadied and the kicking lessened.

In my research for this essay, I've come across many articles on the Mozart Effect. I'm not exactly sure when the Mozart Effect was first reported; either in France during the 1950s, or in 1993 by scientists at the University of California at Irvine. Basically, the Mozart Effect theorizes that listening to the music of Mozart increases spatial scores of high school and college students on IQ tests.

In 1993, a test was done at the University of CA, where the Mozart Effect was discovered (or re-discovered). After listening to 10 minutes of Mozart's Sonata for 2 pianos in D major K.448, 36 undergraduates scored a full 8 or 9 points higher on a spatial IQ test. The boost was temporary, lasting between 10 and 15 minutes, but the scientists learned that something in classical music, at least classical music by Mozart, increased IQ scores, if only temporarily.

Of course, the media translated it as "Mozart makes you smarter". Unsurprisingly, the next day, Mozart CD's flew off of record store's shelves across the nation.

Since then, many more tests have been conducted. A study in England found students scored 10 points higher on an IQ test after listening to Mozart compared to those exposed to silence, white noise, or other music.

Another study reported showed the visual spatial skill of preschoolers who took six months of piano lessons improved up to 36%, compared to other preschoolers who received lessons in computers.

The College Entrance Examination Board in 1996 found that prospective students who had classical music education, were part of a band or orchestra during their life, or played an instrument scored 51 points higher on the verbal part of the SAT and 39 points higher on the math section than the national average.

Mozart has also been found helpful to children with Attention Deficit Disorder. A controlled test was done on a group of children with ADD, ages 7 to 17. Brain wave biofeedback sessions were held three times a week. The kids were split into groups to listen to different types of music The group that listened to Mozart had reduced theta brain wave activity (slow brain waves often excessive in ADD) in exact rhythm to the underlying beat of the music, and displayed better focus and mood control, diminished impulsivity and improved social skill. Among the subjects that improved, 70 % maintained that improvement six months after the end of the study without further training.

And another study: before an IQ test, three groups of people listened to Mozart, silence, and mixed sounds which included music by the modern composer Philip Glass, an audiotaped story, and ballet music. All three groups improved their scores spatial from the first day to the second, but the Mozart group improved their pattern recognition scores 62% compared to 14% for the silence group and 11% for the mixed group.

Studies that involved the patients to listen to different types of music before tests had the results in this order: The highest scores were the people who listened to Mozart, second highest listened to nothing, the lowest listened to heavy metal and rap.

I was wondering, why does listening to music make any difference before IQ tests? Why do our bodies and minds react to music at all? Some people say it's because our bodies themselves are rhythmic. Our pulses, heartbeats, breathing; it's all one big rhythm. And the rhythm of our heartbeat changes to the music we're listening to. Some doctors are concerned that the unnatural rhythm of rap music could be harmful to your body.

Einstein played the violin, because he said it helped his subconscious mind solve problems. But classical music has also been used for health reasons, such as that people with insomnia say Bach helps them go to sleep.

I've always been bothered by how unpopular classical music is. I've tried to imagine what it is about it that makes most kids uninterested. Maybe they think it's boring, or too formal. I agree, it probably would seem boring if you just listened to it once or twice and immediately dismissed it. But I think that if people just gave it a chance, and tried to learn a little bit about it, they would see that it's not just about "songs" that go on forever, or grumpy old men in tuxedos. They might discover the chocolaty melodies filled with strength and grace that make you want to sing, cry, and dance, or the exhilarating, fierce passages that make you want to scream your lungs out, laugh, or punch a hole in the wall. But because all this is being hidden by two hour concerts, uncomfortable dress clothes, and snooty, old rich people, I'm afraid they will never experience it.

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February 23, 2005 19:54

Have I mentioned lately how spectacular David Kim is lately? The concert was great. We were right up in the first row in the center, and now we know exactly what kind of socks everyone in the first violin section wears and who has a white cat.
He played the Tchaikovsky amazingly, I was spellbound the whole time! And it brought tears to my eyes more than once. When you're sitting so close, you can hear his fingers slamming down on the fingerboard. He has awesome articulation. He invited us to come backstage afterwards during intermission. We were about to explain to the guard manning the door who we were when Sarah Chang and her mom walked right up and went through the stage door! When we saw David Kim, he said, "Could you have sat any closer?" What a great evening, I'm so glad we went.

This weird pain in my arm has gotten a bit better; we think it was a pinched nerve that is just a little temporary thing. I'm still getting the little jabs, but they're definitely not as intense (meaning I don't have to stop playing, don't shriek in pain, and don't get weird tingley feelings in my face. Yay!).

Anyway, my main reason for doing this entry was to post this essay I wrote for my English class. It was supposed to be a persuasive essay on any topic, so I decided to do something on music. I decided to post it in here. Tell me what you think!

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February 21, 2005 19:37

I'm pretty bummed out right now because I haven't been able to put a good practice in for a few days. I'm having this really weird problem with my left arm/shoulder. Sometimes when I lift the violin to my chin, put the violin down, or hit high notes, I get this strange jabbing/pulling feeling in my upper arm. It is in a very particular place on my arm, and is very brief but painful, and after I get it my face feels all tingly and I get an unvoluntary sort of shudder or spasm. It is painful enough that it keeps me from practicing, but it doesn't linger; the jab & tingly feeling disppear in seconds. But then I'll get it again a few mins later.
Recently I switched to a larger size violin, and my teacher and I are wondering if it has something to do with that. But it hasn't bothered me since now, and I've been playing that violin for over 2 months.
I'm pretty heavily involved in a Brazillian martial art/dance sport called capoeira, which I've been doing since last September. But I took a break from it (to get ready for that awful competition) and came back after a month. I don't think I went overboard or pushed myself or anything, but that may have been the reason. My quartet coach suggested I try lifting up my chest a bit more and straightening my back, but I've always had pretty good sitting posture, so I didn't expect it to make a difference, and it didn't.
Maybe some of you have experienced this before and have some advice?
In other news, I'm going to hear David Kim play Tchaikovsky with the Philadelphia Orchestra tomorrow night. Yipee! Also, I heard that Jennifer Higdon is writing a concerto for Hilary Hahn to play with the Baltimore Symphony next year. She is doing the same thing for Time for Three to play with the Philly orchestra. (Ooh, I'm getting good at these "a href=" things!)
--alice

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February 17, 2005 19:54

Thanks everyone for writing such nice and supportive comments in my last blog entry. I'm feeling a lot more optimistic now. On Sunday my mom took me to hear Joshua Bell's recital. At first we had pretty crummy seats (in front of two little kids who were kicking our chairs) but after two people didn't show up we moved to better seats, the same ones, we later realized, that were occupied by the judges in the competition. :-/ (They were the best seats we've ever had in that hall.) Joshua Bell is amazing, of course. I love the way he changes bow. They sound so smooth, like melted chocolate. The concert was advertised as a crossover event, but it was really a heavy duty recital program with Brahams, Saint-Saens, and Janacek (which I fell head over heels in love with when he played it. It was the first time I'd ever heard it) but the audience, who were expecting a less serious, Valentine's Day-y performance, clapped in between movements which was basically ruining the sonatas, so eventually Joshua held up his bow to hush them.

I've started practicing a lot more technique, to kind of get my mind off of last week. My teacher and I have a new plan, which is basically less focus on competitions and performing, and more on just studying the violin. I finally started Rode caprices, a bit late. I'm borrowing my teacher's copy while I'm ordering my own, and it has a note with--get this--Dorothy Delay's handwriting in it, from when he was studying with her! I can't believe I touched the same piece of paper as her. Heheheh. I also am borrowing a piece of music belonging to a dead student of Carl Flesch and Sevcik, which they touched as well. (This is starting to sound pretty creepy. I'll stop here.) So I've picked up some more unacompanied Bach to work on, and I've started reworking Zigeunerweisen, which is a lot easier when you come back to it after a few months. The glissando, which I really struggled on, is pretty easy to do now!
Today I played my violin in the bath. Seriously, though. I was recording Bach for an application for Encore, and the bathroom is the most resonant room in my house. And the bathtub is rather large, so I stood in it for more arm space.
I've been listening to CDs of Annie to learn Miss Hannigan's solos a bit more. I don't like a few of the songs in that musical, but some of them are jewels. Like Little Girl and Easy Street, the two songs I sing. I need a voice lesson though, maybe I can get one with my sister's charming voice teacher.

Little cheeks, little teeth, everything around me is...little!
If I wring little necks, surely I will get an accquital!....
Some women are dripping with diamonds!
Some women are dripping with pearls!
Lucky me, lucky me, look at what I'm dripping with
LITTLE GIRLS!

--Alice

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February 13, 2005 16:59

These past three days have been some of the worst of my life. But it's a long story, just warning you.
So, this is what happened. As I wrote in my last entry, I got into the finals of a BIG competition. Only the Children's division, but it's still a big deal. Anyway, my whole family was really excited, and I was so happy, and all of my friends were congratulating me. It was really great. The other two kids in the finals were pianists; we knew their names and instruments but no ages. (Nothing came up when we googled them either, so it was pretty much a mystery.) So for two weeks before the competition, I worked really hard, and so did my mom and teacher, especially. He gave me extra lessons every day of the week, not to mention letting me borrow his old Italian violin for about two months. Anyway, we were really all psyched up for this, and it was so exciting. We worked out a 10 minute warmup to do (they give you ten minutes in a practice room before you go out) and I took two weeks off from school to prepare, stretching the patience of my school teachers and friends. So, finally it's the day of the competition. I was reading the comics while eating breakfast and happened to come over the horoscopes, which I hardly ever read and didn't believe in. Anyway, I read them just for fun. And this is what my horoscope said:
You cannot win for losing.
That kind of freaked me out, but I didn't exactly know what it meant. I told my mom, and she said to read her horoscope. It said:
Your trust in somebody will go up in smoke. .
Then we read my violin teachers and it said: Act as if it doesn't really matter.
At this point we were laughing (a bit nervously) and said that this was the day we'd prove that newspaper horoscopes were wrong.

I spent the morning practicing, and a few hours later my teacher and accompanist came to the main branch of my music school so we could warm up close to where the competition was. I was feeling really prepared, and the warmup had gone well. So we headed over to the hall, and signed in. There I saw the two other kids in my division, a girl my age and a boy who looked about 9. I changed into my dress, and warmed my vibrato up silently, and we trooped into the warmup room. My accompanist and teacher were great backstage; they were cool as cucumbers and very reassuring. I'm glad we didn't arrive there too early; I've found that the longer I stay at the place where I perform before I perform, the more nervous I get.

Eventually somebody told us it was time and walked us backstage. I was feeling, oddly, not too nervous. I bounced up and down a bit and paced. I could hear the girl before me doing her audition. She sounded great, but not being a pianist, I didn't get a very good sense. She finished, and came off the stage. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I congratulated her on her performance. I walked out onto the stage.

Now, in the preliminaries of this competition, it's a closed audition, and it's blind. (Which is not the best, becuase although it does make it more honest it's hard to play for a screen instead of an audience. you can see.) But in the finals it's an open audition, kind of like a concert, and it's not blind to the judges. About a hundred people were there, including a lot of my family. So I tuned, smiled and began. Playing in that hall was amazing. It is HUGE, and pretty, and the stage is big. My performance of the Vieuxtemps was great. I didn't feel very nervous, but I could feel my legs shaking. I was told I got very big applause, but I couldn't really tell, as I was feeling exhausted. I smiled brightly, bowed and walked off.

After I got offstage, I started to cry. I tried not to but it was really hard. I told my teacher, who was waiting backstage for me, and my accompanist, that I thought it was terrible and I was really upset. They tried to calm me down, and they said it was the most musical they ever heard. It only took a few minutes for me to stop, and my accompanist told me it was just the feeling of let-down, and I totally agreed. It happened to me last year after this competition, and after an orchestra solo. So I felt better, and decided I thought the performance was really good. I put away my violin, and by that time the third kid was done, so I went out into the lobby and all of my fans (i.e., family and friends) told me how great they thought it was, and a lot of people told me that hands down, I was the best. I hadn't heard a lot of the two pianists so I didn't know, but I was feeling pretty good.

So my teacher and I watched the rest of the divisions, including the vocal, and four hours later went to the reception in the same building, where they would announce the winners. I hung out for a while with my friends, ate some food, and then the MC came out, and made the expected speech: "the judges were very impressed with everyone, it was a great experience, we have no concern about the future of classical music, blah blah, everyone here is a winner, but of course the prize could only go to a few." I had prepared myself for winning, and for losing to the pianists, even the 9 year old one. I braced myself, and then they dropped the bombshell.
"The jury has decided not to award a prize in the Children's Division. Moving on..."

I got this really weird tingling feeling in the pit of my stomach. My mom, who was sitting in front of me, turned around slowly with her face totally aghast. Later, she told me she saw the other girl's eyes fill with tears and her mother whisked her out of the room. I felt very empty and I'm sure my shoulders just drooped. Meanwhile, the announcer kept talking cheerfully. He handed out two awards in the Junior division, instead of one. And two in the Senior division, instead of one. And one in the Vocal Division. After the winners were announced, the room emptied very quickly but other contestants were weeping in the hallways. A few people stood around and awkwardly congratulated me on getting to the finals. My mom was still completely horrified, and my eyes felt watery. My family went out to dinner with my violin teacher afterwards. We talked about it, and we came to what seemed like a good excuse for not giving a prize in my division; nowadays, they put all the winners on one concert, whereas in the past each winner got their own concert. 5 winners performing one one concert, some of them a whole concerto, was already pushing it. So who did they boot off the concert? The youngest, weakest, least experienced players. Which made sense. But I had this feeling of incompletion. I felt like, well, who won? Who won this competition that all three of us worked SO hard for? Also, this feeling of public humiliation. They basically said, in front of everyone in the room, and to everyone in the city who would find out the next day, "Sorry, none of you are good enough."

It didn't really hit me until the next day, where I slept till 11. It was a gloomy day, but I had to go to orchestra. What was terrible though, was when my teacher called up at 10 o'clock that night and basically told me that if I had played the beginning more in tune, they couldn't have not picked me. I burst into tears and gave the phone to my mom. She talked with him for a long time, and I went to my room and cried into my pillow. After a while, she emerged from her office looking considerably brighter. She told me that my teacher said this was a wake-up call. I should stop doing so many competitions and go into "hibernation" to get a huge, monsterous technique. That didn't especially make me feel any better, but that's the plan. My mom and teacher decided to cancel my spring competitions. And I'm really mad about that. But I have to do it.
I'm very depressed right now. My only consolation is that I got the part of Miss Hannigan in my school musical, which is something I really wanted. And tomorrow, I'm going to Harrisburg with my class to protest the cutbacks to public transportation. Yay. .
--Alice

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