Some years ago, a little girl named Krissy was born premature in a Chicago hospital weighing a mere 1½ pounds (750g). Her condition was so life threatening doctors immediately put her onto life support. As her life hanged in the balance hospital staff acceded to her mother’s impassioned request to have the music of Mozart piped into the neonatal unit. From the beginning the doctors didn’t think that Krissy would survive, but she did, and her mother firmly believes that it was the music of Mozart that saved her daughter’s life.

In recent years many stories similar to this have emerged highlighting the remarkable healing power imbued in fine classical music, in particular the enchanting compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). As in the case of Krissy, it’s true to say that music shaped Mozart’s life – even before he was born. His father was a music director and accomplished violinist while his mother constantly sang and serenaded the in uterine Wolfgang throughout her pregnancy. Born the youngest and only surviving son, Mozart displayed his rare musical talent at an early age. He was playing music by age four and by age six he was an accomplished performer on the violin, clavichord (the predecessor to the piano) and organ. Before he died he had composed over 600 major works including: symphonies, sonatas, chamber music, church music and operas.

Whether Mozart ever imagined that any of his compositions would be one day utilised by music therapists the world over for a whole array of physical and mental conditions, as well as for general well-being, we shall perhaps never know, but it does seem that his music soothed and healed him during his own difficult short life. Although revered the world over today, he experienced a sad life characterised by debt and discouragement – the antithesis of his inspirational and energizing music.

Mozart’s music has been used successfully to improve creativity and learning, reduce stress, enhance communication skills and facilitate healing for a variety of conditions. And the benefits have been shown to go even beyond these important areas. For example, Mozart’s music has also been directly linked to reduced criminal activity. In Edmonton, Canada, when Mozart’s string quartets were regularly played in city squares, pedestrians were not only calmed but the number of drug deals in the area fell. The US Department of Immigration and Naturalization has found that playing Mozart’s music to new arrivals during English lessons speeds up the learning process. Also, in some French monasteries where cows are serenaded with Mozart’s classics there has been a marked increase in milk production.

Innovative research into the effects of Mozart’s music has been carried out at the University of California’s Centre for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Investigators found that thirty-six undergraduates from the psychology department scored eight to nine points higher on the spatial IQ test after listening to ten minutes of Mozart’s Sonata For Two Pianos in D Major. The research team therefore concluded that there was a strong relationship between listening to music and spatial reasoning. Follow-up studies have substantiated the original findings. The logical conclusions reached were that listening to Mozart’s compositions helps “organise” brain functioning, especially creative right-brain process associated with spatial-temporal reasoning. This means that one’s ability to focus and concentrate on a particular task is improved.

Music as a form of therapy has been used since at least the time of Pythagoras, who believed the entire universe was pervaded by an ineffable harmony – commonly known as “the music of the spheres”. It’s said that at the start of each day he played music to shake off any sleepiness in his students, and at night he relaxed them with his music before they retired to bed. A more esoteric interpretation of the “music of the spheres” alludes to the notion of the Audible Life Stream, which is believed to be the vibratory fabric of all reality and our true spiritual essence – explaining perhaps why Mozart’s sublime music can have medicinal effects. Many around the world believe that Audible Life Stream, which is characterised by its ineffable music tones, is the gateway to higher dimensions and can heal at the physical, emotional and spiritual levels trumpet

Alistair Conwell was born in India and grew up in Australia. He has two psychology degrees and has travelled widely. His articles about spirituality have been published internationally. He has been practicing meditation for over 20 years.