People Behind the Music

The Magic of the Mozart Effect

By Juan Saenz

Let’s explore the benefits of listening to classical music, especially through the lens of the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, when trying to relax or fall asleep.

For many years now, Calm Radio’s classical music has been used for other purposes on top of its original aesthetic and creative aspirations. The pure search for truth and beauty in this noble artform has also become a vehicle for utilitarian purposes. In a few words, Calm’s classical music channels have been proven to aid in the process of relaxation both in adults and children and thus a whole new movement of content particularly suited for these purposes was created. One of CalmRadio.com’s favorite composers who has been particularly featured and studied in this area has been the immortal towering figure of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was a German-Austrian composer from the 18th century’s classical period. He is to this day revered as one of the most influential figures of all time, especially in the context of western culture. His achievements as a musician, performer and his most iconic role as composer span a meteoric rise to fame as a child prodigy, a transcendental quality in his instrumental music and finally, an untimely death at the young age of thirty-five.

Mozart is universally considered one of the most gifted creative minds of the western world and an exceptional musician. He was master of many genres including classical symphony music, chamber music, opera and religious music. Some of his works have become musical cathedrals and monuments to both western culture and human civilization as a whole.

Perhaps the greatest demonstration of his eternal place in the Olympus of human civilization is the fact that his works have been performed non-stop for over two hundred years, being among the few composers of the classical music tradition who have been able to break into mainstream culture. For example, some of his most famous pieces like Eine kleine Nachtmusik K.525, the final movement of the piano sonata in A major K.331, the Lacrymosa movement from his Requiem in D minor K. 621, and the slow movement of the piano concerto in C K.467 have been extensively featured in films, television and have essentially become symbols of classical order and beauty.

Classical Music and the Mind

At Calm Radio, we have always believed that classical music can have a tremendous impact on the human mind. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated not only the advantages in cognitive development that musicians get due to their training, but usually stronger long-term memory and motor skills. This string of research has led to classical music becoming widely used in different kinds of trauma and psychological therapy, relaxation, concentration activities and even meditation due to its soothing and comforting abilities.

Nevertheless, not all pieces of music are equally suitable for such endeavors. In general terms, we tend to take the pacing and tempo of the music we are listening to and make it our own. Meaning, we conduct our activities in that particular speed. That’s the reason why upbeat pop, rock and metal are amongst the favorite genres of gym goers and weightlifters. By following the same logic, we can deduce that slow paced classical music can have the same effect on listeners, leading to relaxation and peace of mind. That’s the case for lullabies like Brahms’s famous Wiegenlied (Lullaby in German) which is perhaps the most famous piece of classical music for sleep.

The Natural Harmonic Series

In a very simple way, actively listening to music produces similar effects to meditation. The mind unwinds and achieves higher levels of relaxation when listening to soothing classical music or any relaxing music for that matter. For example, one of earth’s deepest mysteries lies in the magic of the Harmonic Series; a series of natural frequencies and overtones when played from a musical instrument. If you play a flute, you get a fundamental note. If you blow harder, you get an octave higher… and even harder, you get an octave and a fifth.

Can we deduce that’s why music pleases us, makes us feel? Due to the Harmonic Series being such a natural phenomenon, it has become commonplace for adults to use soft classical music to relax and unwind after work or during difficult times. Yet, children and adolescents can greatly benefit from it as well. Especially when dealing with the stress of education like examinations and tests. Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that being exposed to music can reduce sympathetic nervous system activity; decrease anxiety, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate; and can have positive effects on sleep in regard to muscle relaxation and distraction from vexing thoughts.

The Mozart Effect

The term was originally coined by doctor and psychologist Alfred A. Tomatis who used Mozart's music as the listening stimulus in his work attempting to cure a variety of disorders and ailments, both physical and of the mind. The term eventually became popularized in Don Campbell's influential book, “The Mozart Effect”, which is based on the test results of a piece of research published in Nature. This research suggested that listening to Mozart temporarily boosted score results on one portion of the IQ test that was conducted on children.

The Happiness Factor

Lastly, another important advantage of listening to classical music is the emotional intelligence it can help develop in many ways. Essentially, since this music has high aesthetic aspirations and a transcendental quality to its content, it stands on a very high ground, emotionally speaking, and at least when compared with simpler forms of expression its emotional scope is broader and deeper. Furthermore, by featuring mostly instrumental music with the exception of a few genres like opera, oratorio, lieder and church music, which are text-based, classical music can help stimulate creativity and inventiveness.

Amongst Mozart’s works, his slow movements are probably the most recommended pieces in every classical music for relaxation playlist. Calm Radio recommends the following Mozart selections for soothing music mood:

  • Piano Sonata K.332, 2nd movement “Adagio”
  • Fantasia in D minor K.397
  • Piano Sonata K.530, 2nd movement “Andante”
  • Concerto for flute and harp in C major K.299, 2nd movement “Andantino”
  • String quartet N.15 in D minor K.421, 2nd movement “Andante”
  • Piano Concerto K.467, 2nd movement “Andante”
  • Bassoon concerto in B flat major K.191, 2nd movement “Andante ma Adagio”
  • Clarinet concerto in A major K.622, 2nd movement “Adagio”
  • Gran partita K.361, 3rd movement “Adagio”
  • Die Zauberflöte, “O Isis und Osiris”

In this selection we intended to feature several different genres and styles among the German master’s oeuvre of calming music. Yet, two movements particularly stand out as perfectly suitable for our present purposes, namely, the slow movement of the harp and flute concerto and the Adagio of the Gran Partita. Both of these relaxing music movements feature soothing tone colors, like the harp’s particularly angelical timbre — which has been extensively used in popular culture as a symbol of the divine and the conjuring of sleep — and long lyrical melodies as the oboe’s main theme of the Gran Partita.

In synthesis, we can establish that although the Mozart effect might not have an impact as big as it has been led to believe, it is still undoubtedly true that listening to classical music while performing demanding tasks like studying and work can increase performance. Furthermore, its soothing qualities aid in relaxation and unwinding from stress on top of decreasing the heart rate which can help to fall asleep and rest peacefully.

Calm Radio offers many online classical music channel selections that feature Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s beautiful classical piano music, classical symphonies, chamber music, and sonatas. For example, the Mozart channel on calmradio.com features a comprehensive curated playlist of all the complete works of Mozart music ever composed. For sleep music, or for focus concentration and study music, or if you are looking for classical music for sleep or simply more relaxing classical music, try CalmRadio.com’s Light Mozart channel with a handpicked relaxing music playlist of Mozart classical and baroque music.

Happy listening!

Listen 24/7 to unlimited channels on unlimited devices

Enjoy your audio journey anywhere, even without internet. Calm Radio offers unique audio experiences – curated music, Sounds of Nature, relaxing ambience – so you can work, can focus, can relax, can sleep.

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Alexa
  • Sonos
  • Apple TV 4
  • Roku