One of the first real studies to fall under this term was performed at the University of Irvine. The intent of the research done by neurobiologist Gordon Shaw and his pupil Xiaodan Leng was to show an increase between spatial learning and music. They devised an experiment which would allow them to test their theory on a number of subjects.
The experiment involved three different groups. One group was asked to listen to Mozart; another was required to listen to a repetitive relaxing piece of music, and the third was given nothing at all. The result was that the group which listened to the music of Mozart did, in fact, exhibit a temporary increase in spatial learning.
Since this time, numerous teams of scientists all over the globe have attempted to recreate this experiment. They have not only recreated the experiment; they have expanded and altered it in various ways. Some of the teams had favourable results while others denounced the findings. Perhaps the variances are not due to the experiments, but rather to the interpretation of the findings.
When the research first became public in the early nineties it was misinterpreted in a number of ways.
The first way that has been proven to be false is the fact that listening to classical music makes you smarter. Simply listening to a piece of music cannot increase your IQ. There is not a piece of music in the world that can do that. However, there is a relationship between learning, memory and music. This has been proven.
Listening to a classical piece can have a profound and measureable effect on the human mind and brain. When listening to certain types of music, the heart rate and breathing of a person slows down. This reaction in the body reduces stress and can lower blood pressure. All of these factors can and do affect a person’s ability to concentrate and learn. When a person is in a relaxed sate they are able to focus better. They can concentrate and will have better recall of the material which they are trying to learn.
Secondly, although Mozart was the composer of the music which was used to do the study, it is not the work of this composer that should be focused upon, but rather the style of the music which is important. The music written by other composers during the classical era have the same effects as those created by Mozart. Furthermore, it is not solely classical music, which can produce these beneficial results. Similar results have been achieved by listening to gospel, jazz and country. It should be noted that although rock and roll is wonderful, it often has the opposite effect on an individual.
What is known about the effects of learning and classical music?
There is another field of study, which is trying to determine the effect of learning while listening to classical music. This is different from the Mozart Effect in that in the Mozart research the music was listened to prior to the spatial learning. New research is attempting to determine if person is able to remember more if they try to learn while a particular kind of music is being played. Furthermore, they are experimenting with a person’s ability to recall information when the same piece of music is played again.
The Mozart effect may not make you smarter. Your IQ will not jump just because you listen to a certain kind of music. However, you can use classical music as a way of increasing your ability to focus and concentrate.
Classical music teaches far more than just the music itself. Children who are able to study and learn classical music from an early age not only develop an appreciation for all different kinds of music. They learn valuable life skills that they can use throughout their life. There are even studies that show a correlation between the study of music and the growth of the brain and neural pathways.
Children who are asked to learn a particular piece of music are expected to do a number of things. The first is to learn the language of music. Music has its own language. It has its own unique set of symbols and syntax. The early study of any language opens new areas of the brain and should the child go on to study any kind of new language in the future, they will have a solid foundation.
Mistakes are a part of music. There is nobody on the planet that will play a piece of music perfectly the first time. Even a child prodigy will have things to learn. The only way to get the music correct is through practice. Practice is all about making mistakes and learning from them. This repetition teaches children that it is alright to make mistakes and that in order to achieve a goal you must work and be committed.
Playing in any kind of band or orchestra teaches children all about team work. They have to learn how to play as a whole. They learn that there are many people needed to produce the final product and that all the individuals have to work as a team to achieve the desired results.
There is not skill in the world that does not require memory. Music is all about using and developing your memory. In order to play a piece well, a child will have to focus and concentrate on the subject that they are trying to memorize. Music also teaches children to use various senses when they are learning. Playing an instrument requires that a child use sight, hearing and touch in the process of learning. This sets up a whole new way for the brain to do its processing. It actually learns to use all of these senses to help it remember the information.
Attention to detail is another thing that children studying music have to master. As a child progresses in their studies, they are expected to pay close attention to every aspect of the music. They must realize the importance of every single note. Every small change can affect the outcome. By ignoring the details, or omitting parts, they will discover that they cannot get the desired result.
Music builds confidence. Bullying and low self-esteem have been hot topics in the media for a number of years. Countless children lack faith in themselves. Learning an instrument and mastering each new piece of music will build a child’s sense of self-worth. Additionally, children who are given formal music lessons are often required to play in front of other people. It is fear of failure that holds many people back from wanting to speak in front of others. The only way to tackle this is to have the opportunity to practice and gain confidence.
The value of these advantages cannot be measured, but research has been attempting to measure children and music in other ways. One research study has shown that children who received early music lessons did much better on their SAT scores. There is also the Mozart study which was done in the nineties which proved that there was a correlation between learning music and a drastic improvement in spatial-temporal tests.
These are all great reasons to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn about classical music from an early age. However, perhaps the most valuable lesson that a child can be taught from music is the ability to simply relax and appreciate the music itself.
By the time, you arrive at the concert hall hundreds and hundreds of hours have gone into ensuring that what you are about to see will be perfect. What many people do not realize is the roles that people play in getting the show ready. One of the most important individuals involved in the process is the concertmaster. The concertmaster in a normal orchestra is the first chair violinist. In North America, concertmaster is the term that is used, but in most European orchestras, they simply call this person the leader.
One of the most important roles that this person plays is that of liaison. It is their job to act as a go between. He is the direct link between the conductor and the orchestra. Depending upon the size of the orchestra there could be over two hundred musicians. Conductors have countless duties to perform and to ensure that he is not being disturbed or distracted by two hundred separate people, the orchestra has a chain of command. Musicians with questions or concerns report to the concertmaster. The concertmaster then speaks to the conductor. The process also works in reverse. The concertmaster is responsible for conveying many of the conductor’s ideas and thoughts to the musicians.
The concertmaster is responsible for bowing. The next time you go to a concert take note that all the bows move up and down at exactly the same time. This is not a coincidence. Once the musical score has been chosen the concertmaster has to go through the score and indicate exactly how he wants the bows to sound. He will plan the up and down strokes. To a person who does not have musical training this may sound simple and not important, but it is vital to ensuring that the group play in sync. Different tones are produced by moving the bow in different ways.
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the concertmaster to make certain that the entire orchestra is in tune. He provides the reference pitch. In some orchestras, the oboe may initiate the note, but the concertmaster ensures that it is correct. He does this not only before the performance, but also before each rehearsal. Additionally, it is the duty of the concertmaster to replace the conductor if he is ill or is unable to attend a concert.
All of this responsibility does not come without its rewards. The concertmaster gets to walk onstage alone and receive the acknowledgement of the audience. They are also given the right to perform all the violin solos. The only exception to this is when the orchestra has brought in a guest violinist. He is also paid a great deal more than any other musician. In some cases, his salary is more than double the normal rate. To obtain this coveted position a musician will often take many additional classes designed to train them to be able to perform the numerous specialized tasks that are required.
The next time that you go to see a concert, and the concertmaster arrives on stage, make certain that you stand and acknowledge their position. They have worked long and hard to achieve it and deserve to be recognized.
In the days of Chopin and Beethoven, composers gained their education through an apprenticeship. They were often taught by family members of the church. There were very few places that offered any kind of formal music instruction. Today there are a number of extremely respected institutions that offer a formal education in music.
The Julliard School
This world-class facility was founded in 1905 by Dr. Frank Damrosch. Dr. Damrosch wanted to provide a place for the talented youth to get a musical education that was on par with anything that they could get in Europe.
The Julliard School opened its doors under the name of the Institute of Musical Art. Enrolled numbers were so high that within a few years the school was forced to move from Fifth Avenue and 12 Street to its present address. The next major change came with the death of a wealthy citizen named Augustus Julliard. When he died, he left his entire fortune to begin a school for musicians. The trustees of the estate founded the Julliard Graduate School. In 1924, the two institutions merged as the Julliard School of Music.
The Julliard School has become one of the best schools in the world not only for those pursuing a career in music, but for students of both dance and drama.
The Royal Academy of Music
The Royal Academy of Music was founded in 1822 and is among the oldest music facilities in the UK. The principal founder of the school was General John Fane the 11th Earl of Westmorland. He is often simply referred to as Lord Burghersh. He was not only an avid lover of music, but a composer and a violin player. The original site of the Academy was Hanover Square. In 1911, the school moved to its present location on Marylebone Road right in the center of London.
This world-class institution now provides degrees in a number of different fields. Training at the Academy can begin at infancy and continues up to the level of Ph.D. The school hosts students from over fifty different countries and offers courses in almost every different kind of instrument, composing and conducting. It even permits students to study musical theatre, opera and jazz.
Saint Petersburg Conservatory
The Saint Petersburg Conservatory was founded in 1862 and is the oldest music school in Russia. The school did not move to its present location until the 1890s. It was built on the site of the old Bolshoi Theatre. The newly built facility kept the landing and the grand staircase from the theatre. Counted among its graduates are Tchaikovsky, Arthur Kapp and Prokofiev.
The Academy today boasts more than 1500 students from over all over the globe. They offer one of the most comprehensive lists of musical studies in the world. Musicology, performance and conducting are among the courses that are offered.
The China Conservatory of Music
People often forget that music is not restricted to the western world. The Far East has traditional instruments and disciplines of its own. This world-class facility was established in 1964 and is dedicated to promoting Eastern Music.
Acceptance to one of the world-class facilities is extremely difficult and challenging. Students often have to undergo a series of interviews and performances before they are granted admittance. Those who do graduate can claim to be among the finest musicians and performers in the world. Many of the graduates go on to join some of the best orchestras and symphonies in the world. Others decide that they would prefer to teach and inspire young talent.
It is almost impossible to judge one school against another. Each facility is unique in its own way and all of them have produced truly gifted graduates. However, these schools are considered by experts to have some of the most challenging and diverse programs on the planet.
Determining the top orchestras is a controversial topic at best. Judging an orchestra is very subjective and there is no clear rating system. It is not like watching a game of baseball where there is clearly a winner and a loser. It is more along the lines of trying to judge figure skating. What appeals to one person may not to another. People place priorities on different factors depending on their particular tastes. However, the orchestras listed below are considered to be by the experts some of the best in the world.
The Vienna Philharmonic
This orchestra which was founded in 1842 has a slightly different history than many other orchestras. The founder, Otto Nicolai, started this group as an independent orchestra and one of the major principals of the group was that all decisions were based on voting with all members in the orchestra having a vote. This principle still applies to many of the decisions made by the Philharmonic today.
The Vienna Philharmonic is based in Vienna in the Weiner Musikverein. Any person who wants to join this prestigious organization must apply after having played for either the ballet, or the opera, for three years.
Berlin Symphony Orchestra
The Berlin Symphony orchestra is also called the Berliner Symphoniker. This orchestra has undergone numerous name changes and merges throughout the years. The original group consisted of 54 members who started playing together more than 119 years ago. The symphony makes its home in the Philharmonic Hall at Kemperplatz. This talented group has received praise from composers and critics alike, for many decades.
London Symphony Orchestra
London is one of the few cities that can boast having more than one world class orchestra. It has, in fact, five: The London Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. All of these symphonies are well regarded and respected throughout the world.
The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) was founded in 1904. It was the desire of the musicians who started this orchestra that they be allowed to operate and function as an independent. This was the first orchestra of its kind in the UK. They also have a number of other claims to fame, including the fact that they were booked to play on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but were forced to cancel because of a scheduling conflict. They are also the first British orchestra to travel to a foreign country. They appeared in France in 1906.
This symphony has been selected to play a number of film scores, including: Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Braveheart, Raider’s of the Lost Ark and Superman. The orchestra has also been featured on a number of pop albums. They are included on Neil Young’s Harvest, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band and Some of the songs on both the Thriller and Bad albums by Michael Jackson. They have even made contributions to the video game world where they played some of the background music for Tomb Raider.
The New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic lays claim to the title of being the oldest orchestra in the USA. This prestigious group was founded in 1842 and makes its home at Avery Fisher Hall. They gave their 1, 400th performance in December of 2004.
Originally founded by Ureli Corelli hill an American composer and conductor, it began playing using the name the Philharmonic Society of New York. On the 7th of December, this group began its long history by plating Beethoven’s 5th for 600 people in the Apollo Rooms.
Since that time, this group has toured all around the globe including a stop in North Korea in 2008. This landmark tour was at the invitation of the government of North Korea and was intended as a ground breaker for relations between the two countries. The symphony has among its credits more than seven different Grammy Awards, including five for the Best Classical Album of the year.
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
The Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam makes its home in the Concertgebouw Hall. The Hall opened in April 0f 1888, but the orchestra did not give its debut performance until November of the same year. The first principal conductor of this orchestra was Willem Kes who stayed on for seven years.
In 1988, the Beatrix of the Netherlands bestowed the official Royal to this elite group. This truly first class orchestra was heralded by Gramophone as being the very best orchestra in the world. When asked why this orchestra topped all others, the general response was that all the orchestras were magnificent, but that the Concertgebouw has a very distinctive sound that is all their own.
No matter which of these orchestras you choose to see and hear, you will know that you are in for a world class performance.
Television and films sometimes poke fun at the conductor. He is often portrayed as an elderly man sporting a mop of grey hair, which looks like it has not seen a comb in months. The character is frequently depicted as being very small with the need for a large box on which to stand in order to be seen by the entire orchestra.
This humorous depiction of the conductor may have a lot to do with the fact that almost all the work that the conductor does is done before an audience sees him. Most people really have no concept of all the tasks that a conductor does prior to a performance. They only see him once his job is virtually complete, and he is waving his baton at the musicians.
The dictionary lists the meaning of the word conductor as a person who guides or directs a group of musicians normally in an orchestra or symphony. The term conductor comes from the Latin verb “conduce”. This literally means to guide or contribute to a product or goal.
A conductor has a number of different titles which all mean basically the same thing. The main or principal conductor of a symphony may also be referred to as the chief conductor or the music director. Certain orchestras prefer to use the old German word Kapellmeister. Conductors who are extremely well regarded may even be called maestro, which means “master”. The leader of a marching or military band is usually referred to as the drum major or bandmaster. If the person is in command of a choir, they may be properly called the chorus master, the choral director or choirmaster.
Conductors have been around for hundreds of years. The earliest type of conducting was known as cheironomy. In this form of conducting, the leader would use their hands to form melodic shapes, which would tell the players how the music should sound.
In the Middle Ages when musicians began playing together in small groups and ensembles, one of the players would often have the responsibility of acting as the conductor, as well as, being a player. This person would often be the violinist since they could use their bow to indicate the exact tempo of the piece. The harpsichord player was also a person who frequently had this honor. However, as the size of the group increased it became necessary to have one-person act solely as the conductor.
The baton, which is a frequently used tool of the conductor today, is known to have been used as far back in history as 709BC when Pherekydes (Pherecydes) used a golden staff to signal the beginning of the music and keep rhythm. By the middle ages, conductors were using either a small sick or rolled-up paper. There were even a few conductors who preferred to use a large staff.
The conductor who used a large staff would not wave it around; they would simply bang it sharply on the floor to indicate the correct tempo. Jean-Baptiste Lully, an Italian composer, learned the hard way that this was not a very smart or safe practice. While conducting in January 1687, he had the misfortune of accidentally banging the large staff on his foot. The resulting injury did not heal properly and became infected. As was common, the wound then turned into gangrene. Jean refused to permit surgeons to remove his toe and the disease spread, eventually leading to his death on the 22 of March 1687.
The role of the conductor has grown and changed as has the orchestra. One of the primary jobs of the conductor is to ensure that the entire group is playing in sync. He is the one making certain that the musicians play together as a whole. He is also there to ensure that the players all recognize the different movements during a piece and that everyone plays with the same feeling and tone. It is his job to ensure that the mood set by the music is consistent throughout.
The percussion family is the oldest group of musical instruments. A percussion instrument is defined as any instrument that produces a sound when it is hit, struck, rubbed or shaken. The word percussion comes from the Latin word “percussio” which translates to “to hit or to strike”.
In a traditional orchestra layout, the percussion section is normally at the center back. This section typically has the fewest number of musicians, and yet, has more different instruments than any other family in the orchestra.
The following instruments are all part of the percussion family:
- Timpani Drums: This is the oldest member of the percussion section. It has been a part of the orchestra since medieval times.
- Snare Drums: These drums are often used in marching bands.
- Glockenspiels: A series of metal bars that are played by being struck with a small hammer.
- Bass Drum: This is the largest drum in the orchestra.
- Tambourine: This familiar instrument dates back to the Romans.
- Cymbals: When played in an orchestra, the cymbals are normally held in the player’s hands. They are banged together to produce their sound.
- Triangle: This simple, metal instrument is played by being struck with a metal rod.
- Cowbells: This are normally struck using a drumstick.
- Xylophone: This instrument is similar to a glockenspiel. However, the bars are normally made of wood.
- Tubular Bells: This instrument is also known as the chimes. Each bell is actually a long hollow metal tube.
- Tam Tam: This instrument is a member of the gong family.
The instruments in the percussion family vary greatly not only between orchestras but between musical pieces. Instruments are added and removed depending upon each piece of music and the way in which the conductor chooses to interpret it.
This is the second oldest family of instruments. Wind instruments have been found by archaeologists that date by thousands of years. Some of the very first flute type instruments were made of hollow reeds or pieces of wood. In certain parts of the world, flutes have been discovered that were crafted from the bones and horns of different animals. The very oldest flute has been dated to be more than 43 000 thousand years old and was made from the bone of a cave bear.
Today most of the wood winds require a reed in order to produce a sound. The flute is one of the few exceptions to this rule. The flute relies strictly on vibrations to create its tones.
The following instruments are all part of the woodwind family:
- Piccolo: This is the smallest member of the woodwinds and is part of the flute family. It is often considered to be a half-sized flute.
- Flute: The orchestra flute has a three-octave range starting at middle c. The flute can be taken apart in three distinct sections.
- Recorder: This instrument was extremely popular during the baroque period, but lost its popularity in the classical era. The 20th century saw it regain much of its appeal, and it has once again began to appear in the orchestra.
- Oboe: This instrument is also called a hautbois or a hautboy.
- Saxophone: Adolphe Sax invented this instrument in 1846. It has since developed to include more than eight separate variations. Saxophones may, or may not be, a part of an orchestra. When they are included, the players sit with the other woodwinds.
- English Horn: Contrary to its name, this is not a horn at all. It is a double reed instrument that is closely related to the oboe.
- Clarinet: John Denner invented the clarinet at the beginning of the 18th century.
- Bassoon: Often considered the clown of the orchestra, this member of the oboe family can produce a wide range of comical sounds.
- Contra Bassoon: This instrument is also called the double bassoon. It plays an octave lower than the standard bassoon.
As the name implies, all the members of this family are typically made of brass. This is the loudest family in the orchestra. Horns have been around for thousands of years.
The following instruments are part of the brass family:
- Trumpet: The oldest trumpets date back to 1500 BC. They were often used to signal troops during battles. The trumpet players were heavily guarded.
- Tuba: This is the largest member of the brass family. It also plays the lowest notes. It did make an appearance within the orchestra until the mid 19th century.
- French Horn: This horn is capable of playing three octaves. The bell piece of the French horn is usually between 27 and 35 cm in diameter.
- Trombone: The trombone has the greatest range of all the brass instruments due to its “slide”.
- Cornet: This instrument is very similar to the trumpet. The name cornet comes from the Latin word “cornus” which means horn.
This is the largest section of most orchestras. All the members of this family, as the name implies, have strings. These instruments are normally played using a bow, although you can pluck the strings of certain members of this family.
The following instruments are part of the string family:
- Violin: This instrument makes up the majority of the string section. In some orchestras, the violins account for half of the musicians. The violin section is normally divided into first violins and second violins. The strings of the violin used to be made primarily out of sheep guts, but these broke very easily. Today you can still get sheep gut strings, but many musicians prefer to use the stronger metal ones.
- Cello: The proper plural of cello is celli and a person who plays the instrument is called a cellist.
- Violas: The viola is larger than a violin, but is smaller than the cello. The bow used to play a viola is heavier than that of the violin and is also wider.
- Bass: This is the largest member of the string family. The bass is often referred to as the double bass or the stand-up bass. Due to the size of the instrument most bass players play while standing.
There is no standard number of musicians in an orchestra, nor is there any set rule about the number of instruments, or the kind of instruments, that are played. Each orchestra varies depending on any number of different factors. Money, available musicians, quality of musicians and the type of music predominantly played, will all play a part in the way an orchestra is set up.