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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Mozart Effect


Remember this clarinet concerto? Of course, you do! You remember it from the scene in Out of Africa when Denys Finch-Hatton takes Karen Blixen on safari and picnicks with her high up on the Masai Mara plain with a gramophone beside them playing Mozart. [after placing a gramophone in a field near wild baboons who sat around listening, Denys said, 'Think of it: never a man-made sound... and then Mozart!']

If Mozart's Clarinet concerto in A major, K. 622, needed any popularising, this movie did it. It is one of the most magical pieces of music ever composed. A shiver runs down my spine every time I hear it. Don Campbell calls it the “Mozart Effect” in his book of the same name: the ability of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind and unlock the creative spirit.

[voiceover in movie]   "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold."

All right, let's hear it one more time, adagio, together with some unforgettable scenes from the movie:

[excerpt from book]   "To Denys Finch-Hatton I owe what was, I think, the greatest, the most transporting pleasure of my life on the farm: I flew with him over Africa. There, where there are few or no roads and where you can land on the plains, flying becomes a thing of real and vital importance in your life, it opens up a world. Denys had brought out his Moth machine; it could land on my plain on the farm only a few minutes from the house, and we were up nearly every day.

You have trememdous views as you get up above the African highlands, surprising combinations and changes of light and colouring, the rainbow on the green sunlit land, the gigantic upright clouds and big wild black storms, all swing around you in a race and a dance. The lashing hard showers of rain whiten the air askance. The language is short of words for the experiences of flying, and will have to invent new words with time. When you have flown over the Rift Valley and the volcanoes of Suswa and Longonot, you have travelled far and have been to the lands on the other side of the moon. You may at other times fly low enough to see the animals on the plains and to feel towards them as God did when he had just created them, and before he commissioned Adam to give them names.

But it is not the visions but the activity which makes you happy, and the joy and glory of the flyer is the flight itself. It is a sad hardship and slavery to people who live in towns, that in all their movements they know of one dimension only; they walk along the line as if they were led on a string. The transition from the line to the plane into the two dimensions, when you wander across a field or through a wood, is a splendid liberation to the slaves, like the French Revolution. But in the air you are taken into the full freedom of the three dimensions; after long ages of exile and dreams the homesick heart throws itself into the arms of space.

Every time that I have gone up in an aeroplane and looking down have realized that I was free of the ground, I have had the consciousness of a great new discovery. "I see,' I have thought. 'This was the idea. And now I understand everything.'"


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