The New Mozart Effect

Mozart Effect

Science and music intersect in this engaging production by violinist Merel Vercammen and harpist Elizabeth Jaxon, which explores the question

Can music make us smarter?

Following a 1993 study in America, it was believed that having babies listen to Mozart would improve their cognitive abilities. More recent studies suggest that the key to improved cognitive performance is listening to music which best aligns with your mood. The Mozart Effect invites audience members to participate in a live experiment demonstrating just how music affects our minds. In the course of the program, violinist Merel Vercammen, who also completed a MSc in Music, Mind and Brain at the University of London, will give an overview of the current scientific theories, and listeners will be treated to a series of stimulating mental challenges as well a performance of emotionally powerful works for violin and harp. With the aid of a smart-phone app designed by software developer Gert Wijnalda, data and results will be projected live during the show. The Mozart Effect aims to introduce participants to the connection between science and music. After the show, the audience will better understand how to “use” music to improve their cognitive performance.

A short documentary made during the premiere at the Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam.

  • For more information about the scientific studies behind The New Mozart Effect: read Merel’s blog about the subject
  • For the real die-hards here is a paper with the most recent study on this subject
  • The Mozart Effect convinced the American governor in 1998 to distribute CDs of music by Bach and Mozart to newborn babies, and The New York Times reports

The New Mozart Effect is made possible by support from the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst and the M.A.O.C. Gravin van Bylandt Association.

About Us

Merel Vercammen

Merel Vercammen – violin and science
Merel studied violin and graduated with highest distinction from the Royal College of Music in London while at the same time completing a MSc in Music, Mind & Brain at Goldsmiths University of London. Since last year, she is now back in the Netherlands and is active as a soloist and chamber musician, currently also a member of the trio42 en the Mirovia string quartet. She also enjoys improvisation and jazz music.

Elizabeth Jaxon

Elizabeth Jaxon – harp
American harpist Elizabeth Jaxon graduated from the University of Illinois and the École Normale de Musique de Paris, after which she became instructor of harp and chamber music at the Mahidol University School of Music (Thailand). She moved to the Netherlands in 2014. Elizabeth is also a member of the Atlantic Harp Duo, which has released several CDs, and she serves at the competition director of the Dutch Harp Festival.

Gert Wijnalda – software development
Gert Wijnalda graduated cum laude in Artificial Intelligence (MSc) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His master’s thesis focused on interactive music. Since 2000, he has been general director of RedAnt, for which he has developed numerous websites and web applications. Additionally, he is business director of the Dutch Harp Festival.

Does music make you smarter?

After having attended the show, you may be curious to feel the effects of music on your brain at home too. But where to begin? And what kind of music best fits your current mood? To help you out, we have compiled several Spotify playlists especially for you.

In scientific study, mood is often thought of as having two dimensions: how good you feel (positive vs. negative) and how active your mood is (passive or active). For example, if you are feeling calm, then your mood is positive and passive. If you are anxious, your mood is active and negative. Like this, we can roughly divide the spectrum of possible moods into four, which you will find below. If you click on the face that best matches how you feel, you will be forwarded to the matching Spotify playlist. Enjoy!

Upset
upset
Happy
happy
Depressed
depressed
Serene
serene

If you know of any classical music selections that would fit well into one of these lists then you are welcome to add it! You can inspire others with your musical choices. Just keep in mind that the music should ideally hold to the same mood throughout the track.

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