Friday, January 20, 2006

Baroque Is Best!

I read a post earlier this evening by Noelie over at Refugee's of the War in Heaven in which she describes how classical music from the Baroque period is among her favorite music.

I have found that for me, Baroque period music is the most accessible of all the periods of classical music. I have found that Baroque is great music to work by, or to study along with. I find that I enjoy listening to this kind of music when I am preparing talks or lessons for church. Of course, it makes for excellent Sabbath Day music listening as well.

What is the secret of Baroque music? What seems to make it stand out so much? For me, I find that the reason is that it invites the Spirit of the Lord into my heart and mind. It makes me feel good. My mind seems to work better when I am listening to it. I am less distracted, and better able to concentrate when I listen to Baroque music.

I have found that I am not alone in this opinion. Michael Ballam, a renowned opera singer, and professor of music at Utah State University has shared some of his research on the effects of music, particularly Baroque Music on the human mind and soul. Below are excerpts from his notes, which he delivered at the BYU Education Week in 2003. (You can download his education week notes here.)

Albert Einstein:

One of Einstein's favorite composers, was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who he characterized as probably the most orderly composer. Mozart and Bach were the two favorite composers of Einstein.
G.J. Withrow, in speaking of the power music had in helping [Einstein] with theories such as relativity said: "He often told me that one of the most important things in his life was music. Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties. Einstein said: 'It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.' "
Johannes Brahms:

In an interview with the author Arthur M. Abell, Brahms is reported to have said:
"I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the Spirit illuminating the soul power within, and in this exalted sate, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods: Then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did...Straightway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind's eye but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies and orchestration. Measure by measure, the finished product is revealed to me when I am in those rare, inspired moods." "The powers from which all truly great composers like Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven drew their inspiration is the same power that enabled Jesus to work his miracles. It is the power that created our earth and the whole universe." (from "Talks with Great Composers" by Arthur M. Abell, published by Philosophical Library, NYC, NY, 212-727-7870)
On George F. Handel

Michael Ballam relates the following about the experience Handel had while composing the Messiah:

Handel was a successful composer of opera, but felt a sense of guilt for not having paid the Lord back for the use of his gifts.

He decided to write Messiah. After determining to do it, he had a stroke, worked his way back, got the text worked out in 28 days, and did not eat or sleep. He was consumed by the Spirit. After writing Hallelujah, he said: "I have seen the hand of God". Handel attributes his genius to God and would not take credit for Messiah.

Ballam also indicates other Baroque composers also felt that they could not take credit for their works as well. These included : Beethoven who said that "No man could have written the 9th symphony". Others attributed their abilities to compose to God as well, including: Mozart and Franz Gruber (Silent Night). Bach said: "The final aim and reason of all music is nothing more than the glorification of God."

Music and the Mind

Michael Ballam also promotes the idea the classical music, especially Baroque music can foster enhanced learning and cognitive development. You can read more about music and the mind here.


Noelie said...

Hi David!

I didn't post about how I made it through my LPN training, pregnant and sick, stressed with four active boys.

To study I played Baroque music. I literally believe to this day that is how I would make it through and remember what I needed to know about chemistry, nursing math ect.

Mozart is lovely, and his taste is perfection. He never makes a mistep of what should come next. While the beginning of the classical period of music as opposed to baroque his ability to tastefully apply baroque elements to his music is unparalled.

As for the Marcello, you can down load it at for 49 cents a movement. All of it is lovely but it is the Adagio that truly got my attention! Hope hat helps.

Tigersue said...

Hi there David!
I love Michael Ballam's thoughts, years ago I decided I should have been a music therapist, rather than a nurse, unfortunately going back to school hasn't been in the plans. Darn.
You just have to love Baroque, it really is wonderful.

David B. said...


Hey, thanks for the link to! I found the Marcello, and downloaded it. We really enjoyed it!


Being a musical therapist would be an interesting job. I would like to chart the progress of how music could help re-wire the brain, and return lost functionality, as has been discused in some of the research that Michael Ballam alludes to.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have come to know about Michael Ballam and what he has to say about music. It is my desire to let everyone know about the things that I learned. For this reason I have started a blog. He gave me over a hundred pages of info about music that he said i could share with people. It is posted on my blog. I highly recommend to anyone to listen to his Music and The Mind lectures you can get a He caom out with More Music and The Mind not too long ago. My blog is I have also found some very eye opening things about what music does to water molicules. I hope you check it out.

David B. said...

Thanks for the new info from Michale Ballam. I'll be checking out your blog. - David B.

Kareena said...

Your link to Michael Ballam's site isn't working. I'm writing a paper on music, the mind and how it effects college students. Is there any way you can post a link or where you found it? Thanks!