Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Tony Deyal | Mamma mia!

Published:Saturday | June 25, 2016 | 6:00 AM

Kim Hubbard, the American humorist, quipped, "Classical music is the kind we keep thinking will turn into a tune." In my case, classical music was the kind that my parents kept shouting, "Turn off the radio. It making too much noise." They said the same about the BBC news so that when London called and Big Ben bonged, the static from my parents was worse than the one on the old Pye radio.

What made it difficult for me is that my teacher kept insisting that to do well in the general knowledge paper in the College Exhibition examination, which preceded the 'Eleven Plus' as the key to the magic high-school kingdom, we had to listen to the BBC world news. Another teacher, our headmaster, in fact, kept talking about "classical" music and insisted that we must listen to the BBC music programme on the radio. What made it doubly difficult is that he even asked questions about the music that was played on the BBC the night before, and, using a leather strap that was his constant companion as he went from class to class, ensured that the beat that we marched to was not from a different drummer but was inflicted by him.

If Bob Marley had attended our school, he would not have said, "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." He would have emancipated himself from that Babylon school before you could say, "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights."

 

CLASSICAL FUN

 

I eventually gave up any attempt at BBC culture in favour of the cinema, calypso, rock and roll, and fiction, especially westerns, crime novels, and humour. Worse, I developed into a kind of snob and made fun of classical music without ever trying to understand it until much later in my life. When anyone questioned my ignorance, I invariably replied, quoting Elvis Presley, "I don't know anything about music. In my line, you don't have to."

On the other hand, I did not turn into the other kind of snob that Dan Rather, the broadcaster, described: "An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger." What I did instead is make fun of it by asking, "Where does the Lone Ranger take his garbage?" and then answering, "To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump ... ."

I had fun with this one as well. Film producers wanted to make a movie about classical music composers starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Grant, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They asked Leonardo who he wanted to be and he answered, "I want to be Beethoven because I've always liked him." Next, they asked Hugh, and he said, "I want to be Mozart because I've always liked him." Finally, they asked Arnold, and he insisted, "I'll be Bach!"

Unfortunately, I am unable to go back in time to make up for the lost opportunities, one of which is listening to classical music. Had I done so, my blood pressure and heart rate would have been significantly lower, especially if Mozart and Strauss were my favourite composers.

According to the Daily Mail, research published recently in the Deutsches Arzteblatt, the journal of the German Medical Association, found the music by Mozart and Strauss lowered systolic blood pressure by 4.7mmHg and 3.7mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.1mmHg and 2.9mmHg. Interestingly, the classical music was compared with the effect of music from ABBA, the Swedish pop group. However, as the Telegraph said, "Mamma mia! Listening to Mozart lowers blood pressure ... but ABBA has no impact."

 

COMPOSERS MORE EFFECTIVE

 

Essentially, the researchers found that the two composers were far more effective than listening to ABBA, or silence, and that the effects worked even in people who did not normally listen to classical music. In the study, 60 participants listened to either Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor; Johan Strauss's Unforgettable Melodies; or ABBA Classic - a 2009 compilation that includes Thank You For The Music, The Winner Takes it All, and Fernando. A control group of a further 60 people rested in silence. Well, when the heart rates, blood pressure, and the measure of cortisol, a hormone that indicates stress levels, were taken in subjects, the winners who took it all were the classics composers. ABBA reduced systolic blood pressure by a much smaller amount

(-1.7mmHg) and had a minuscule effect on diastolic blood pressure.

The lead author of the paper, Hans-Joachim Trappe, of Ruhr University, said that previous research into Mozart has found his music relaxing because of the above-average degree of periodicity - in other words, it repeats the same pattern at regular time intervals. Other research has found that babies whose mothers had listened to the music of Mozart during pregnancies were calmer and less aggressive. They believed that Strauss's dances may have been effective because they are "based on simple structures, catchy melodies and periodically recurring forms ... without any distinctive dissonances" and that ABBA's lack of effectiveness may have been because the use of words in music may stimulate the brain rather than calm it. They recommend that in addition to aerobic exercise and a low-salt diet, we listen to famous, popular, and skilfully composed music in a pleasant key, consistent volume and rhythm, without rousing sequences or lyrics. In other words, if you can hear the drums and bugle calls, forget Fernando. Thank him and ABBA for the music. Tell them, "Hasta maÒana", but don't sing it out loud.

- Tony Deyal was last seen listening to an indigenous Australian playing 'Dancing Queen' on a didgeridoo. He thought it was Abboriginal.