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Smartening Sonatas or Silly Symphonies?
by Mad Dog


Fathers, not wanting to be left out, strapped headphones to their testicles so they could boost their sperm’s IQ. Yes, the passengers on the Titanic were right when they said: "It’s never too soon to go overboard."
     The debate over the Mozart Effect is in full blast. For those of you who have been too busy calling Ticketmaster to see when seats for Allie McBeal On Ice go on sale to be paying attention, the Mozart Effect isn’t the deep slumber you fall into at a classical concert, it’s the idea that young children can grow smarter by listening to Amadeus’ symphonies.

     It all started a couple of years ago when a group of scientists, realizing that one day I’d need something to write about, decided to see if they could find a correlation between listening to Mozart and the ability to keep government grant money flowing into their personal bank accounts. They took a bunch of college students and subjected them—I mean, had them listen—to classical music. When they woke up, the students were subjected to a battery of tests. It turned out that the students’ performance improved on spatial imagery tasks—which sounds suspiciously like daydreaming to me—for an impressive "few minutes."

     This being the Age of Unchecked Extrapolation, that was all parents across the country needed to hear. They immediately sat their children down and made them listen to symphonies. The kids, wanting to know why they were being punished, had to be fooled, so they were told they were listening to a new form of Wolfgangsta rap by DJ I’m A Deuce Most-Art. Word!

     Pregnant mothers, being the impatient things they are, didn’t want to wait until the kids were born so they put speakers against their stomachs in the hopes that the unborn fetuses would grow smart at the same time they were growing fingers. Fathers, not wanting to be left out, strapped headphones to their testicles so they could boost their sperm’s IQ. Yes, the passengers on the Titanic were right when they said: "It’s never too soon to go overboard."



Birds are a big problem at airports because they get sucked into jet engines during takeoff and landing. Sure they’re spit out the back where they become your in-flight meal, but face it, not everyone wants to eat poultry when they fly.
     The idea of keeping kids quiet while making them smarter sounded so good that the states of Georgia and Tennessee gave newborn parents a copy of the CD "Hooked on Subsidies". In Florida they passed a law that toddlers in state-run schools have to listen to classical music every day. We’re determined to raise a generation of smart, cultured kids if it kills us.

     The problem is there may not be a Mozart Effect after all. So far no one has been able to prove that it works. And no scientist has been able to reproduce the original results, which were, you remember, with college students not children.

     The idea that music has an effect on us is nothing new. Ancient civilizations knew it. Parents who tried to ban early rock n’ roll knew it. Hell, Muzak has known about it for years, which is why they keep filling our heads with melodies designed to calm, soothe, and numb. And it works. Face it, there’s nothing like sitting in the dentist’s chair listening to 101 Strings do their version of White Zombie’s "More Human Than Human" to make the pain from a root canal seem trivial.

     Convenience stores have played Beethoven in the parking lot to keep gangs from hanging out. In Minneapolis they broadcast classical music to keep kids off the streets at night. Even the U.S. Army used music as a weapon when they tried to drive Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican Embassy in Panama City by blasting "Beat It", "You’re No Good", "Nowhere to Run", and "I Fought the Law" 24-hours a day. True, it didn’t work, but that’s only because they played the wrong music. They should have been playing Tina Turner.

     This worked like a charm at an airport in Gloucestershire (pronounced: Worchestershire), England. For years they broadcast recordings of avian distress calls trying to keep the birds off the runways. Birds, you see, are a big problem at airports because they get sucked into jet engines during takeoff and landing. Sure they’re spit out the back where they become your in-flight meal, but face it, not everyone wants to eat poultry when they fly.



Apparently turkey vultures are chickens and puke when they’re scared. This makes for a real mess which could be avoided if they’d start playing Tina Turner records.
     Usually birds stay away when they hear distress calls, but like those people in horror movies who venture into the dark basement even though a booming, ominous voice tells them to "GET OUT!" (not to mention everyone in the theater), sometimes birds do the opposite of what you’d expect. As proof, when airport officials started playing Tina Turner over the P.A.—voila!—the birds flew off and stayed away.

     I don’t know why the birds dislike Tina Turner so much—or who even thought of using her when Michael Bolton, Hansen, and Yoko Ono CDs are available—but someone should tell the authorities in Merced, California about this. They’ve been desperately trying to get rid of 200 turkey vultures which took up residence there. Contrary to what you’re thinking, turkey vultures aren’t the local slang for lawyers. That would not only be a cheap shot but redundant.

Instead of music or distress calls, officials in Merced have been using machines which make loud noises, causing the birds to fly off and throw up. It’s true. Apparently turkey vultures are chickens and puke when they’re scared. This makes for a real mess which could be avoided if they’d start playing Tina Turner records.

     If this works for birds maybe it will work for mice too. In Orange County, Florida mice have recently invaded some 10,000 homes. It’s gotten so bad that Governor Jeb "I’m the smart brother" Bush pledged $200,000 in state funds to help battle the rodents. That should do the trick since it’s more than enough to buy a copy of Tina Turner’s Greatest Hits CD for every infested homeowner. In fact, if Florida officials are smart shoppers they’ll wait for the CDs to go on sale and have enough left over to pick up some Mozart for the kids.

     But let’s hope no one makes a mistake and plays the wrong CD for the wrong crowd. The last thing we need in this world is more kids flying the coop and smarter mice running around the house.

 

1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them while listening to Tina Turner singing Mozart.

 

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