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Up Beat Down South MozartWent Down to Georgia BY GAVIN JAMES CAMPBELL H±t££z "Now don'tyoufeelsmarteralready?" — GovernorZellMillerto the Georgia legislature after listening to aportion ofBeethoven's Ninth Symphony "We raise corn, hell, and fiddlers," one feisty old-time fiddler told a newspaper reporter in 1920, "and we had a pretty good crop this year, all around." Since its inception, we've tried to make "Up Beat Down South" a place where such infectious enthusiasm for music comes to life, and to suggest the energy, richness, and breadth of Southern music-making. But even if inclusion is the dominant theme running through a column still in its brash youth, recent events in two southern states remind us that there are powerful cultural urges that resist placing all musical forms on equal footing. In the last two years, legislatures in Georgia and Florida have passed laws designed to ensure that all new-born infants gain the benefits ofwhat has become known as "the Mozart Effect." Based on a smattering of preliminary scientific studies, and on the general public's seemingly infinite faith in classical music's intellectual and moral stature, "the Mozart Effect" posits that listening to classical music speeds a child's neurological development. As a corollary, the public accepts that the "popular" music it listens to daily has litde intellectual or artistic value. There is no "Hank Williams Effect," for instance, that promises to make babies smarter or better at math. The movement to stoke babies' cerebral development with music received its biggest publicity boost in 1998. In hisJanuary budget address to the joint session ofdie House and Senate, Georgia's then-Governor Zell Miller asked approval for $105,000 to provide each ofthe state's estimated 100,000 newborns with a tape or cd. "Research shows that reading to an infant, talking with an infant, and especially having that infant listen to soodiing music helps those trillions ofbrain connections to develop, especially ones dealing widi spatial temporal reasoning," he 94 The most revered composer in Georgia. WolfgangAmadeus Mozart, from Mozart's Operas. explained. Better music for all kids would give diem a head start in the "temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess." After all, Miller recalled ofhis youth in the north Georgia mountains, "musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle, but they also were good mechanics." Yet rather than demonstrate music's power by playing "Back Step Cindy," "Devil in die Pea Patch," or any of the fiddle tunes that inspired him as a youngster, he played a portion ofBeethoven's Ninth Symphony. "Now don't you feel smarter already?" he asked. The proposal ignited a firestorm ofdebate on both sides of die issue. Yet die controversy centered not so much on Miller's conclusions or on the scientific foundations ofhis assertions, but on the cost. Many legislators barked diat this was yet another "biggovernment" spendingprogram. Sony Corporation stepped into the scuffle and volunteered to underwrite the requested $105,000, ostensibly because they had a large factory in Georgia, but also because infant brains would absorb brand-name loyalty along with Mozart. Sony set to work and came up with a cd tided Build YourBaby's Brain Through the Power ofMusic. The tide is fairly self-explanatory, except the part about music. Only classical selections made die cut, and even diose were restricted to the milder works of Mozart, Pachelbel, Beethoven, Handel, Schubert, and Vivaldi. Of necessity, Sony had to make arbitrary decisions about what should be included and excluded. Yet nowhere on the cd could infants build their brains to the Up Beat Down South 9 5 Classicalmusic lover andformer Georgia Governor, ZellMiller. Dustjacketphotofrom Zell. grooves of other masters like Etta James, Elvis Presley, Boozoo Chavis, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, George Jones, Janis Joplin, Santiago Jiménez, Fiddlin' John Carson, Bessie Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Monroe, or Patty Loveless. The cd's narrow artistic focus reflected a widespread belief that only classical music can make babies smarter. When asked why die CD for Georgia babies didn't include any ofthe country and bluegrass artists he loved, Zell Miller sheepishly explained that "with my likes and dislikes I don...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 94-101
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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