The music of Mozart has gained great attention in recent years for its supposed therapeutic benefits, yet it is still a minority of Australians who actively seek out classical music. Two crusaders for the public benefit of classical music have teamed up to bring Mozart into new realms within Australia. The following is based on a discussion between Rafaele Joudry and Michael Clark.
Rafaele Joudry is founder and Director of Sound Therapy International, an organization devoted to bringing Sound Therapy to the masses, in the form of a home based listening program based on the work of the pioneering French ear specialist, Dr Tomatis.
Michael Clark is the Founder and Artistic and Musical Director of the newly formed orchestra, the Sydney Mozart Players. Originally from Bathurst, Michael undertook this ambitions project of forming a new orchestra after a very successful ten year musical career in Europe as a conductor and pianist. He was engaged as repititeur at London’s Covent Garden and was acclaimed for his readings of Mozart and Verdi when he conducted at opera houses throughout Germany.
His wish now is to contribute in a more significant way to his home country, not only to carve out a niche for himself but to expand the community’s interest in classical music and create performing opportunities for the many other talented musicians.
Having noticed a dirth of opportunities to hear live music in Sydney he says “ There’s a need in a lot of parts of Sydney, the western parts of Sydney, the regional areas as well, Bathurst, Orange, so forth.” He believes audiences are crying out for live music events. The orchestra will also provide opportunities for the development and exposure of local artists. Michael says, “There’s so many musicians, soloists, even other conductors that are missing a platform to perform regularly, and to record. There’s a real need for this in Australia and I’m making that platform.”
Michael cuts a dashing figure with his tall stature and brilliant red hair. His modest and unassuming, yet confident manner makes it easy to believe he will succeed with this ambitious undertaking. So far, he has received a wonderful response from all parties. “The musicians have been very excited about the project and the audiences have been great,” he says. Other conductors of standing such as Richard Bonynge SP?, Patrick Thomas, have also been very supportive and very complimentary about what the new orchestra is doing.”
Michael’s initial interest in the work of Mozart stemmed from his response to the movie, Amadeus, which came out when he was nine years old. He says, “ I’d seen the movie and as a child I’d thought it was so amazing, because that’s exactly what Mozart is all about, this amazing music created in such a joyful way. And looking back on it and seeing it again recently, I was impressed that the people who worked on the music in that movie were very good. Neville Mariner I respect very, very much. His group, St Martin In The Fields, which he established 30 years ago, does a magnificent job, especially with Mozart. The music in the movie was magnificent. But the more I look into the music of Mozart the more genius I see in it and the more freshness, the more — just amazing amount of energy in the music.”
Michael shared particular thoughts on the unique genius of Mozart. “It’s not necessarily just the sounds that go together to make music. What’s also in the composition, is an intrinsic energy in the way he put notes together. And so another composer, if they’re not doing it as well, is not going to provide the listener with such a high octave of — such a high level of resonance or energy in what they put out. It’s like comparing a Ferrari to a VW. They both go along the road, but one’s outputting a much higher level of perfection and tightness in the way it’s produced.
Michael points out that “Mozart sounds quite simple when you listen to it, but when you come to perform it, there are certain things that aren’t simple about the way it’s made up. The structure of the phrases is not simple, it’s not obvious where the new phrase begins. So, it’s actually, I wouldn’t say uneven, but it’s actually structured in a very asymmetrical way. And you would never expect that, listening to it, because it sounds so right, so it’s like a tree. It just doesn’t go straight up and down, there’s some way that it grows that’s not symmetrical, it’s actually organic. And this element of organic construction actually makes great music.”
To produce music like this, Michael believes that Mozart had to be working beyond the level of the intellect, certainly without planning. He was a prolific composer for his 35 years, producing a quantity of material unparalleled by any other composer.
“But he certainly did it from instinct,” says Michael. “He had such an instinctual feel for the construction of the music and it just came out of him. Someone like Beethoven thought about it, so he’d write something down but then he’d change it and he’d take out a bar here and put a note there. But Mozart basically wrote it like a channeller. So even when you see the difficulties and mess that he had in his life, he still was able to focus and channel the music, and write it down.”
In wanting to bring his music to new sections of the community, Michael Clark has some innovative ideas on presentation. In order to make the concerts more dynamic and alive, particularly for younger audiences, The Mozart Players integrates theatrical lighting with the music. Michael says, “ I think the use of colours and lighting can actually bring the audio and visual into sync for people. The visual stimulation helps the aural recognition of the energy of the music and focuses that listener. Because not all people are aural, some need a largely visual stimulus as well.”
Michael may have touched on a key factor which has been explored until now only in the field of learning difficulties, where much has been learned about brain processes and integration. Specialists are discovering how links between different sensory systems are crucial in our overall learning ability. The ear specialist, Dr Tomatis 50 years ago in France, pioneered a method of treating dyslexia using specially recorded tracks of Mozart. Filtered classical music improved ear function and auditory processing, yet amazingly this also assisted the ability to correctly see and interpret the written word.
Rafaele Joudry, Director of the Sydney based company, Sound Therapy International, has made the Tomatis method of Sound Therapy accessible to thousands of people with portable listening systems. Rafaele says, “with Sound Therapy we are integrating all the senses, but particularly the auditory and visual. Tomatis pointed out that the ocular-motor nerve, which controls eye tracking, is surrounded and controlled by the auditory nerve, so you cannot really stimulate one sensory system without affecting others.”
In the early nineties world headlines reported the amazing discovery that Mozart made children smarter. Researchers found that if students listened to Mozart before their exams they performed better. They were only reporting what Dr Tomatis had been saying for forty years, that Mozart improves brain function. But Tomatis was achieving this at a more concentrated level with his filtering technique, points out Rafaele Joudry. When used continuously, for several hours a day over a period of a few weeks, the filtered music has been found to rebuild brain pathways, stimulate cortical activity, improve memory, concentration and language abilities. It also assists voice quality, musical appreciation, verbal expression and conceptual skills.
Those parents who have introduced Sound Therapy to their children and teenagers have been amazed at the improvements in attitude, academic performance, sleep patterns and self esteem. The fact that the program uses classical music is seen as a hindrance to some, since teenagers don’t usually go for it. However, according to Rafaele Joudry who has worked in the field for nearly fourteen years, contrary to expectations, those who try Sound Therapy often get hooked on the benefits and modify their musical taste.
One of the aims of the Mozart Players is to take Mozart into the schools and to attract younger audiences to their concerts. Michael says “ I think the stigma or the misconception of classical music has to be lifted, and this only begins if we educate young people so that this music becomes more accessible and they see groups of musicians or singers or pianists. They see them perform and they think, ‘yes this is a great thing.’ It’s not just a toffee nosed concern but something that they can grasp, that they can appreciate and actually listen to and enjoy.”
Michael also wishes to use the medium of video to make classical music a more immediate experience.
“I think children or young people seeing a video of a live performance experience a different relationship to an orchestra and to classical music. Then when they’re introduced into the concert hall and see actual concerts they have a different attitude, they have recognition of what’s happening, they know what’s happening because they’ve seen it up close through a video.”
Rafaele Joudry and Michael Clark collaborated on the production of a short documentary about the therapeutic possibilities of Sound Therapy, the work of Dr Tomatis and the involvement of the Sydney Mozart Players in this work.
Sound Therapy has great potential application in schools to assist with learning and the structural development of the brain. In addition it offers surprising benefits for those with hearing problems. Michael’s first contact with Sound Therapy was through his father who used the program to overcome his tinnitus, (the name given to a condition of persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears.)
Michael’s father, who was an engineer and building inspector in Bathurst, had suffered from an industrial tinnitus for many years. Michael relates how his father had put up with this constant ringing for 20 years or more, almost as long as he can remember. He had tried various methods to try and repair the damage or get some relief but had no success until he came across the Sound Therapy method. He read Rafaele Joudry’s books on Sound Therapy and tinnitus very thoroughly, and after much deliberation, decided to try the tapes. He did his work while he was listening, which he did religiously, as much as he could, for the time suggested which was 300 hours. He experienced initially great improvement and gradually total betterment of his tinnitus, “and he seems to be very energetic and pretty happy about everything,” according to his son. Michael noticed another significant difference in his father after he used Sound Therapy, which was that he could now attend a social function and follow the conversation instead of being isolated by his inability to sort out the mix of voices. Michael’s mother also found that the Sound Therapy helped her to sleep better.
Due to these personal experiences, Michael is very enthusiastic about this therapy which has helped many thousands of people. He is intrigued by the ideas behind it, the concept and the scientific basis. “The fact that it is so easy to use in its portable form makes it really practical and terrific for people,” he says.
As an expression of his total support for the Sound Therapy program, Michael has agreed for the Music from the Mozart Players concerts to be used in future Sound Therapy recordings. He says “ Well I support the venture totally and I like the idea of our music being used in the programs.I think to maximize the effect of the therapy its important that the music that’s used should be as good as possible, which I hope our music is. And the energy contained in the music can also go towards any healing process.”
In order to fully preserve the energy inherent in the music, Sound Therapy has always been produced using analogue recording methods. This is an area where musicians and engineers sometimes differ.
Michael says, “ There’s long been an argument, analogue versus digital. I think the difference can be measured by a number of things. If someone looks at the pure technical aspects of it, of an analogue tape or a digital comparison, certain results come up. And one can say digital has these and these qualities and picks up this and this sound and analogue only goes to these levels of hertz and so forth. But that’s actually a very cerebral view and only looks at the scientific values that are associated with measuring things. It actually ignores the qualities which people can pick up. An analogue tape however, being a physical substance, being an actual metal or magnetic substance, can be influenced by sound, by surroundings, by everything, and therefore, in my opinion can actually absorb more of the energy and transmit that from the recording source that it comes from. A digital source being zeroes and ones, can only actually pick up what information it receives and it doesn’t have a physical source of recording. So the argument can be seen in both ways and that aspect of the quality can be heard differently from the two sources.
“ I’ve listened to a lot of music played on various sources. For instance, if you hear an old 78 record played on an old gramophone, now the sound quality is not particularly good as far as what we judge good these days, but the level of energy in the sound that it produces is incredible. It’s like you get in the throat of the person singing or you’re transported into the very core of that. And why is that? For me it’s because it’s a physical thing. I’ve listened then to old recordings that were obviously done in analogue version, either from cut records or analogue tape and they’ve been converted into CD. I find these still have that intrinsic energy in them and I can only, from my perception, explain that perhaps it’s because of the recording process. I’ve heard now obviously a lot of digitally remastered recorded work in the last, few years since it’s existed. I’m finding a lot of these new recordings to be lacking in energy. I’m finding that there’s a dryness to the energy that it’s transmitting. One can say, yes it sounds good, very clean, even perfect, but a certain energy is missing. And what are we trying to do here? Actually transmitting energy!”
Rafaele adds to this discussion a debate that she held for many years with her mother, Patricia Joudry, who was the originator of the portable Tomatis method. She says, “My mother used to have very strong opinions about computers, which she never learned to use. We’re both writers, and we’d joke about how people would say ‘well computers are so great because you can move things around.’ Its true, its very convenient with all the cutting and pasting on the screen, but you can easily lose the flow of the original inspiration that came through. My writing never has the flow that my mother’s did. She never moved things around on a computer, she just listened to the muse, a bit like Mozart! And I wonder if that’s what may be happening with the level of fiddling around that can be done in studio digital recording?”
Michael agrees that it could be. “And there certainly is often a lot of adjustment, trying to find that warmth in the recording or find the sound that may be lacking. Unfortunately we often think because it’s new technology, that can’t be avoided. We have the telephone, we love the telephone, it’s handy — a mobile phone, everyone goes for it. We get a computer and we’re excited by this idea of technology. But stop for a moment and think what you get from it and maybe you make another judgement.”
Sound Therapy approaches sound from an entirely different level to other audio systems. The Tomatis method grew from discoveries that Dr Tomatis made about the effect of the mother’s voice on the unborn child. Earlier researchers had established that if baby birds did not hear their mothers sing before they were hatched, they would never learn to sing later. This raised questions about the foetal development of the auditory system in humans. The listening program that Tomatis developed is designed to give the listener an experience of rebirth through sound. Brain pathways that may have been established but not fully developed for emotional or cognitive developmental reasons, can be accessed and reactivated with the highly filtered Mozart. This reenactment of pre natal listening means Sound Therapy is impacting the nervous system at a more profound and structural level than any other sound experience. For this reason the quality of the sound and its direct, energetic impact on nerve impulses is of paramount importance. Rafaele believes that only a person with a highly developed ear, a highly sensitive person or a talented musician can have the sensitivity to evaluate the potential impact of different recording methods.
Michael Clark states, “I think it’s possible that staying with analogue recordings can actually boost the intrinsic energy or retain the intrinsic energy in the recording and therefore give the edge and the beauty and the love that’s in a sound coming to a Sound Therapy listener, which is what we all want. It’s sort of like this idea about the mother’s voice that Tomatis wrote about. The mother’s voice when in the womb, it doesn’t sound like much probably but it has some intrinsic quality of energy or love that we all need. So that’s one of the things that you may be interfering with if you bring in a digital signal.”
Sound Therapy International has made ultra-high quality analogue recordings of Sydney Mozart Players concerts for exclusive release as Sound Therapy programs.
The Sydney Mozart Players’ gala opening concert took place on October 26th 2001 at Angel Place Sydney.
For more information on Sound Therapy and their products, courses and practitioner training program contact Sound Therapy International Pty Ltd. Phone 1300 55 77 96 or visit www.soundtherapyinternational.com