What Made Mozart the Greatest Musician of All Time?

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Every generation has its unique style of music accompanied by a single, chart-topping musician/band. Sinatra ruled the 40’s, The Rolling Stones conquered the 60’s music industry, and nowadays Chicago’s one and only Kanye West has taken the 2000’s by storm; however, all of these performers hold little to no significance once referencing the influence Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had on the history of music. His name is notorious, yet little know what made him the greatest musician of all time. What was it about that little Austrian that grabbed the attention of masses? His flair and exuberance attracted the attention of Europe; however, it wasn’t just personality traits that made Mozart the genius he was.

Ever had an “ear-worm” before? For most, after hearing a catchy song for the first time, the only way one can regurgitate the tune is to whistle it from memory. Well for Mozart, he had absolute pitch which meant he could hear the song once and then immediately replicate it on any instrument he wanted…pretty impressive, eh? According to recent studies conducted by University of California’s professor Diana Deutch, the absolute pitch ability is mostly genetic so, unfortunately, chances are if you don’t think you have it now, you probably will not ever get it. The brain is divides its duties to either the left or right side of the brain; however, scientists aren’t certain that the absolute pitch ability lies within solely one of the brain’s hemispheres. According to Dr. Robert Zatorre, a neuropsychologist at the Montreal Neurological Hospital in Canada, “it’s a leap to say that perfect pitch resides primarily in the left brain. We consistently find that regions of the right auditory cortex seem crucial for listening to melodic patterns or making judgments of pitch going up or down…But I would not go so far as to say that music is all on the right.” In order to gain more information about human’s ability to appreciate music, he conducted an experiment with a man who had suffered a stroke on both sides of his brain. Interestingly, the subject could not differentiate jazz music from rap or classical music. From that, he concluded that if damage is done to just one side of the brain, the musical ability still resides; however, the appreciation for music would be substantially diminished.

To clarify more on to the absolute pitch mystery, Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, a neurologist at Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany conducted an experiment in which he compared the brains of people with perfect pitch and people without it. As suspected, the left planum temporal was almost twice as large in perfect pitch people than it was within the others. As a matter of fact, the planum temporale of musicians without absolute pitch was more similar in size to a non-musician’s than to those with perfect pitch.

Hours of practice and conducting coupled with the rare absolute pitch ability launched Mozart’s career and labeled him as one of the greatest of all time. If you think you have what it takes, feel free to try the Perfect Pitch Test and see if you possess the ability that the great Mozart once had.

1 thought on “What Made Mozart the Greatest Musician of All Time?

  1. Rana Mohamed

    This was a very interesting article, I loved how you included the pitch test at the end. Since I do not have an “ear-worm” and cannot play an instrument, I do appreciate people who can.
    I looked into how the brain accepts music. When a song begins the frontal lobe and temporal lobe process the sounds, however, the brain cells decipher rhythm, pitch and melody. Researchers have stated that most of the action on how music enters the brain occurs in the right hemisphere. It is amazing when we look into things and find out that listening to music is not as simple as we thought it was.

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