Music and Critical Thinking


Critical thinking necessitates an ability to identify and properly assimilate all parts of the whole, whatever the subject. Recent studies are beginning to show a definite correlation between listening to intricate music (classical, for instance) and later abilities in math and science. These studies, started more than a decade ago, centered on exposing infants and toddlers in a wide range of IQ’s to classical music. Now these infants are in grade school and regardless of their measured intelligence abilities, they are performing well above the norm in math and science (several of the studies are listed below). Why is this? The studies claims that the classical music parts which involve the listener in melody, counter-melody, many harmony parts, and constant tempo and key changes prepare the mind for complicated assimilations. This is a far cry from the one-note chant mantra backed only by droning percussion which fosters antagonism and hyper-activity (read any of Frank Garlock’s summaries on rock music). Studying complicated science experiments and math with particular structure to each problem and its parts is a kind of critical thinking. The student must place the proper part in its exact (that is, logical) order or the wrong answer results; the science experiment fails to work. The students cannot do these unless he has the ability to grasp the proper sequence and the necessary parts at each interval. This is how the study relates classical music to intricate study. Certainly not all students good in math and science do so because of music, but the studies are surprisingly weighted. It occurs to me that many of our traditional hymns follow the parts of the Bible story from start to finish: the prophets tell of His coming; He is born of a virgin, taught us how to live, died for our sins, and gave us eternal hope through His resurrection. Just the words in the two hymns “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” and “The Old Rugged Cross” cover much of the Biblical story of why (and how) Christ came and how He gives us eternal life.  My hope is that my grandchildren may have their hearts prepared for God’s message through such songs that put together all the parts of the story. 1. Richards Institute Study on Music and the Brain was done at UC Irvine and reported by Dr. Shaw in the British Journal of Music Education, July 2000. 2. Several web sites explain “The Mozart Effect”, and ongoing research project.