Why Mozart?
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Excerpts from Why MOZART? By Alfred A. Tomatis

Excerpted, translated and annotated by Pierre Sollier, MFT—2002

Copyright © of the translation by Pierre Sollier, MFT. All rights reserved. This text may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form, without written permission of the translator.

Notice from the translator Please read this first

You will find below a few translated excerpts of Why Mozart by Alfred Tomatis (Fixot, 1991). It is a rough translation that would need quite a bit of polishing to be in a publishable form. Its goal is to give you a flavor of Tomatis’ thinking on Mozart and why he privileged the music of Mozart in the listening therapy.

Translating Why Mozart is not an easy task. The sentences are often long, and the style is at times quite wordy. Tomatis writes in a type of French that is out of fashion now. The main difficulty though rests in the fact that Tomatis often uses words that have several meanings, and that, within the same sentence, he often shifts from one to the other. For example, some words both refer to a physiological fact and to a philosophical or metaphysical consideration. A simple adjective as "essential" for instance may not mean "necessary" as we use in the common language, but may/may not refer to Tomatis’ distinction between Essence and Existence that is, yes, essential (=necessary) to understand his thinking.

I have tried my best to stay close to what I thought Tomatis meant. When I could not completely translate his thinking, I have sometimes added a few words in parenthesis. These are easy to spot since they are not in bold like all Tomatis’ quotations. Here and there, I have had to cut out a sentence or a few words, since I could not make sense of them. To add to the comprehension, I have added some personal notes based on my understanding of Tomatis’ writings but also based on my discussions with him over many years.

By Alfred A. Tomatis

Although the book focuses on Mozart, it is not limited to Mozart. In fact, Tomatis explains at length why he is using Gregorian chant as part of his therapy alongside with Mozart. He spends a great deal of time discussing the music of Bach, Haydn (which he loved), Beethoven and Salieri, a contemporary and rival of Mozart. These chapters are important because it shows why Tomatis concluded that those musicians couldn’t have the same therapeutic effect as Mozart. Although Mozart is influenced by some of the musical forms in use at the end of the 18th century, his music transcends them greatly. For Tomatis, Mozart is not a musician that belongs to a specific period or to a specific place, because Mozart is universal, that is, his music has the power to touch anyone regardless of time or place.

"His music influences everyone, everywhere. Whether in France, America, Germany, Alaska, the Amazones or among the Bantus, Mozart’s music indisputably achieves the best result."

1. Because  (From chapter 1: (Pages 11-21)

In the first chapter, Tomatis describes his vision of Mozart as "an auditory vision", based on his clinical work and his theories regarding the ear, which he compares to the "director of an orchestra"

"Thanks to the ear, man moves, reaches verticality, communicates, listens and thinks" (p.14)

Tomatis describes then how he has used sound, music—classical or modern, traditional or contemporary—for therapeutic purpose. He also used "ethnic" music from the Far East, India and Africa for the same purpose, but was led to the conclusion that Mozart was far more superior for therapeutic use.

He then describes Mozart as "endowed with a "cerebral transistor" able to capture what the creation and the environment were dictating to him" (p.16)

"He uses music (the language of music) to express himself or rather to express what he receives from somewhere else, what he perceives in the depths of his own being"

Tomatis describes the music of Mozart as "a celestial message"

"The unique phrasing of Mozart is innocent and light, rich and warm. Mozart’s musical phrases transport us and immerse us in a different state (trance-like), which is in fact our original state—a state in which this prodigious being lived in permanence"

"He was Austrian for sure, but he belonged to all times and places. He lived in the sky (heaven) on his own orbit. He never came down. He lived immersed in the memory of that immensity that eternity unveils for us sometimes to prove that it exists"

"He knew how to lead humankind to a place where only beauty, transcendence and joy of living existed"

"He knew how to lead humankind to a place which is its place of birth (choice)".

"Mozart is the freshest, the most serene, the youngest of composers"

"When we are listening to Mozart, every one of us is launched into the cosmos in order to discover one’s own orbit"

Tomatis then explains how he uses music to prime the body neurologically.

"This creates a basis, a foundation, on which language is structured"

"Music is an infrastructure for the body and the nervous system, thanks to the energy that it brings to the brain, through the stimulations perceived through the ears"

Thanks to the benefits of music, man becomes an "antenna". This is a recurring image throughout all the writings of Tomatis. It is one that is very important. First, it is important because the antenna implies verticality for optimum reception and emission (the ear-voice connection). Verticality requires a very precise positioning of the vestibule and the cochlea. This is one of the conditions for the body to become an instrument—a very important idea to which Tomatis dedicates almost an entire book in L’oreille et la voix (The ear and the voice). When the body becomes the optimal instrument that it is meant to become under the control of the ear, the whole body resonates. Sounds then contribute to "sculpt the body", that is to make it more erect, so that he can reach full verticality, which makes sounds even more energizing for the brain.

2. My encounter with Mozart From chapter 2: (Pages 23-33)

In this chapter, Tomatis explains his encounter with the music of Mozart. Instead of starting with instrumental music, he started with the Operas. More specifically the starting point was The Magic Flute, since his father Humbert Tomatis, a famous opera singer, was singing the part of Sarastro. He acknowledges that he really did not understand the symbolism of that opera, being too young to do so. He discovered the instrumental musical later and was impressed by the unity of creativity regardless of the specific time each piece was composed.

"There is in his works a sense of permanent security. There are no strange moments."

"There is in Mozart an indefinable something that makes him someone that the others are not. He has in himself, in his phrasing, in the search of his rhythms, in his sequences, both an uprightness (integrity) and a liberty that allow us to breathe, to think easily. He reveals in ourselves the musician as if we were the authors of what he writes. It seems that the musical phrases flow in ourselves in a way that could not be different"

Note: When Tomatis talks about the "musician in ourselves", he does not talk, I believe, about the fact that we could become musicians if only we were to learn to play an instrument. We just need to remember that he sees human beings are resonating beings. Through our body, we resonate to the natural rhythms of the Cosmos, captured by the nervous system (man as an antenna). Ideally the biological and neuro-physiological rhythms are attuned to and in balance with the cosmic rhythms that are beyond human auditory perception (it is not that they do not exist because they are not perceived: infra-sounds or ultra-sounds are not perceived by the human ear, but still can have an impact on us). So if the music of Mozart awakens in ourselves the musician, it is because it puts the rhythms of the cosmos and the rhythms of the body-instrument in resonance, in a state of attunement, so we can start to experience what Plato described as the music of the spheres or the music of Heaven, that is the universal harmony that is postulated by many traditional religions or spiritual practices. In this sense, Mozart is one of the Chosen ones (alongside with Socrates, Pythagoras, Einstein, according to Tomatis). His genius is to makes us aware of that universal harmony which is already in us in a latent stage. Mozart’s music acts in the same way as the chemicals used by photographers to reveal the face or the landscape already existing on the negative of the film.

That is why Tomatis writes: "He leads us to a place where we start to be"

"We constantly feel a very specific joy and a sense that we could become perfect, something we don’t encounter in other composers, even when they compose very pleasant music … Mozart caries us away to a universe that takes us away from ours … Thanks to him, we vibrate, we discover ourselves"

"He knew how to put man in musical resonance with the universe. This is the Mozart miracle: to put human beings in unison with the universal harmony"

"Mozart knew how to find or more exactly how to observe this happy balance that makes the cosmos sing and man answer, by restructuring himself at the molecular level … He knew how to adapt the eternal rhythms to our neurons"

"His life was to be in communication, I would rather say, in communion. It is in fact a communion that we are witnessing here, a fusion with the divine, an effusiveness of the divine through him"

A personal note here about Tomatis and his philosophy or rather his belief. I have often heard him say that "to exist is not to be". In other words, there is a need to discriminate between essence and existence. Essence is the ground of being, that place where, he repeats, the music of Mozart leads us. Existence, on the other hand, is the domain of the ego. The Latin prefix ex- in ex-istence means originally "out of", "far away from", "separated from". Existence is therefore being separated from the essence, our original state according to different religious and spiritual traditions from the East or West. As long as the ego asserts itself, there is no access to the state of being. In fact, I have found in my notes the following quotations from Tomatis:

"To be, one needs to forget about one’s self" and

"To be, one must be to the service of the Other".

Not only does Mozart forget himself when he composes (because he is capturing the rhythms of the universe and is in touch with the divine), but he also invites us through the listening to his music to vibrate at the same level.

3. Why the divine Mozart From Chapter 3: (Pages 35-60)

It is therefore not surprising to find in chapter 3, comments like:

"Their attitude (Socrates and Mozart’s) is not egotistic … Like Socrates, Mozart knew how to differentiate between essence and existence"

"Mozart’s universe cannot be understood by those who cannot even suspect what being is, and who cannot envision such a reality"

"Mozart is our resonator-transmitter. He puts us in resonance … He is what everyone should be, that is to be directly connected with the cosmos …

"He was not an anomaly. It is the present world that is abnormal and incredibly mediocre in preventing the blossoming of all that Mozart has to offer"

Tomatis continues by describing Mozart as an Initiate (from Latin initium = beginning), that is someone who has been introduced, has access to a level not commonly reached by others, as result of a ritual, ceremony or revelation. The Latin word carries also the idea of origin, of what is at the beginning, that is, a state of Being that we are losing as the result of existing. In Tomatis’ thinking, initiate here seems to refer to the fact that Mozart has access to that original ground of being, which he translates into music. Actually, he is listening to the music originating from that ground of being and putting it on paper. That’s why Tomatis writes:

"Intuition flows through Mozart (it is not his intuition)"

"There is no other expression than God’s praise in everything he wrote" (p.56)

Tomatis then uses a French word that has no equivalent, as far as I know, in the English language. It is the word: "ECOUTANT". Translated loosely it indicates a man or woman who is a listener. The word here has to be taken in it’s metaphysical meaning. Maybe we can say that God is the absolute "ECOUTANT" because God can hear and listen to everything simultaneously. God can encompass every single vibration, sound, etc. Filters or limitations, many of those imposed by our ego, do not hamper God’s listening. To better understand that concept, we can compare it also with the word SEER, which is to seeing what "Ecoutant" is to listening. In both cases, we are talking of an exceptional and rare gift that makes the Seer or the "Ecoutant" perceive beyond the physical and mental appearances. For Tomatis, it is clear that Mozart is a realized "Ecoutant", listening to the cosmos and to God.

Notice that the word "cosmos" should not be taken in the sense of the physical cosmos. It is a word used often by Tomatis whose last book Listening to the Universe is an attempt to describe what listening to the cosmos is all about. Maybe the following quotation of Ken Wilber in A Brief History of Everything will clarify this point:

"The Pythagoreans introduced the term "Kosmos," which we usually translate as cosmos. But the original meaning of Kosmos was the patterned nature or process of all domains of existence, from matter to mind to God, and not merely the physical universe, which is usually what both "cosmos" and universe" mean today."

"So I would like to reintroduce this term, Kosmos. And, as you point out, the Kosmos contains the cosmos (or the physiophere), the bios (or biosphere), psyche or nous (the noosphere), and Theos (the theosphere or divine domain)" (p.19)

4. The Mozart Miracle From chapter 4: (Pages 61 - 70)

For Tomatis, Mozart’s listeners are invited to

"stand on a culminating point (top), from where everything is seen, from where everything is unveiled" (p.68)…

And, if we follow him, we can start to listen to the Cosmos.

5. Mozart and rhythm From chapter 5: (Pages 71-82)

Although fairly short, this chapter is one of the most difficult chapters of the book. It starts with general considerations about the role of measure in music. As its name indicates, measure results from the breaking down of a space in discrete units of time. It is not different from daily experience. For instance, when we drive around, each mile (space) corresponds to a certain unity of time used to cover the distance. We say that we drove 60 miles an hour. Time and space are indissociable: we convert the space covered in units of time: seconds, minutes, hours, and days. It is what gives "tempo" to our lives. Likewise, music measures the acoustic dimension of sound using time values to do so (indicated by half-note, crotchet, eight note, sixteenth note). That is what gives music its tempo. The variations of tempo depend on the speed of the performance.

More generally, Tomatis asserts that the universe of objects and man, is the result of the consciousness of measurement. In others words, as long as there is no measurement, objects are not manifested as existing independently from the general background of things: they do not emerge as such. The same is true for music: "All acoustic modulation becomes music when measure (tempo) is introduced" (if not, you just have random noises or sounds). Tomatis adds that "music is the essence of language", the underlying foundation of language, as it can be deduced from the musicality of each language. "Rhythm is therefore fundamental".

However, "music in order to be listened to, needs to resonate in harmony with the "body-instrument".

Either "there is a neuro-psycho-physiological harmony" or there is not.

"To love music is in reality to be able to be fully in harmony with it, to execute it in ourselves"

In short, either a particular piece of music strikes a chord in us or does not. Tomatis thinks the cause of our attraction to or rejection of a certain piece of music has to do with our personal sensibility or our constitution/temperament. For instance, he says, a melancholic person will most likely be attracted by the music of Chopin who himself had a melancholic temperament. Both characters are in "sympathy".

"Even if someone is not a musician, she/he will always be attracted more or less by a rhythm that is physiologically in harmony with his own rhythms"

However, variations intervene "according to the humor of the moment" Thus, if we are not in tune or harmony with a specific piece of music that we usually love, it might be that our physiology is out of whack (resulting in a different mood). Another possibility is that our mood influences our physiological responses and that, for the time being, we cannot vibrate to that piece of music.

Tomatis distinguished 3 different types of musicians. It would be appropriate, I believe, to expand this thought and say that there are three types of listeners as well, corresponding to the three types of musicians. This would be in line with the thought that we tend to vibrate better to the music of musicians with whom we share the same type of constitution/ temperament.

The three types of musicians/listeners are:

The cochlear-vestibular type: emphasis is on melody

The vestibular-cochlear type: emphasis is on rhythm more than on melody.

The vestibular type: emphasis is purely on rhythm (rap would be a good example of this type)

"Even someone who has received a musical education or training will still make choices …to find the composers who awaken their physiological musical resonance"

Therefore, there exists "a common denominator, a peculiar resonance between the musician and his public, in which the rhythm has a great importance … Music invites us to adopt the same cadence that resonated in the musician while composing it, so long as it is in tune with the neuro-physiological rhythms of the listener"

"Music springs from one nervous system towards another nervous system. The first one is the emitter; the second one is the receptor."

(A few personal thoughts here, that you may not share, but this is how I react when reading Tomatis. The idea that music flows from one nervous system toward another nervous system may explain why so called "healing music" misses the mark more often than not. The composer of such music composes for a certain "average" nervous system. The listeners - or the consumers - are reduced to an "average" of what "human beings" are supposed to be. He (or she) operates under the (naïve) idea that all nervous systems work more or less in the same way and not in a unique and unpredictable way. Meanwhile he forgets that he has his own unique and unpredictable nervous system and that he is projecting it through his music, and thus projects with it, his ego, his strength and weaknesses, etc …His so-called "healing music" is HIS own understanding of healing, whatever this words means. Maybe it is an attempt to heal himself by composing the music to which he would vibrate if it were available. If there is such a thing as healing music, it is only one to one, meaning that one nervous system vibrates to another system. You cannot as a musician program a "healing response" that is equally good for every listener. That is an absurdity or an imposture. Tomatis insisted that Mozart as well as other great composers did not set out to write "healing" or "therapeutic" music. They wrote music because they could not prevent themselves from doing so. It just occurred then that their music springing from their nervous system struck a cord in the nervous system of a large group of people.)

Tomatis argues that Mozart is the musician who plays the human body best, which he compares to a "keyboard".

He then proceeds to explain that, in his opinion, "there are musical rhythms that are felt as if they are blocking the rhythms of the body, that are preventing them from beating at their own pace, and thus interfere with the (neuro-physiological) automatisms and endanger the processes of creativity." In other words, such music has no potential "therapeutic" effect, or may even have a negative effect.

The search for a rhythm that echoes our natural rhythms is thus essential. On one level, musical rhythms are the result of breaking down Time in discrete units that are measurable, but Time itself exists beyond those discrete units as an "eternal present" that we call eternity. It is from that field of eternity that originates an infinite number of rhythms corresponding to each stage of the creation. Thus, "everything is music for those who can perceive the cadences, distinguish their combinations, discover the vital rhythms in their multiplicity and transcribe them so that they become accessible."

So ideally, we need someone who acts as "a revealer" and can "awaken the fundamental rhythms existing in each of us"

In this case, the rhythm of the music and the rhythms of the body coincide. Music is not felt as imposed upon the body/mind. Cardiac and respiratory rhythms are freed. Movements are in harmony with the totality of the deeper rhythms. There is therefore a free adhesion, a spontaneous consent that can only be induced by a music that is equally "free", a music that does not try to impose its own rhythms to the detriment of the vital rhythms of human beings. When these conditions are fulfilled, "everyone vibrates in unison with his own fundamental vibrations, the ones around which every individual develops in search of his own future"

"Mozart is the only one I know who reaches that level or, more exactly, who never leaves it"

"Listening to Mozart, every man finds again the deep resonance of his soul"

"Mozart awakens the potential of his listener"

Tomatis then sets out to explain why other musicians do not produce the same impact on the listener. He successively studies in the next chapters: Beethoven (chapter 6); Bach (chapter 7); and others like Leopold Mozart, Antonio Salieri, Haydn, and Wagner (chapter 8). Chapter 9 is dedicated to Gregorian Chants.

6. Why not Beethoven? From chapter 6: (Pages 83-102)

Tomatis immediately clarifies that he is not rejecting Beethoven (nor Bach, or Haydn, etc…) as a composer. Like the other composers, he appreciates him. He does not judge him on his music but from the point of view that his music does not adapt to the "therapeutic" goal he has in mind. So this is the criterion used to judge other musicians, independently from the fact that he likes many of their works (he was a great admirer of Wagner, for instance, and even at the age of eighty, he could sing by heart many of the parts of his operas).

Tomatis then reminds the reader "that the essential goal of his technique is to modify the psychological structure in order to free it from the chains that hinder listening" (p.83)

With this in mind, he writes: "Mozart allows the listener to pass from "hearing" to "listening". Beethoven requires that we know already how to listen". Beethoven is for the music lover. Mozart leads the listener to discover music… In this sense, he transforms him into a musician, that is, someone who is able to perceive, to discover music, included the music underlying any linguistic structure. Mozart’s music invites the non-initiate to enter into an unknown sphere. It encourages the nervous system to integrate the music. In short, the listener’s ears are opened to listening and are enabled to discriminate frequencies".

Thus, clearly, Beethoven, unlike Mozart, is for the musical initiate, the person who has received a musical education that allows him/her to appreciate all the intricacies of the art of the composer. Mozart, on the other hand is the composer who can be the stepping-stone towards a more general appreciation of music. He acts as an initiator, a bridge towards the discovery and appreciation of other musicians. He does this by priming the nervous system in such a way that all parameters of any musical work can be then integrated. We do integrate in our nervous systems "the criteria that define perfection, beauty, a fundamental idea that directs our own search for the Absolute"

Tomatis then discusses the fact that works of art, regardless of their cultural influences of the time, survive only if "beauty inhabits them". Of course, those works can be ahead of their time and their beauty may be perceived only by future generations, a fate that occurred to musicians like Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, and even Mozart. Still, it is beauty that allows those works to last through centuries and cultures. For their final integration, the time factor is essential (that is true as well for the full integration of the Tomatis Method). Tomatis compares this slow process of integration to the process of sedimentation. The different sediments are made of past memories (of musical forms), recollections memorized and classified that constitute neurological records. Those archives lead to a progressive appreciation of music (or of new forms of music) since they define the value of the musical message. Progressively, new archives are embedded in our memory and stored in the cerebral cells. In fact, it is the whole body that is carried away, sensitized and impregnated by the music of our choice.

While it is easy to classify the parameters that define "great music", it is a more complex task to determine the neuro-physiological elements involved, and the resulting psychological effects. However, the latter ones are those that motivate the listener and that enable him to immerse himself into the sonic universe that, for him, is a work of quality".

"The emotional state can transform totally the perception and the receptivity. It is like a trance that modifies the memory and the qualitative discrimination. Sometimes it seems that the musical message cannot be integrated, that it does not induce the same effects as the ones felt a few hours or a few days before. Without a doubt, when there is rejection or saturation, the listener cannot enter into harmony with the musical theme being played. There is no sympathy anymore. His own rhythms are no longer in harmony with those of the composer and, thus, do not resonate"

Tomatis argues then that the fluctuations of our mood affect our appreciation of musicians like Chopin, Schumann or Wagner, but do not affect our appreciation of Mozart. "He is always listened to. Always equally perceived".

He then comes back to Beethoven and raises the question of "the ear and creativity", since Beethoven was deaf. He was not born deaf, and therefore "was able to benefit from all the mechanisms inherent in the integration of music". Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain his deafness:

Some believe he had syphilis of the labyrinth (ear) but this type of syphilis mostly affects the vestibule and rarely the cochlea, which detects and analyzes sounds.

Others hypothesize he had meningitis, otitis or a heredity illness (several members of Beethoven’s family had auditory/hearing problems).

He may have had chronic ear infections due to aberrant alimentation. Corroborative evidence of this is that he had chronic abdominal problems.

Tomatis believes in a psychological explanation.

"It is not excluded that the fragility of Beethoven’s audition could be explained by psychological mechanisms. It is today an accepted idea that audition can be widely influenced by the psyche, as more than 90% of the fibers of the auditory nerve proceeds from the brain in the direction of the ear. In other words, this means that the ear perceives only what it wants to hear. For that reason, when interpersonal relationships are characterized by unbearable, intolerable tensions, there is a way to avoid those difficult encounters. To put an end to any verbal contact, one just has to learn how not to listen …."

"There exists therefore a psychological deafness. As the saying confirms it: "There are none so deaf as those that will not hear". But this deafness can be selective. For example, a child at loggerheads with his mother, can very well free himself of his acoustical relationship with her by eliminating willingly the perception of high frequencies, the area where his mother projects her voice. Another child, in opposition with a father who treats him harshly, scares him with a very big voice and exercises over him a very restricting authority, find a refuge by suppressing the frequency band [the language/communication zone on the listening test] corresponding to his father. He may go so far as losing totally any desire to communicate with him. Unfortunately, he will lose by the same token any desire to communicate with other adults. He will have difficulties with language, writing and reading. Furthermore, as he loses faith in his father, he will lose faith in his future as well, as fathers symbolize the future. We can observe this day after day during psychological consultations, and the results are without exception the same. They reveal all the distortions that modify the communication, suppress the dialogue, and disturb the behavior".

Beethoven comes from such a disturbed background. His mother was psychologically fragile. His father was an alcoholic. Like Mozart’s father, he was a musician (a mediocre one) who forced his son to become a musician and exploited him early on as a child prodigy. He forced his son to learn the piano and required that he constantly practiced. Tomatis developed the idea that Beethoven found in Mozart "a transcendent predecessor, maybe a springboard, certainly a model and, why not, a symbolical father"…

"From now on, he will no longer be able to conceive the music without reference to this master, the one he met through playing the piano"…

"Indeed, Mozart was freeing him from the constraints that encircled him and confined him to a narrow, withdrawn universe, very much like a concentration camp. Through Mozart, he became imbued with a joy of living that took him away from that universe…He identified himself with this happy child (Mozart)…He played neurologically and psychologically a Mozart personage. Thanks to Mozart, he had achieved a surprising recovery".

His music, though, will not be a copy of Mozart’s music. Beethoven will be right away fiery and personal. He always will be on a quest. He will be the man who tries to surpass himself. He will attempt to escape his family dynamics, and, as we have seen, he was helped to overcome his real difficulties at the beginning thanks to the sovereign effect of Mozart’s music. But he will project his constant struggle at all the levels of his social integration. His music will always be a transcription of that struggle. He will be artistically a rebellious titan".

One event according to Tomatis will mark definitively the development of Beethoven’s career. Beethoven wanted to meet his master, Mozart. He was received for a few minutes. Mozart accepted to listen to him play the piano, made some unremarkable comments and left. It was for the sixteen year-old Beethoven a great deception. But he was stubborn. "He wished to have a direct contact with this adoptive father, this substitute father, which allowed him to reestablish a symbolical image that was, if not shattered. At least quite damaged… Like many others, Beethoven had not understood that the real language of Mozart was his music".

Mozart did not show up for their second appointment. "Having lost the image that could have helped him to project himself in the future (that is the image of Mozart as substitute father), he must have felt the terrible weight of a definitive abandonment. Still, he fights… To avoid suffering, he only had one choice: to escape into his creativity…. Like Mozart, he was able to immerse himself into composing and found the paths of evasion towards life… Beethoven had to change to survive, to surpass himself, to go beyond his own possibilities but also to discover himself … This sharp turn, as dramatic as it was, probably allowed Ludwig to become the Beethoven that we know: the innovator, the giant of orchestration that we rediscover constantly when we listen to his music".

"How Beethoven could become Beethoven? How did he escape Mozart’s influence? How did he succeed to elude that hold that was so passionately part of himself, of his nervous system, of his soul? He needed to change. But how? He could not forget Mozart … Still that event took place. It occurred in spite of himself, requiring from him a phenomenal energy …"

Tomatis then quotes a letter from Beethoven written to his brothers at age thirty-two, in which he announced that he has been deaf since he was twenty-six. That disease forced him to withdraw from society. "How could I have acknowledged the weakness of a sense that should have been more perfect than in anyone else, a sense that I possessed in its greatest perfection—a perfection that very few musicians have enjoyed" (Beethoven).

For Tomatis, it is clear that Beethoven’s deafness did not occur overnight. It started earlier and reached its final phase at age 26. Going deaf was the "solution" to the split that Beethoven was living: on one hand, he could not continue to "be" a clone of Mozart: on the other hand, he had the urge to express himself through music, and needed to free himself from that influence to find his own musical language.

"The most secure way to move away from the influence of Mozart’s image, without damaging his creativity, was to stop listening to it, to stop perceiving it. We can assume that it was not easy. He had to conceive his own style and preserve it by trying not to follow blindly the neuronal conditioning that he had so powerfully integrated, to the point of wishing to be Mozart while he was a child prodigy."

"Stopping to listening to Mozart was a quick way to free oneself from his influence, but such a challenge could be very painfull. Beethoven, in this venture, could have totally lost the discrimination of pitch that allowed him to analyze so subtly the colors of the sounds."

Tomatis then describes the parameters of the musical ear (corresponding to the ideal listening curve). As we know it, it must be an ascending curve to correctly and easily analyze sounds. But, adds Tomatis, sometimes the curve can be a descending. In that case the slope must be as steep as the ascending curve, so as to analyze the sounds correctly. This is a totally different way to perceive sounds (or music) since the ear is used differently.

"If the curve is ascending, the high frequencies give to the sound a very particular brightness of tone; if the low frequencies are dominant, they induce an alteration of the envelope curve of the sonic spectrum.

"It is not all. The neuro-physiological reactions are necessarily different, and, of course, the neuronal responses are immediately influenced. There is a total reorganization of the processes of musical integration. Perceptions being different, responses are equally different. When one knows that the auditory apparatus captures the frequency information and projects it throughout the entire body, it is easy to understand that the sensory-motor counter-reactions are also modified and that the behavioral attitude changes appreciably.

"For example, an ascending curve will favor a type of listening focusing on the detection of high frequency sounds, which induces as a result a verticality of the spinal column with maximum reduction (obliteration) of its curve at the level of the cervical and lumbar vertebra. On the other hand, a descending curve will bring about a rounded back, with a deviation (kyphosis) in the top part that makes the head and the nape bend forward. It is precisely the case of Beethoven, who progressively takes a crouching aspect, the attitude of a withdrawn fighter… Through the powerful movement of his compositions, he tries to break through the barriers of the silence that encircle him tightly and overcome him. He fights against fate, against God who seems to abandon him".

A few additional and personal notes here seem appropriate. In this chapter, it seems that Tomatis does not conclude his parallel between Mozart and Beethoven. The conclusion is implicit. I will try to spell it out as clearly as possible.

Although there are some similarities between Mozart and Beethoven (a father who is a musician, both Mozart and Beethoven being child prodigies), those similarities are superficial. The family dynamic in both cases is at odds and influences their musical development differently. Furthermore, Beethoven’s progressive deafness will contribute to a different temperament and also to a different type of "Listening filter" that explains some of the characteristics of his music. Furthermore, that deafness according to Tomatis’ thesis is the result of Beethoven’s rejection by Mozart. In other words, Beethoven tried to cut out the music of his master, even though he had totally integrated it, not only in his mind but also in his nervous system, all the way down to the cellular level.

What appears clearly in this chapter is that Tomatis considers Mozart as an initiator, someone who can initiate others to the world of music and beyond that to the Transcendental World existing beyond the worldly appearances. Mozart’s music transposes and reflects that transcendental world and its rhythms (it is said that Mozart was able to write entire orchestral compositions just as they came to him). For Tomatis, it is clear that Mozart’s music is apt to prime the nervous system in such a way that the appreciation of music of other composers can then be developed. Beethoven cannot have played that role since his music bears witness of his own colossal fight against the odds. If we can say, metaphorically, that Mozart is already in Heaven when he composes, Beethoven is trying to get there and has had only glimpses of it, because his personal dynamics interfered with the field of listening. That is why, in last resort, his music is not elected by Tomatis. It does not mean, on the other hand, that Beethoven is not a great composer, but his music is not as well suited for our purposes.

7. Why not Bach? Chapter 7: (Pages 103-114)

"Bach can certainly be appreciated by a great numbers of music lovers, often even by a caste of connoisseurs able to estimate him and consider him rightly so as having reached the summit. It is true that he reached such levels and that he carries away the listener in his ascension, but he requires a preliminary condition: that the listener knows already his mode of expression or, better said, his musical coding. His composition is architectural."

"He creates without being a poet, and his poetry has the appearance of a structure stamped with formal logic. In doing so, he combines discovery and strictness. He establishes and strengthens rules (of composition). He was the only one who was able to sustain with an incomparable energy the intricacies of a contrapunctal architecture. The technical expertise that was unknown before him, allowed him to develop and expand his talent to the point of extreme virtuosity."

"Listening to Bach requires from the listener who pretends to enter into his musical sanctuary, to follow first a long and particular path. He needs to know the keys and how to open the doors to enjoy fully the luminous and lively landscape that Bach makes us discover. This genial musician is within the reach of all those who decide to study a quite specific musical code. In other words, there is an almost obligatory selection. Even more important is that those who take that step, need to have a sufficient musical luggage, which is the real passport that gives them the right to enter in the sacred temple. Furthermore, they will need to have some indispensable qualities that we can best described as behavioral …. By this, I want to say that, in order to fully comprehend Bach, it seems to me indispensable to look like him in some way or another …. He puts in unison tempers identical to his".

"J-S Bach does not provide us with the same comparable outcome that Mozart brings about all the time … The musicians are quite different."

Bach is a born composer that shapes all the elements brought by his inspiration in a quasi-mathematical form …. Mozart escapes the rigidity of any dogmatic structure. He allows the inspiration to flow through him in its purest form … He is always a child that benefits of what he finds and perceives. He translates everything that goes through him and integrates it into a unique language. He won’t have to learn, like Bach, the rules of composition. He behaves like a child who does not care for grammar before he starts to talk. In spite of himself he will become the natural receptacle of the harmony that results from the dialogue that he maintains permanently with the creation … The young Mozart took remarkably advantage of the desire to listen. It is this desire that allows every child to take a run towards his own future (development) …. Bach provides us with a fantastic ladder to reach the heights; Mozart is literally parachuted from above. The work of Bach is the perfect model of a composition built by a human being. It is very difficult to hope for better music in terms of the architectural construction of the sonic cathedrals that he designed. He carried on this task with an extraordinary diligence and stubbornness, knowing how to shape the music to a point of perfection. Mozart, on the other hand, is totally different."

"Mozart is a child genius with all the corresponding characteristics: a spontaneous open-mindedness to the world deprived of any educational prejudices, a sense of harmony with it, a psychological attitude undisturbed by problematic parental relationships, a soul freed from the usual constraints and immediately at peace, happy to discover the world. This gives us a glimpse into the universe of Great men and even beyond that. This universe, though, should not be confused with a naïve approach to life, as too many do when talking about Mozart."

"It is true that he is out of reach of our adult mentalities, because we are far removed from our origins and are buried under the pile of memories that need to be forgotten. But don’t those memories serve to bury our initial desire to literally snatch the future? Unfortunately, for many, adulthood only means exceeding childhood, or even cutting the ties with a past that is defined as infantile. In reality, such an attitude is childish, but it changes the direction of the psychology (of a person) and makes it veer off from his original vocation, pushing the individual into a path that he believes will brings about his self-realization. (That is totally illusory. In fact, one commits a real crime by forbidding access to the authentic memory, which longs to be reawakened)."

"Reaching a state of plenitude does not consist of persevering to make the initial transparency of the developing soul progressively more opaque, nor to smother the many aspirations it has. From the start our whole being is permeated with all the essential capabilities to be used right away to flourish in the immense territory that surrounds him. It is this primary and infinite space (or dimension) that needs to be preserved and explored, instead of being suppressed with rage, under the pretense to achieve superior levels. But education, as it is conceived today, is leading us ineluctably towards those levels well known by many of us. For sure, with God’s help, human nature is so rich in its resources that many can re-emerge, however, for most of them not without pain. In fact, in the deepest recesses of their ontological consciousness, an echo resonates that reminds them of their desire to integrate the universe in its totality, without a priori, without erroneous judgments, without distortions. After all, can’t we see the world in its entirety through the eyes of a child?" (Comment: "the eyes of a child" is not a totally accurate translation. Tomatis here talks about the way the child looks in an innocent way at the world. Prejudices, filters, ready-made thinking, and education, have not yet distorted the child into an adult. If we remember that Einstein was often compared to a child, we may understand better the following sentence:) "With which eyes has Einstein listened to the cosmos and with which ears has Mozart been able to perceive it?"

In the last part of the chapter, Tomatis goes back to Bach emphasizing, "Jean-Sebastian Bach, as for him, is the perfect model of a human genius … But it is necessary to have already some musical background to comprehend him and follow him…or it is just necessary to respond to his rhythms and tempo as if we were already attuned to them by our temperament. If I try to explain this in neuro-physiological terms, I need to say that the mechanisms at work in each of those geniuses are radically different: Bach is more vestibular than cochlear while Mozart is fundamentally more cochlear than vestibular."

As regards to Bach, He leads us into an admirable and monumental construction. We are swept along by his rhythms, his cadences. Either we obey exactly to his frequency criteria, or we are forced to surrender ourselves to them. In the second case, the acquiescence is a real surrender. It corresponds to a desire to cooperate for a while, but as it does not fit our primordial neuronal coding, it is a not natural to do so … The spontaneous acquiescence to Bach’s use of rhythms requires that there is a similar resonance in the body of the listener."

8. And why not the others?

Not excerpted / translated

9. Why Gregorian chant? Chapter 9: (Pages 125-138)

"Except Mozart, there are few musical works that have such a deep and radical repercussion on human beings as Gregorian chant."

"Does it put the listener in a trance-like state? Absolutely not. It would be belittling it if we were going to reduce it to a simple musical expression. Gregorian chant works on a different level. That is why analyzing it using the usual criteria is unlikely to succeed. That is also why it would be exaggerated to pretend using it for a curative end."

"In actual fact, Gregorian chant does not cure, it saves. I certainly have to explain this affirmation. It is possible to treat someone using various therapeutic means but, on the other hand, to save someone requires the help of an inspiration directly inspired by the creation. Gregorian chant belongs to this second process, and whoever devotes himself to it, immediately finds himself operating at a different level. His soul recovers immediately his essential vibration, his essential rhythms: those belonging to an original state that existed prior to the learning requirements imposed by culture and society."

"For that reason, Gregorian chant awakes man to his true dimensions. But what are those "true dimensions"? Are they only the end result of a lyrical imagination? And what is man? For me, he is the receptive antenna of a creation by which he is constantly challenged. He is an ear in search of everything that can be perceived, from the audible to the imperceptible. Being a listening ear seems to me the outcome of human development. It is not a question of letting oneself be flooded in a passive way but rather to learn how to decipher the universe as it evolves. To be human not only means to cooperate with that fabulous evolution, but also to take an active part in the accomplishment of a movement, which receives its impulse from an irresistible purpose. After all, isn’t the whole of humanity invited to join that cosmic movement that the Creator made to germinate in us since the beginning, so that each of us could contribute to its accomplishment?"

"Unfortunately, man excludes himself too often from his own transcendence and immerses himself in an immeasurable materialism. How can he be in harmony then with the universe that calls for him? How can he find again his fundamental harmonic state? The answer, if there is one, is probably physiological."

"It seems that there is only balance within (in the bosom of) the universe. To get attuned to it leads to certain plenitude, a real serenity. That is what we call "harmony" in its stronger sense. It is in this perspective that the sympathetic system is set in harmony with the frequencies of the universe. (Note: Tomatis uses the French word "syntonie", which we can define as the state of two systems that can receive and emit radio-electric waves that have the same frequency). Now Gregorian chant is the most refined means to urge the body to vibrate under the impact of the soul’s own vibrations (resonance). Of course, I am here considering the primary vibrations those that have not been affected by any type of distortion leading to so-called "states of mind" or "moods". These can only obscure, or even conceal the spontaneous movements of the spirit."

"That state of balance surprises us constantly by its unrivalled simplicity because it vibrates in sync with the fundamental rhythms that obey the cosmic laws. Nothing is simpler than naturalness, but nothing seems more difficult to define …. We are confronted with a naturalness that rejects and excludes any inopportune affectation. Moreover, naturalness cannot be feigned, it can only be reached by surrendering fully. In an identical perspective, we can say that in order to sing and understand Gregorian chant, it is better not to exist but to be. This means that we need to learn to let surface in ourselves that quality of being (that is latent in ourselves), that we need to apply ourselves to become that life force …"

"Gregorian chant allows us to perceive this vibration of the soul when it reaches the register of serenity. Then, man is involved in a timeless communication and regains his natural breathing, that is, unstressed and without gasping. Through the Gregorian modulations, he encounters reality, which is the true path towards realization. He discovers a privileged space that induces him to join again the spheres where his being momentarily can rest, far from the trials and tribulations of life on earth."

"To tell the truth, Gregorian chant gives a glimpse of paradise, to those who wish it … Man is reintegrated into the creation and sings the glory of the Creator. From that moment on, some physiological processes are progressively set in movement to induce that particular state."

"Gregorian chant is song, and singing provides the nervous system with an important level of stimulation … But, of course, it does only apply to people who know how to sing. It is a necessary condition. In fact, if the body instrument is misused because of an inadequate vocal technique, there is little chance that the cortex can be energized. Additionally, it is likely that serious damage may result …."

"It is well known that I believe that the ear regulates and controls everything. All music goes through the ear, and Gregorian chant, that supernatural music, is no exception. … Gregorian chant organizes the ear (better than other music) in such a way that it can use fully all its functions"

"The effect of cortical charge is specially needed when one wishes to bury oneself into prayer. In fact, few activities require so much cerebral energy. Every monk knows how difficult it is to pray without being distracted by some idea or by some recollection… And we know how much recollections (in French: Souvenirs) can erase memory: I mean by this that the essential, profound, ontological memory that reveals the presence of the divine in any vibration of our being. But we have to be freed from the usual attitudes to be led into those secret and far-away regions. Gregorian chant precisely is made to carry us to those regions mysteriously buried and so difficult to reach."

"The memory of eternity lives in the heart of man, sings the psalmist. He knows that he is dependent on a God who does not abandon him and who waits for him from time immemorial, with patience as big as is his mercy. From that perspective, Gregorian chant is able to activate that memory and to actualize it so that the wish to be closer to God becomes the primary focus of whoever is looking for God. It is the surest means to lead man on the path of eternity. It is the pearl of asceticism: a word I use here to indicate a necessary change of habits. Singing Gregorian chant leads us to rediscover the origin of those first modulations characteristic of our physiological rhythms. It also leads us to loose the cultural veneer that is forced on us by daily life."

"As we have seen, singing requires excellent listening skills, or to say it better, an exceptional (listening) self-control. These requirements are even more stringent for Gregorian chant ... The ear must therefore be able to listen perfectly to sing Gregorian chants well. Gregorian chant can only take off and be sustained permanently if the ear is trying to listen to the essence of our being (Being). As a matter of fact, the permanency of some pieces, their diversity and their beauty belong to this unchanging treasure of human nature searching for a "holiness" devoided of any worry."

"Therefore the ear is predominantly involved in that system of self-control. It stands at the top of the pyramid to ensure the fundamental functions of listening, cortical charge, balance and postural straightness. In return, singing needs to respond to well defined characteristics, so that the (feedback) loop can close."

"Are all Gregorian melodies apt to be used in this sort of educational, if not "initiatory" process? For decades now, we have selected the Gregorian chant from Solesmes, since its perfection provides beneficial effects that are absolutely remarkable. When we are using Gregorian chant from another origin, they do not have the same beneficial impact "

"For the masters of Solesmes, Gregorian chant is the very expression of the movements of the soul. It is sustained and controlled permanently by a specific attitude. In fact, every cadence, every rhythm is the translation of a response corresponding to the capabilities of the entire nervous. A chant of such quality can only translate … the physiological rhythms that sustain life. But those are not always perceived and are often disturbed by emotional factors. For instance, changes in the way we breathe have an immediate effect on the cardiac rhythm, just to mention two of the major rhythms that depend on many factors and easily lose their own quiet cadence. Normally, the inhalation and expiration proceed in a slow, full, regular alternation. On the other hand, under stress, for example, the breathing becomes panting, and the diastole-systole cardiac cycle loses its regular ticking … This type of irregularity rapidly changes the functional balance of the body and cause important neuro-physiological repercussion."

"It is obvious that any calming down, any contemplation in order to reach a state of serenity, leads to the reappearance of the primary fundamental rhythms. And the rhythmic support of the Gregorian chant is to be found in the combination of the different physiological rhythms. Certainly, the structure of a piece of Gregorian chant shows an "intellectual" structure, but the word "intellect" here warrants a particular study. (…) In any case, this type of intellect is stripped of any rationalization. It is no more than a natural logic: the logic of the Logos. (…) Here too, it is important to remember a fundamental process, that is, the process of the "inter-logos" or "intelligence" that allows the true overlap of the body rhythms with the respiratory rhythms of the universe. Everything is arsis (the unaccented part of a measure) and thesis (accented section of a measure) as soon as there is a movement at the cosmic scale. Permanently renewed, those rhythms may appear at first identical, but are different in their specific actions."

In the following paragraph, Tomatis evokes the work done in Solesmes to go back to the original Chant. Then he continues:

"In my opinion, the Gregorian pieces are the translation of a response of the whole autonomic and neuro-vegetative neuronal system to an intention that uses a basic structure universally felt in the depths of the human nature" (note: the word intention that I used here seems to refer to the intention of finding God who, to quote an earlier comment from Tomatis, is waiting to be discovered in us). "It then follows that the goal is to transmit to others those modulations, so that an identical series of ideas appear in all those who are listening to them, while they are at the same time sharing the same neuro-physiological responses that have led to the emergence of those ideas."

"With the passing of the centuries, the Gregorian pieces have reached a perfection that is difficult to surpass. Obviously, there are here and there some variations due to the temperament of the composer or the requirement of the liturgy at a certain period. But regardless of those variations, the Gregorian pieces are universal in their musical and vibratory content."

"As a result, that musical architecture withstands the centuries. Diverse influences have led to new variations under the weight of the culture, the ethnic group, the liturgical habits of the country where Chant is practiced, but the basic structures have stayed untouched. The fact that it was in disuse for some time has not deprived it from his true dimension, the one of "sacred" sound or "perfect" sound. This perfection, as we remember, implies that all physiological rhythms are set in motion. Those are observed first of all in the respiration characterized by the alternation of inspiration / expiration. Under the influence of the Gregorian chant, a peaceful respiration spontaneously appears. The ebb and flow of the breath is large and without any difficulty that could hinder it. It is that ebb and flow of the respiration that constitutes the rhythm of the musical phrasing. Superimposed on the harmonious backward and forward motion of the breath, a second rhythm appears underneath, that corresponds to the cadence of the heart. The regularity of the diastole-systole sequence marks the tempo of that rhythm and its duration according to the speed of the respiratory flow. It is a rule. There are a few exceptions, of course, but nevertheless, it can be said that the more the respiration is large, easy and peaceful, the more the cardiac rhythm gets into step with the rhythms of the Gregorian phrasing. Besides the correspondence between inspiration-expiration and diastole-systole, there are other rhythms to consider, such as the cerebral rhythms and the rhythms of the body language."

"And so, the Gregorian phrasing has a quiet, unstressed respiration in harmony with the cardiac rhythm that marks the time. But it is a time free and void of constraints, playing and juggling with the expression and the manifestations of the vital rhythms."

"All those underlying rhythms added to a well-controlled listening result in specific body attitudes that are characteristic of Gregorian chant. We know that listening requires an active, voluntary and vigilant attitude. As a result of it, consciousness is expanded. In fact, it is not exaggerated to say that listening is the opening through which consciousness is reached. It is not exaggerated either to affirm that consciousness enters in us by way of listening."

"Furthermore, it is not difficult to understand the mechanisms of those body reactions if we remember that we can find within the internal ear some specific parts, called "vestibular" parts, whose role is to control the body postures. In fact, in order to be reproduced and controlled, Gregorian chant requires verticality. Those who sing are perfectly erect (upright). In this position of true elongation, the vocal emission takes immediately a specific color that is in fact quite characteristic of the "bony voice". This one has a rich timber, is surprisingly light and endowed with a versatility that can only be compared with the softness of emission. By this process, one achieves maximum vocal production, while the effort to produce the bony sound is quite minimal."

"That bony sound is produced without any muscular tension, just playing on the normal relations of tension of the antagonists, that is, the flexor and extensor muscles of the entire body. It creates an impression of great relaxation. That dynamic relaxation that so many people are looking for goes hand in hand with the type of respiration described above, which also brings about a peaceful cardiac rhythm. And so, thanks to that posture and to that type of vocal emission, the resonance of the voice is amplified while the muscles relax and psychological stress fades away."

"Certainly, Gregorian chant represents finest music ever written in the course of time, music that finds a balance between the body and the spirit. Only our Being (that is our essence) sings, and the body is the instrument allowing it to reach that performance. Gregorian chant is the (musical) mode that is the least overburdened with doubts and moods that alter the transparency of man. It is the deeper physiological response of a body that is freed from of any daily concerns. It helps to rediscover those privileged moments when our essential Being is singing. It is a permanent prayer. Of all the sacred songs, it is the one most deprived of any bodily expression, since it does not make any reference to the feelings that occur in life. It modulates on an unusual octave in which our essential Being is face to face with its own incarnated reality. It is directly plugged into the creation, face to his Creator, of whom it sings praises."

"Gregorian chant stays that celestial song and dance closely linked to listening, and to listening to the Most High. Mozart too leads us towards that same ultimate point ... His child’s heart vibrated with a fast and lively rhythm, quite different from the rhythm of Gregorian chant. We could even say, using a somewhat concise conclusion to this chapter, that the Chant of Solesmes is rhythmically Mozart’s rhythm divided by two."

"In fact, Mozart was not insensitive to this timeless music that seems to carry to us the quiet modulations of eternity. He did say at the end of his life that he would have gladly renounced to his entire work for the joy of composing the introit of the Mass of the Dead. This confession is extraordinarily humble, but it would have been a great loss for humanity if it had been carried out. Mozart discovered in Gregorian chant the plenitude of the adult man, who fully accomplishes reaching the Heavens, and we only need his music to reach it too."

Spectral Analysis Page 181 - 193

The rest of Tomatis’ book explains in a somewhat simplified version the therapy he uses to improve listening. Here he calls it "MOZARTHERAPY". Since most of those who are reading this document are Tomatis’ practitioners, I have not translated that part. Still I hope that all the excerpts translated here for the first time will have provided you with quite a bit of information to chew on.

In an appendix (Pages 181-193) Tomatis presents the spectral analysis of different pieces of music by composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. His conclusion is that the tempo is quite different in all those musicians.

For instance, the vertical lines on the spectrogram representing the difference of time between two notes or two chords are respectively of: 


·         0.5 seconds for Mozart

o   A space of 0.5 second gives 2 seconds for each bar, that is, 120 crotchets per minute, therefore a tempo of 120 for the speed of execution.


·         0.8 second for Beethoven.


·         0.4 second for Haydn.


·         Gregorian chant:

o   The basic rhythm is slow and quiet. The "peaks" occur at regular intervals, every 4 seconds, but "pulsations" occur within those intervals every second, in short there are 60 pulsations per minute (versus 120 for Mozart which leads Tomatis to write: Mozart divided by two).

Pierre Sollier, MFT

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