OLR Research Report

July 13, 1998 98-R-0888

FROM: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

RE: Georgia's Provision of Classical Music for Newborns

You asked for information on the recent announcement that newborns in Georgia will receive tapes and compact discs of classical music.

In January 1998, Georgia governor Zell Miller asked the legislature to appropriate $105,000 to provide every baby born in the state with a tape cassette or compact disc containing classical music. The legislature was reluctant to provide the funds, according to Megan Wyatt of the Office of Budget and Management, as many members believed it was not a good use of public funds. The appropriation was not needed, however, because the Sony Corporation, which has a major production facility in Georgia, offered to provide the recordings free of charge to hospitals throughout the state. The hospitals will distribute them to parents along with diapers, other supplies, and literature they typically send home with newborns.

Governor Miller's proposal stemmed from recent research on the relationship between music, intellect, and child development. In his budget address to the legislature, Miller mentioned a Time article that cited two studies, one that found that listening to Mozart briefly raised the intelligence quotient scores of college students, while the other found that specific spatial skills of three-year-olds benefited from keyboard music lessons. He also stated that “No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess.” But Miller did not consult the researchers on whose work he based his proposal. One of them, psychologist Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, has suggested that none of her studies show that listening casually [as opposed to taking lessons] has any effect for children. (An Education Week article on Dr. Rauscher's and others' research on music and intellect is attached.)

The recording, “Build Your Baby's Brain Through the Power of Music,” contains Mozart's “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “Spring” from Vivaldi's “Four Seasons,” two movements from Shubert's “Trout Quintet,” excerpts from a Bach air and cantata, and short works by Beethoven and Handel. An article in the Atlanta Constitution indicates that some people have criticized the selections as Eurocentric.

Sony has no plans to provide free recordings elsewhere, but copies of the Georgia recording will become available in retail stores in August. Harry Hawkins, marketing director for Sony Special Products Division (214-634-1700), states that he will be happy to work with other states to arrange for mass distributions on the Georgia model.

About 110,000 babies are born annually in Georgia; Connecticut recorded 44,455 births in 1996