“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”
Plato

Friday, November 15, 2013

Talent

    Questions about the nature of talent come up from time to time. What is it that a "talented" pianist does that makes him talented? Is it that he plays really well? He can learn a piece in a day? He can play pieces with his back turned to the piano? Does it have something to do with the arrangement of neurons in the brain?

     Well, I have no experience measuring the
response time of synapses in the brain. I'm not even sure that talent is something measurable; I'll leave that to the scientists. For practical purposes, though, there are ranges of talent. The most talented—in any field I would think—are those who can produce excellent results with a minimum of effort in the least amount of time. These folks are sometimes called prodigies. 
     When evaluating a student, I'm interested to know if he/she has perfect pitch or a "photographic" memory. These talents are not necessary for success, but can aid in developing skill. The most talented pianists tend to retain a variety of information—physical and intellectual—and are able to reproduce a performance reliably on demand. This last is what I call star quality. Having said all of this, I still believe that most "talents" can be developed over time with perseverance, including a sense of pitch, if not exactly perfect, and a reliable memory. Audiences don't care how long it takes a performer to prepare a performance; they want a memorable experience. So, if we prepare ourselves throughly, chances are good that we will give a successful performance and sound like a talented pianist. Where does teaching come into the picture? Have you ever heard someone say that if a pianist plays badly, he's had bad training? Or, if he plays well he's very talented?  The poor teacher can't seem to win. Sigh.
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