Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

6Nov/10

Okay, so here is the Mozart Riff, Part 1 (a take on another passage in Your Brain on Music)

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Your Brain on Music author, Daniel Levitin is a neuroscientist who has written a very interesting and thought provoking book. But I think he misses the boat entirely when he attempts to analyze musical genius/talent and comes out claiming that Mozart was really not much different than any other musician with the exception that he happened to have the greatest teacher, his father, and put in 10,000 hours of practice before the age of eight. 10,000 hours of practice, the neuroscientists have determined, is what it takes to master something.

Okay, so some of you are thinking: but, wait, Mozart was supposed to have composed a bunch of music clear back at the age of four. Legend, says Levitin. And if you listen to his early works, Levitin suggests, they weren't so great. Wouldn't they have been great from the first, if Mozart was truly a born genius?

Seems to me that Levitin may be confusing genius with the divine here. Yes, if genius were just divine intervention, Mozart's Opus 1 would have been as great as his Opus 150. But we are not talking divine intervention here, we are talking genius. Architect Frank Gehry designed a really cool innovative home to live in back in the 1980s, but his Disney Hall is a more sophisticated architectural wonder; even a genius evolves! Of course Mozart's skill improved over time! Duh.

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