Does Biology Matter?

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
Rognvald
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Rognvald » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:51 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:24 pm
lucy wrote:Also, I have to say, controversial as this may sound, I've simply never come across a professional classical musician who isn't highly able, in general. I think this isn't necessarily the case for pop music, but quite often it's the case for that too. It's just classical music is complicated and it requires a certain level of mental aptitude to do it well.
Agreed. I often tell students that I’ve never met an excellent musician who’s stupid. Crazy, maybe—but not stupid.

Tom Poore
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Hi, Tom,
Since there is no danger of my family reading this response, I will tell you the following: I have a first cousin who from an early age excelled as a flutist. She was studying at Northwestern University School of Music in Junior High School playing advanced repertoire reserved for senior-level college students. There was rarely a state or national competition that she entered until her senior year of high school that she didn't win or be the runner up. She had a full scholarship offer from Northwestern to study music as well as several other prestigious music programs. After HS graduation, she "fell in love" and that was the end of her music career and advanced education. However, by most peoples standards, she was a very average person and aside from Music, she performed at a very marginal academic level in school. If you met her, it would be difficult to hold a conversation for any length of time and she was a quite boring person. However, flute in hand, she played beautifully and I don't think I ever heard her drop a note. She had a confident stage presence and played well in ensembles. She was a consummate musician. How does one explain this phenomenon? I once interviewed the great tenor saxophonist Von Freeman at the Enterprise Lounge on the South Side of Chicago back in the 70's. Von was clearly one of the great American tenor sax players then and now, after his death. I remarked to a friend of mine that I was disappointed with the interview expecting some profound gems from Von to which he angrily replied: "Musicians don't talk . . . they play." I have never forgotten those words. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Rick Beauregard » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:57 pm

I know a lot of engineers and scientists. Many are brilliant. Most are boring. There is no correlation.
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lucy
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by lucy » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:11 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:51 pm
Tom Poore wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:24 pm
lucy wrote:Also, I have to say, controversial as this may sound, I've simply never come across a professional classical musician who isn't highly able, in general. I think this isn't necessarily the case for pop music, but quite often it's the case for that too. It's just classical music is complicated and it requires a certain level of mental aptitude to do it well.
Agreed. I often tell students that I’ve never met an excellent musician who’s stupid. Crazy, maybe—but not stupid.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
USA

Hi, Tom,
Since there is no danger of my family reading this response, I will tell you the following: I have a first cousin who from an early age excelled as a flutist. She was studying at Northwestern University School of Music in Junior High School playing advanced repertoire reserved for senior-level college students. There was rarely a state or national competition that she entered until her senior year of high school that she didn't win or be the runner up. She had a full scholarship offer from Northwestern to study music as well as several other prestigious music programs. After HS graduation, she "fell in love" and that was the end of her music career and advanced education. However, by most peoples standards, she was a very average person and aside from Music, she performed at a very marginal academic level in school. If you met her, it would be difficult to hold a conversation for any length of time and she was a quite boring person. However, flute in hand, she played beautifully and I don't think I ever heard her drop a note. She had a confident stage presence and played well in ensembles. She was a consummate musician. How does one explain this phenomenon? I once interviewed the great tenor saxophonist Von Freeman at the Enterprise Lounge on the South Side of Chicago back in the 70's. Von was clearly one of the great American tenor sax players then and now, after his death. I remarked to a friend of mine that I was disappointed with the interview expecting some profound gems from Von to which he angrily replied: "Musicians don't talk . . . they play." I have never forgotten those words. Playing again . . . Rognvald
Well, like in everything, there are exceptions. Eg. Autistic people who excel in one particular area.

Academic ability isn't everything, though it's often really important, what's probably even more important to a successful career in music is "life skills". Networking, people skills, self-motivation, etc.

I mentioned I hadn't come across a single successful classical musician who wasn't highly able, in general - that ableness could be broadened out to life skills. They clearly have excellent life skills, as well as musical talent.

Of course your cousin had musical talent, but it could be argued she lacked life skills. Musical talent is not enough on its own. The type of people I was citing clearly have both.

I remember reading on a famous concert guitarist's website that it's a great mistake to rely purely on the quality of your playing to build a career in music.
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eno
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by eno » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:36 pm

lucy wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:11 pm
Academic ability isn't everything, though it's often really important, what's probably even more important to a successful career in music is "life skills". Networking, people skills, self-motivation, etc.

I mentioned I hadn't come across a single successful classical musician who wasn't highly able, in general - that ableness could be broadened out to life skills. They clearly have excellent life skills, as well as musical talent.

Of course your cousin had musical talent, but it could be argued she lacked life skills. Musical talent is not enough on its own. The type of people I was citing clearly have both.

I remember reading on a famous concert guitarist's website that it's a great mistake to rely purely on the quality of your playing to build a career in music.
May be true in general but there are always exceptions such as autistic spectrum people. Take Glenn Gould for example: an autist with severe lack of communication and "life skills", one of the most outstanding musicians of 20th century. But still autists in music are rather exceptions I think (as opposed to math for example).
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lucy
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by lucy » Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:04 pm

Eno, I think I also said this. :)
lucy wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:11 pm
Well, like in everything, there are exceptions. Eg. Autistic people who excel in one particular area.
"There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.
By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world."
Robert Louis Stevenson

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eno
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by eno » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:40 pm

D.Cass wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:22 pm
Then in rare occasions there is that one student that is willing to lock themselves in their bedroom for hours practicing. Obsessed with music from listening to playing and talking about it. An incurable since of curiosity. An unwavering drive to become better. That is what I think is talent. Not only the ability learn quickly, but an unhealthy obsession is the defining factor. These are the ones that will surpass them all. So in other words those that I see are “talented” will simply practice far more because they love of playing. Is this biological? I have no idea.
Right, and another ability that often comes along with the obsession but is actually something special is the ability to get super-focused and absorbed into music playing. When I watch great performers it often amazes me how focused and absorbed they are into every single note. The most extreme example is again Glenn Gould. Watch this:
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Shalludog » Sun Mar 17, 2019 7:02 pm

Biology is have of the 'equation'; Environment is the other half. Our genetic predispositions and the environment in which we live interact with and reinforce each other. Considering one (e.g., biology) without considering the other provides only a partial insight into why some people excel and others do not.

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RJVB
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by RJVB » Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:42 am

Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
It's difficult for me to believe that musical interpretation is biological though.
Mostly not, interpretation is the result of a long and complex procedure that involves a lot of learning. But how your interpretation works out on any given day is probably largely determined by biology.

Musicality is a different matter. In my experience and opinion it is tightly linked with propensities for learning languages but I've also never met a musician who liked to cook but wasn't good at it. Quite a bit is known about language (and speech) related neurobiology, and if memory serves me right there have been brain imaging studies using musicians as subjects as well. Of course those don't show how much of any capability is innate. That's a bit of the problem with anything related to exceptional brain function.

FWIW, certain neuronal signals are not transmitted via neuro-transmitters but via direct electric coupling of the neurones. They're not very widespread though (and I don't even remember where you find them).
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by celestemcc » Sun Jun 23, 2019 3:39 pm

I’ve never met an excellent musician who’s stupid. Crazy, maybe—but not stupid
Same here. Never once. Same is true for actors. The latter often have a reputation for being "dumb" but those are typically ones whose fame rests on a look or a persona, rather than actual skill (and then, mostly film or TV actors, rarely if ever stage actors). Any actors I've met (I'm a professional actor myself, currently not pursing it and no, you haven't seen me in anything :lol:) who are stupid simply don't stay in the business. It's too difficult ultimately. Same with musicians.

With musicians though, the intelligence doesn't necessarily rest on "schooling"; it's talent and curiosity and creativity tied up with intelligence and sure, training in some manner.
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Rognvald
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Rognvald » Sun Jun 23, 2019 4:10 pm

"With musicians though, the intelligence doesn't necessarily rest on "schooling"; it's talent and curiosity and creativity tied up with intelligence and sure, training in some manner." celestemcc


This is my belief as well, C. So often today, we confuse Art with Craft. Many people have access to the latter but very few will ever experience Art in their performing abilities. And, today, with the reality of Youtube, the airwaves are flooded with mediocre musicians with the haughty pretensions of the Artist simply based on their ability to "play the notes". How is this different from a painter who has the ability to draw representationally, organize a painting through perspective, use colors effectively but paints pictures of horses or big-eyed children? They have achieved the "Craft" but will never approach/realize "Art" since they lack intelligence and creativity as C has expressed so well above. It is my opinion that there is no amount of time, study, experience or seasoning that will make an "artist" if the seed is not present. Artist's are born . . . not made unless, of course, you prefer margarine over butter. Playing again . . . Rognvald P.S. For those who enjoy literature and are interested in the artistic experience, allow me to recommend one of the best works of fiction that describes the artistic mind--the novella "Tonio Kroger" by Thomas Mann.
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by soltirefa » Sun Jun 23, 2019 7:22 pm

I guess it depends on how you define "stupid." I have seen some stories (like on 60 Minutes) of idiot savants who are incredibly good musicians.

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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by chiral3 » Sun Jun 23, 2019 7:40 pm

Nature versus nurture - a hard problem that's been around for a long time for which advances towards any answers probably slow down proportionally to the emergence of technology and science that can provide those very answers.
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by RJVB » Sun Jun 23, 2019 9:35 pm

soltirefa wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 7:22 pm
I guess it depends on how you define "stupid." I have seen some stories (like on 60 Minutes) of idiot savants who are incredibly good musicians.
Similarly you can get a completely different idea of reputable musicians when they get invited to talk shows (or give teddy talks) to spew their opinion on the "meaning of life and everything".
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:50 pm

RJVB wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:42 am
Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
It's difficult for me to believe that musical interpretation is biological though.
FWIW, certain neuronal signals are not transmitted via neuro-transmitters but via direct electric coupling of the neurones. They're not very widespread though (and I don't even remember where you find them).
I believe that structure is called a "gap junction", and they are numerous. They are certainly in the heart and allow use of paralytic drugs (for surgeries) without stopping the heart. They also form really long chains of neurons, called "inter-neurons", that connect one brain zone to another serially.

But if you want to go down the road of neuronal development, the most over-looked neurons for music are the proprioceptors. They allow physical 3D spatial awareness. Developing them takes years. And they are essential for the fine motor movements needed to play any instrument. If someone has the biology to develop them faster and better, that could be a form of biology that does indeed affect prowess on the fretboard.
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by RJVB » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:52 pm

Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:50 pm
I believe that structure is called a "gap junction", and they are numerous. They are certainly in the heart and allow use of paralytic drugs (for surgeries) without stopping the heart. They also form really long chains of neurons, called "inter-neurons", that connect one brain zone to another serially.
You're right, I should have dusted off this very old knowledge for me. My recollection that these synapses are not so common as you'd think (given their obvious advantages in signal transduction) was clearly in error (or the Wikipedia article on gap junctions is wrong and we know that can't happen ;)).
Interneurons aren't limited to the brain though, that's a generic term for any kind of neurone that connects 2 others (or a receptor cell and a neurone). And it seems my recollection here is correct that these mostly use chemical synapses (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interneuron).
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