martes, 22 de marzo de 2011

Musical Talent: Innate or Learned?

Musical Talent: Innate or Learned?
Volume 3 / Issue 1 / Fall 2002

Are children born with an appreciation for music and the ability to demonstrate it? Or do they develop musical ability through early exposure and structured practice? The answer is both, according to Dianna Richardson, graduate of the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Richardson, who is an artist-in-residence at the Cleveland School of the Arts and a youth instructor at Baldwin-Wallace College, claims that many of her inner-city high school students possess “raw talent.” They have a keen ear for music, can play demonstrated or familiar pieces beautifully, have an extraordinary sense of rhythm, and are well synchronized with their peers when playing their instruments. Most of them, however, lack formal music instruction and cannot read sheet music. In contrast, Richardson’s college students, who have benefited from early structured lessons in reading and understanding music, can play most sheet music with impressive precision but are not as adept at playing together as a group.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development reports that children who are musically gifted show early developmental signs of musical precocity, which may include noticing off-key music, remembering melodies, singing in tune, fondness for playing instruments in preschool, rhythmic ways of moving and speaking, humming to themselves, tapping rhythmically while working, and sensitivity to environmental sounds (waterfalls, rain on the roof, etc.). Researchers recognize such indicators of precocious musical talent as an innate ability to identify pitch (i.e., to imitate pitch with precision), precise rhythmic ability, intense interest in a variety of music, and an ability to learn and express music through rote methods (recognition and imitation). Richardson says that such students in the inner city, where resources may not be readily available, are often identified in religious organizations, where they participate regularly in choirs and are encouraged to express themselves musically.

Although early intervention and instruction are not necessary for developing musical talent, they appear to be significant factors in determining a child’s full realization of a musical gift. Research on child prodigies indicates that exceptional musical abilities are often acquired through optimal environmental conditions. Important contributing factors include self-motivation; extensive support from family members, mentors, and teachers; appropriate resources (instruments, lessons, and exposure to musical activities); and rigorous practice. Parents can facilitate musical development in their children by recognizing how and when to encourage and reinforce skills and concepts that are already developing naturally.

Learning music is much like learning language, because there is a natural progression in development. For example, exposing children from birth to a variety of music in a broad range of tones and pitches will help them acquire the ability to distinguish differences in music, much as infants acquire the ability to distinguish their parents’ native language (dialect) from a foreign language. Then, during ages three to five, when children are developing better smooth-muscle coordination and a sense of rhythm, they should be encouraged to sing along to music and engage in rhythmic activities, such as clapping, swinging, dancing, tapping, marching, and using nonmelodic instruments (rhythm sticks, cymbals, etc.). As the ability to recognize and imitate rhythm develops, during ages four to five, children should be encouraged to accompany singing with melodic instruments (xylophone, autoharp, resonator bells, etc.). Although certain stages in child development are considered sensitive for developing specific musical and spatial abilities, no one blueprint will help your child become a master musician.

Shinichi Suzuki’s method of developing musical ability in young children calls for early education and consistent parental involvement. Outlined in Suzuki’s book Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education, trans. Waltraud Suzuki, 2d ed. (Warner Brothers, 1983), the theory behind the method prescribes a warm environment that encourages children to become happy, loving, and talented individuals.
—Julie A. Wojcik, M.Ed., NCSP

Julie A. Wojcik is a school psychologist for the Cleveland municipal school district. Her doctoral studies concern the efficacy of programs and interventions for cognitively gifted students.

Frédéric Chopin

Frédéric Chopin

Chopin at 25, by Maria Wodzińska, 1835Frédéric François Chopin (Polish: Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin;[1] 22 February or 1 March 1810[2] – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer, virtuoso pianist, and music teacher, of French–Polish parentage. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music. He is also known as "The poet of the Piano".

Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw. A renowned child-prodigy pianist and composer, he grew up in Warsaw and completed his musical education there. Following the Russian suppression of the Polish November 1830 Uprising, he settled in Paris as part of the Polish Great Emigration. He supported himself as a composer and piano teacher, giving few public performances. From 1837 to 1847 he carried on a relationship with the French woman writer George Sand. For most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39.

All of Chopin's works involve the piano. They are technically demanding but emphasize nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

A portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820Ludwig van Beethoven[1] (baptised 17 December 1770[2]–26 March 1827) was a German[3] composer and pianist. The crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.

Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in present-day Germany, Beethoven moved to Vienna in his early 20s, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. His hearing began to deteriorate in the late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.

Maria Callas

Maria Callas

Maria Callas (Greek: Μαρία Κάλλας) (December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977) was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini; further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her remarkable musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.
Born in New York City and raised by an overbearing mother, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia that left her nearly blind on stage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. She turned herself from a heavy woman into a svelte and glamorous one after a mid-career weight loss, which might have contributed to her vocal decline and the premature end of her career. The press exulted in publicizing Callas's allegedly temperamental behaviour, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi and her love affair with Aristotle Onassis. Her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press. However, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her "The Bible of opera";[1] and her influence was so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: "Nearly thirty years after her death, she's still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music's best-selling vocalists."[2]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mozart circa 1780, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (German: [ˈvɔlfɡaŋ amaˈdeus ˈmoːtsaʁt], English see fn.),[1] baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart[2] (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.
Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of Mozart's death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.
Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, of whom Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."[3]

Second Life makes classical music fans feel at home

February 28, 2009
John Terauds

More than 105,000 visitors have popped in to hear all or part of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's Second Life program.

You can hear the breeze caressing the West Coast pines and the gently rolling sea. High clouds float overhead as people gather in the amphitheatre on Music Island. It is as pretty a spot as one could ever imagine for a concert.

Three early-music specialists from Switzerland perform for an hour on recorders and flutes to an audience of listeners from Philadelphia, North Dakota, Norway, Finland, Holland, Italy, France, China, Korea – and Toronto.

Gone is the starchy, silence-is-golden ethos of classical concerts, with audience members exchanging comments and coming and going as they please. The live performance is so multicultural, so affable, because it is taking place in the virtual world known as Second Life.

Unfolding on the computer monitor and desktop speakers in Linda Rogers' downtown Toronto living room is one of many new ways in which we can experience music these days. This one, the virtual, online world, is still evolving within the limits of current technology. The network of computer servers set up by Second Life creators Linden Labs in California is overburdened, limiting the number of people who can participate. Then there are the challenges faced by musicians in translating a studio performance into a virtual public event.

Still, many people feel right at home in this new world. The more than 15 million residents of Second Life (about 70,000 are logged in on an average day, according to Linden Labs) make up a community much like the bricks-and-mortar world. There are seas and continents, settled areas and wilderness, camaraderie and consumerism. People go to escape reality, to make money and to make out (you have to be 18 or older to sign up). There are other virtual spaces on the Net, with names like Entropia Universe and Kaneva. There are worlds for gamers. Randy sorts gravitate to joints like the Red Light Center.

The virtual person, or avatar, you become when you cross the electronic threshold can be your electronic mirror image. Or it can be someone different – thinner, younger, or of the opposite sex. You can even become an animal, with diehard gamers running around as elves, gnomes and dragons.

Second Life had a moment of notoriety last November when real-life Briton Amy Taylor decided to divorce her husband David Pollard after she caught his avatar cheating with another.

Human peccadilloes date to the beginning of time, as does music. So it's no surprise that virtual worlds host multi-performer pop and rock music festivals, dance clubs, hip hop, jazz jams, country jamborees and classical concerts. Each venue in Second Life has its own name, bookings, marketing and publicity.

Likely the biggest classical organization to have a presence is the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which built an electronic replica of the city's Art Deco music palace in Second Life and hosted its first concert there in September 2007. Spokesperson Millicent Jones reports that more than 105,000 visitors have popped in to hear all or part of the program, presented in recorded video, rather than with orchestra avatars.

At the modest Music Island, Linda Rogers co-ordinates a live concert most Saturdays at 3 p.m. There is new music, piano recitals, an orchestra and experiments in the simultaneous creation of music and visual art. This afternoon's bill features "Professor Blackmountain," a synthesizer artist "who weaves a meditative spell of ambient music that will take you on an inner journey of exploration."

Rogers says she welcomes about 2,000 visitors every month to Music Island – in line with a real-world venue like the Jane Mallett Theatre. Except that you can't teleport yourself from China into the St. Lawrence Centre.

One of Music Island's regular performers is early-music specialist Thomas Coard (Thom Dowd in Second Life). He greets avatars from the stage and chats amiably between pieces.

Coard, who performed 26 virtual concerts last year, has learned to work around the medium's extra demands. They're not as simple as walking up to a microphone.

As Coard and two students played in a room in the Fribourg Conservatory earlier this month, Coard's wife and two assistants worked three computers to co-ordinate the audio, the avatars' movements, and the audience's instant messages.

The sound quality was excellent, but the herky-jerky avatars were anything but realistic. The scenery is decidedly two-dimensional – to save on computer processing loads, says Rogers.

That doesn't affect Second Life denizen Perplexity Peccable's enthusiasm. "As a single parent with a special-needs child with no car, this is the only way I can attend concerts anymore," she messaged.

"You have no idea what driving into (Philadelphia) to hear a concert is like," wrote audience member Hojo Warf from his armchair.

But people aren't just here out of convenience or economic necessity. They're seeking community. Referring to the hub of public life in ancient Athens, Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni (Benito Flores in Second Life) suggests that "Music Island is like a modern agora."

Rogers, a skeptic initially, was eventually won over. "I got into Second Life to prove I hated it," she says of the day she first signed on in 2005. "To be honest, I didn't take to it right away."

Rogers is an arts administrator (currently manager of the Toronto Philharmonia) and music fan. She is also a Quaker who enjoys helping and teaching others.

Adjacent to Music Island is a virtual Quaker meeting house that serves as a hub of creative interaction between musicians, artists, writers and their friends. Inspired, Rogers (Kate Miranda in Second Life) learned how to stream music and soon was teaching it to others. Now she spreads the musical gospel, energized by every convert.

Coard says this community is free from the cost and logistics of travel. "My goal with (Second Life) has been to create my dream musical projects and unite a few people in the world to display these projects," he writes in an email.

As in the real world, commercialism has seeped into every crevice of Second Life. You have to earn virtual money (Linden dollars) to put a virtual roof over your head. There is a donation basket on Music Island, and several avatars kindly leave some Linden dollars (the totals are posted for all to see).

"Most musicians rarely earn more than $20" in real money, says Rogers. So it's not as if anyone's getting rich doing this.

Marangoni says it's not money, but new friends that attract him to the Music Island stage. "There's a sense of intimacy with the Web. The computer world helps break the barrier to classical music," he says over the phone from his home near Milan.

Marangoni describes this medium an "interesting mode to achieve a rapprochement" between performers and audiences.

All the better if it can take place near a sun-dappled seaside.

For more information:


What are your views on virtual concerts? Have you ever seen/heard one?

What are their positive and the negative aspects?

How do you think artists feel about them?

Do you think virtual concerts may one day replace real ones?

miércoles, 16 de marzo de 2011

The Psychology of Music

The Psychology of Music
Effects on Behavior, Intelligence, Learning, Pain and Health
Feb 25, 2008 Jennifer Copley

Studies indicate that music can have profound physical and psychological effects not only on people but also on animals and plants.

Research into the effects of music on behavior, intelligence, learning, pain tolerance and health have generated a number of interesting findings. This article describes the results of some of the more intriguing experiments and studies.

Music, Mice and Madness

A student named David Merrill devised an experiment to discover how music would affect the ability of mice to learn new things. Merrill had one group of mice listen to classical music 24 hours a day and another to heavy metal music. He then timed the mice as they ran through mazes to see if the music affected their speed of learning. Unfortunately, he had to cut the first experiment short because the heavy metal mice all killed one another. In a second experiment, mice that listened to Mozart for 10 hours a day dramatically improved their maze-solving abilities, while the heavy metal mice actually became worse at solving mazes than they had been at the beginning of the experiment.

Music, Intelligence and Learning

According to the Association for Psychological Science, intelligence test scores grew higher in children who took lessons in keyboarding or singing. In another study, boys between the ages of 6 and 15 who took music lessons scored higher on tests of verbal memory than a control group of students without musical training.

Music and Pain Reduction

Researchers found that patients who listened to harp, piano, synthesizer, orchestra or slow jazz experienced less post-surgical pain than those who did not.

Music Therapy and Autism

Music therapy is particularly helpful for autistic students, who have difficulty interacting with classmates and teachers and become agitated in noisy, changeable environments. Autistic students respond very well to music therapy, which can be used to help them remain calm under stress and socialize more effectively. In addition, many autistic children have spectacular music skills.

Music and Violence

In a study of university students, participants listened to seven songs with violent lyrics, while a control group listened to seven songs without violent lyrics by the same artists. Afterwards, when asked to classify words as violent or nonviolent, those who had listened to violent lyrics were more likely to ascribe aggressive meanings to words such as “rock” and “stick.” The American Psychological Society has also published a report stating that research has definitively proved the link between youth violence and violent media, including music.

Music and Suicide

On a stranger note, sociology professor James Gundlach found higher rates of suicide among those who listen to country music. However, Gundlach notes that the suicide link occurred only with older country music, which he believes is not as upbeat as today’s.

Music and Plant Health

Experiments conducted by Dorothy Retallack to learn about music's effects on plants are described in her 1973 book The Sound of Music and Plants. Retallack played rock music (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Vanilla Fudge) for one group of plants and jazz for another. When two weeks had passed, the jazz plants were healthy and bent toward the radio. The rock music plants grew very tall and droopy, with faded blooms, and most had died within 16 days.

Retallack tried other types of music, including country, to which the plants showed no reaction, and modern (discordant) classical music, which caused the plants to bend away from the speaker. The plants seemed to “like” Bach and North Indian sitar and tabla music.

Other people have conducted similar experiments, and some claim to have achieved similar results. However, Retallack has been criticized for using unscientific methods in her experiments.

Most music studies to date have used small sample sizes and some have not controlled for confounding variables, so although these findings are compelling, more research is required. However, given that many studies have generated similar results for certain types of music, the psychology of music is certainly worthy of further exploration.

Read more at Suite101: The Psychology of Music: Effects on Behavior, Intelligence, Learning, Pain and Health




Seven Ways Music Influences Mood

Seven Ways Music Influences Mood
[Photo by MarS]
Good music has direct access to the emotions. As such it's a fantastic tool for tweaking our moods. Saarikallio and Erkkila (2007) investigated the ways people use music to control and improve their mood by interviewing eight adolescents from Finland. The participants may be a small, very specific group, but they actually present a really useful list:

Entertainment - At the most fundamental level music provides stimulation. It lifts the mood before going out, it passes the time while doing the washing up, it accompanies travelling, reading and surfing the web.

Revival - Music revitalises in the morning and calms in the evening.

Strong sensation - Music can provide deep, thrilling emotional experiences, particularly while performing.

Diversion - Music distracts the mind from unpleasant thoughts which can easily fill the silence.

Discharge - Music matching deep moods can release emotions: purging and cleansing.

Mental work - Music encourages daydreaming, sliding into old memories, exploring the past.

Solace - Shared emotion, shared experience, a connection to someone lost.
These seven strategies all aim for two goals: controlling and improving mood. One of the beauties of music is it can accomplish more than one goal at a time. Uplifting music can both divert, entertain and revive. Sad, soulful music can provide solace, encourage mental work and discharge emotions. The examples are endless.

Many of Saarikallio and Erkkila's findings chime with previous research. For example, distraction is considered one of the most effective strategies for regulating mood. Music has also been strongly connected with reflective states. These tend to allow us greater understanding of our emotions.

One of the few negative connections Saarikallio and Erkkila consider is that sad music might promote rumination. Rumination is the constant examination of emotional state which, ironically, can lead to less clarity. On the contrary, however, Saarikallio and Erkkila found that music increased the understanding of feelings, an effect not associated with rumination.

Over to you...
Perhaps the way we use music varies with factors like age and culture. Do these adolescent's experiences ring true for you? If not, what would you add to the list?