Friday, October 25, 2013
Monday, October 14, 2013
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Sunday, October 13, 2013
By JOANNE LIPMAN
Published: In The New York Times on October 12, 2013
CONDOLEEZZA RICE trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.
Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?
The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.
The phenomenon extends beyond the math-music association. Strikingly, many high achievers told me music opened up the pathways to creative thinking. And their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously.
Will your school music program turn your kid into a Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (guitar)? Or a Woody Allen (clarinet)? Probably not. These are singular achievers. But the way these and other visionaries I spoke to process music is intriguing. As is the way many of them apply music’s lessons of focus and discipline into new ways of thinking and communicating — even problem solving.
Look carefully and you’ll find musicians at the top of almost any industry. Woody Allen performs weekly with a jazz band. The television broadcaster Paula Zahn (cello) and the NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd (French horn) attended college on music scholarships; NBC’s Andrea Mitchell trained to become a professional violinist. Both Microsoft’s Mr. Allen and the venture capitalist Roger McNamee have rock bands. Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist and son of a pianist. The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall.
“It’s not a coincidence,” says Mr. Greenspan, who gave up jazz clarinet but still dabbles at the baby grand in his living room. “I can tell you as a statistician, the probability that that is mere chance is extremely small.” The cautious former Fed chief adds, “That’s all that you can judge about the facts. The crucial question is: why does that connection exist?”
Paul Allen offers an answer. He says music “reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.” Mr. Allen began playing the violin at age 7 and switched to the guitar as a teenager. Even in the early days of Microsoft, he would pick up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. The music was the emotional analog to his day job, with each channeling a different type of creative impulse. In both, he says, “something is pushing you to look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way.”
Mr. Todd says there is a connection between years of practice and competition and what he calls the “drive for perfection.” The veteran advertising executive Steve Hayden credits his background as a cellist for his most famous work, the Apple “1984” commercial depicting rebellion against a dictator. “I was thinking of Stravinsky when I came up with that idea,” he says. He adds that his cello performance background helps him work collaboratively: “Ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to play well with others, to know when to solo and when to follow.”
For many of the high achievers I spoke with, music functions as a “hidden language,” as Mr. Wolfensohn calls it, one that enhances the ability to connect disparate or even contradictory ideas. When he ran the World Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn traveled to more than 100 countries, often taking in local performances (and occasionally joining in on a borrowed cello), which helped him understand “the culture of people, as distinct from their balance sheet.”
It’s in that context that the much-discussed connection between math and music resonates most. Both are at heart modes of expression. Bruce Kovner, the founder of the hedge fund Caxton Associates and chairman of the board of Juilliard, says he sees similarities between his piano playing and investing strategy; as he says, both “relate to pattern recognition, and some people extend these paradigms across different senses.”
Mr. Kovner and the concert pianist Robert Taub both describe a sort of synesthesia — they perceive patterns in a three-dimensional way. Mr. Taub, who gained fame for his Beethoven recordings and has since founded a music software company, MuseAmi, says that when he performs, he can “visualize all of the notes and their interrelationships,” a skill that translates intellectually into making “multiple connections in multiple spheres.”
For others I spoke to, their passion for music is more notable than their talent. Woody Allen told me bluntly, “I’m not an accomplished musician. I get total traction from the fact that I’m in movies.”
Mr. Allen sees music as a diversion, unconnected to his day job. He likens himself to “a weekend tennis player who comes in once a week to play. I don’t have a particularly good ear at all or a particularly good sense of timing. In comedy, I’ve got a good instinct for rhythm. In music, I don’t, really.”
Still, he practices the clarinet at least half an hour every day, because wind players will lose their embouchure (mouth position) if they don’t: “If you want to play at all you have to practice. I have to practice every single day to be as bad as I am.” He performs regularly, even touring internationally with his New Orleans jazz band. “I never thought I would be playing in concert halls of the world to 5,000, 6,000 people,” he says. “I will say, quite unexpectedly, it enriched my life tremendously.”
Music provides balance, explains Mr. Wolfensohn, who began cello lessons as an adult. “You aren’t trying to win any races or be the leader of this or the leader of that. You’re enjoying it because of the satisfaction and joy you get out of music, which is totally unrelated to your professional status.”
For Roger McNamee, whose Elevation Partners is perhaps best known for its early investment in Facebook, “music and technology have converged,” he says. He became expert on Facebook by using it to promote his band, Moonalice, and now is focusing on video by live-streaming its concerts. He says musicians and top professionals share “the almost desperate need to dive deep.” This capacity to obsess seems to unite top performers in music and other fields.
Ms. Zahn remembers spending up to four hours a day “holed up in cramped practice rooms trying to master a phrase” on her cello. Mr. Todd, now 41, recounted in detail the solo audition at age 17 when he got the second-highest mark rather than the highest mark — though he still was principal horn in Florida’s All-State Orchestra.
“I’ve always believed the reason I’ve gotten ahead is by outworking other people,” he says. It’s a skill learned by “playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time,” and it translates into “working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking.” He adds, “There’s nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results.”
That’s an observation worth remembering at a time when music as a serious pursuit — and music education — is in decline in this country.
Consider the qualities these high achievers say music has sharpened: collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas. All are qualities notably absent from public life. Music may not make you a genius, or rich, or even a better person. But it helps train you to think differently, to process different points of view — and most important, to take pleasure in listening.
Joanne Lipman is a co-author, with Melanie Kupchynsky, of the book “Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations.”
A version of this op-ed appears in print on October 13, 2013, on page SR9 of The New York Times of the New York edition with the headline: Is Music the Key to Success?.
at 7:08 AM
Thursday, October 10, 2013
October 5, 3013 by ChristyK of the blog Christy’s House full of Chaos:
Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton was sent to me to review a while ago, and my eight year old stole it, read it and hid it on me. Thankfully it has resurfaced and I can do my long-since overdue review.
10. Piano practice is more fun if you pretend that you have to turn evil monsters into harmless pets by resolving the scales.
9. You’ve memorized The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and you want another story about children being called into a magical land to save it.
8. The book explains what a glass harmonica is, something I’ve been curious about since listening to a particular version of the Carnival of the Animals which acknowledged a section that was meant to be played on a glass harmonica being played on a gluckenspiele instead.
7. You need some new creative names for foods, like Bellini Bread or Rossini Rolls.
6. Reading Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton can be a balance reminding us of the importance of music, when we otherwise read way too many novels about math and science.
5. The abundant references to musical concepts, to composers and songs can help normalize the importance of musical knowledge. It encourages a child to say “I’ve heard of that!” It raises the bar for what is seen as normal everyday knowledge.
4 . The book contains a glossary of music terms a child can refer back to.
3. The book provides positive role models. The children within it are struggling with different challenges – wanting to figure out who they are, and what they want in life. They deal with both guilt and forgiveness.
2. The book reinforces the idea of practice, that it takes time and energy to improve one’s skills at an instrument, but at the same time that music is not just about developing technical skill and bored routine.
1.Most importantly: the book is fun. It is well written, reasonably fast paced and has a bit of a surprise at the ending.
The book mentions many different songs, most of which one could find samples of on YouTube. If you read the book outloud with your kids, you can have a musical soundrtrack to go with it.
at 11:23 AM
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Photograph by Gordon Welters for The New York Times
By REBECCA SCHMID
Published: In the New York Times October 8, 2013
BERLIN — When Cameron Carpenter first came here, Berlin was covered in snow and looked as if spies might be lurking in the shadows. A year later, in 2010, Mr. Carpenter — the enfant terrible of the concert organ world — moved from the East Village to a loft in what was once a bombed-out neighborhood in the East German side of the city and is now the trendy district of Mitte.
“I was personally attracted to the history of the city,” Mr. Carpenter, 32, recalled recently, as he sat on a vintage couch in his apartment. “It is a very reinventive place, by necessity. As an American and particularly as an artist, I find that very attractive.”
Berlin, with its low-priced real estate and openness to experimentation, is well established as a hotbed of the visual arts. Its growing film and fashion industries have also drawn ambitious agenda-setters from all corners of the world, who have found a welcome atmosphere in which to create and mix with other artists. More recently, it has also developed into an important hub for the classical music world.
The French label Harmonia Mundi will move its German headquarters to Mitte from Heidelberg this month, and over the last four years, Sony and Deutsche Grammophon have set up international offices in Berlin. Major management and public relations firms like Opus 3, Albion Media and Konzertdirektion Schmid have opened branches here. Scores of young composers, not to mention some leading ones, like Olga Neuwirth, Mark Andre and Brett Dean, have made their homes here as well.
While austerity plagues many parts of Europe, the German government continues to support three full-time opera houses and seven orchestras in the capital. Although the Berlin Philharmonic has always been a major draw, institutions in the former Eastern sector — like the Konzerthaus Berlin, now with Ivan Fischer as music director, and the Komische Oper, under the leadership of the stage director Barrie Kosky — each saw a rise in attendance of over 10 percent last season. The Konzerthaus had 156,876 concertgoers, 17,881 more than the year before. The Komische Oper had 18,000 more audience members than in the previous season.
Tourism is an additional boon to the classical music scene, now that Berlin has become one of Europe’s most visited cities. The press office of the Konzerthaus estimates that 27 percent of its audience consists of tourists.
The pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, 56, a champion of contemporary music and founding member of the Ensemble InterContemporain, calls Berlin, culturally and intellectually, “the town par excellence in Europe” right now, not least for its important geopolitical position. Two years ago, he moved here from Paris, where he had lived since his days as a student.
“It is interesting to live in a city that is undergoing permanent changes,” he said in the airy, high-ceilinged apartment he shares with his companion in the quiet district of Schöneberg. “Things are not completely solved. What I find extremely positive is that Berlin carries its history with such a level of cleverness, reflection and sense for justice. I think that’s a big lesson to mankind.”
Just over two decades ago, Berlin was a city incapable of competing with New York, London or Paris as a music center. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and, more recently, with the rise of Germany as a leading economic and cultural force in the European Union, an influx of artists has gradually restored the city’s vibrancy. The movement includes a young generation of Israelis, who, according to the Berlin-based mandolinist Avi Avital, “don’t see the New York of Stern and Perlman anymore, but the Berlin of Rattle and Barenboim.”
The American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, 31, and her new husband, the conductor Rafael Payare, have plans to make the city their European base soon — not least because so many musician and artist friends are flocking here.
“Berlin is what New York was 30 years ago, and I mean that in the best possible sense,” she said by phone from her Manhattan home. “It has all the advantages but without the craziness. Because it’s so affordable, it is much more inclusive, in a way. There is such a sense of discovery and openness.”
Berlin’s rise is not a sudden phenomenon. The conductor Herbert von Karajan played a pioneering role in the recording industry after the war with the Berlin Philharmonic, championing stereophonic and then digital recording technologies. This year Deutsche Grammophon is celebrating a full century of partnership with the orchestra. The city offers a variety of recording spaces, from the up-to-the-minute Teldex studios, which Ms. Weilerstein calls the best in the world, to the unassuming but acoustically strong Jesus-Christus-Kirche and the Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, a former East Berlin broadcasting headquarters where the violinist Daniel Hope recorded his most recent album, “Spheres.”
The president of Sony Masterworks, Bogdan Roscic, said that there has been a “pretty massive output of important recordings” from Berlin that wasn’t there five years ago. Since the company consolidated its core classical activities in Berlin, Sony Classical has signed Lang Lang, Plácido Domingo and Jonas Kaufmann, as well as newcomers like Mr. Carpenter and the pianists Khatia Buniatishvili and Igor Levit.
Berlin’s growth has also inspired Deutsche Grammophon to initiate an outdoor festival next summer, showcasing its younger artists. And in a city where techno can be heard any time of day, the recently established label Panorama has brought together the electronica artist Schiller with Anna Netrebko, Hélène Grimaud and Albrecht Mayer for its first album. Ms. Weilerstein recalled performing Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet with interludes of live D.J. remixes at the alternative arts space Radialsystem last summer. “Only in Berlin could we cross worlds so easily,” she said.
A version of this article appears in print on October 9, 2013, on page C1 of The New York Times of the New York edition with the headline: Musicians, Too, Make Berlin Their Capital.
at 7:45 AM
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Be one of the first to experience an exciting new world beyond your wildest imagination! Dr. Fuddle & the Gold Baton has been hailed by critics as “destined to be a classic” and “a literary masterpiece.” Join Dr. Fuddle and his young friends in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure springing from a seemingly unsolvable mystery in a small New England town to Orphea, the land of eternal music and beauty, threatened by an insidious evil force. Tyler and his sister Christina plunge into this perilous journey. Will they and their friends even survive, let alone be able to heroically save Orphea, as foretold by an ancient prophecy? Armed with only their instincts, determination and the guidance of a centuries old music teacher who appears out of thin air? Danger lurks at every turn—and for their only chance of victory they must master magical sacred instruments—and themselves—to reclaim the legendary Gold Baton from the dark. Can harmony vanquish chaos? This page-turning fantasy (with its major motion picture in development) is bound to leave you wanting more!
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