About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mozart and ... Vampires?

While I was searching online for yet another Mozart book, the novel Mozart's Blood popped up on the screen. It's a vampire novel! With Mozart as a character! How bizarre and ridiculous! I thought.

Then I started reading the reader reviews and many people liked the book. They complimented the historical and musical details and the interesting story. So I checked it out of the library.

I am not a reader of vampire novels. I read the first Twilight novel, mostly to see if it was appropriate for 4th graders (it isn't), and I was a fan of Dark Shadows when it was on TV long ago. But I haven't been interested in the avalanche of vampire novels and television shows that have appeared in recent years. As I read Mozart's Blood, it sometimes seemed to me that the vampire story was an awkward addition to an interesting story of a young soprano trying to succeed in the 18th century. This might be due to my own disinterest in vampires.

The historical details of 18th century Europe, as well as 19th century San Francisco, ring true and are a highlight of the novel. There are abundant musical details of the 18th century, too. I learned more about castrati than I realized there was to know. Author Louise Marley, who is a former opera singer, has also captured the essence of what it's like to perform in an opera and also the way musicians see and hear music, whatever the century. The main character, soprano Teresa Saporiti, was a real person and did premiere the role of Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni.  Mozart is an important part of the story, though he only appears briefly, and his music is also important to the entire novel. And there's also a werewolf!

When I was reading this outside of my house, I kept trying to hide the cover. No one ever commented on it, but I felt somewhat like I did two summers ago when I was reading Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde, which is a wonderful dystopian novel set in the future. Everyone who caught a glimpse thought I was reading 50 Shades of Gray and wanted to know how I liked it.

Author Louise Marley has written a number of novels, several of which are about musicians. You can find out more on her website: Louise Marley: Words and Music.

If you want to check out the bizarre worlds of Jasper Fforde, he also has a website: http://www.jasperfforde.com/.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Talent: Nature or Nurture?

Some time ago I watched this video on the Horn Insights blog. It irritated me, even though I agreed with some of the ideas. The ideas come from a book titled Talent is Overrated by Geoffry Colvin. I haven't read this book, but I did eventually read The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyne, which argues the basic idea, that the three things anyone needs to become an expert at anything are an excellent coach/teacher, 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice, and the practice must be focused and meaningful. I do agree with the idea that whatever you are born with as far as potential, without those three elements it is unlikely that a person will become extraordinary.

But Mozart was extraordinary from the time he was a very young child, before he had had time to amass 10,000 hours of practice. He also surpassed his teacher, his father Leopold, as a young adult. Then, just this week, I read this article, Studying the Science behind Child Prodigies from NPR. It looks at cellist Matt Haimovitz, a former child prodigy whose mother played piano and took him to concerts, but there is no one else in his family with his kind of talent. Ellen Winner, a psychologist who studies child prodigies, argues that the brains of such children are different than the ones the rest of us have. Haimovitz was mentored by outstanding musicians, like Itzhak Perlman, and is today a successful adult musician.

Both the video and the NPR article are too short to do justice to this debate. There's truth on both sides.