About talent

About talent

Tackling the subject of “talent” in music always fascinated me. When mentioning that someone had talent I naturally meant that they were good in their field but I didn’t necessarily mean that they were special; I knew that talent was possible for all of us.

I would like to express that I am fed up with this unending notion of people who are so “talented” in knowing what talent is (pun intended). Who wouldn’t be fed up? Talent here, talent there, talent everywhere. For some, even a brick wall is extremely talented, since it knows how to stop a car.

“Oh, my Auntie is playing the trumpet, she is so amazing!” Or,”My mother in law is performing the banjo tonight with the local singers, she is so talented”! No, she is not. She just happens to play the banjo, and you’re not.

But enough of my moaning and twaddle.

What talent is


Talent is a glorified way of saying you do something. Basically, when you cannot do something you’re not talented, whereas if you can do it, you are. Simple.

All that about having a gift or flair are completely misguiding and can do more damage than good to the young and eager to learn.

We are all equal


Every human brain, in my poorest of opinions, is the same; every human being is equally blessed to do amazing things and has the same quality of capacities no matter the place of birth, the race, etc. We all have the capacities to create divine music and perform wonderfully no matter what our financial backgrounds are, our parents’ upbringing or if the stars align properly on the 1st of march.

That being said, we must also appreciate that in this cruel world there are many people plagued with disabilities; however, those people still create wonderful things. They excel in sports, in the arts and sciences. Except, of course, in the unfortunate event when a person has a medical condition, that prevents the brain or the body to function properly. But even then, this unfortunate individual is equally important in shaping the world’s future; is equally talented.

We are all equally talented.

So, the only thing that can truly separate us from each other is our personal provenance; that is, our life experiences, our unique interests and leisure activities, and other personal paths that by the sheerest of chances we happened to follow.

Let me elaborate with an example: say you were living in the mountainous area of Oymyakon in Siberia, and didn’t have the access to play the piano but nevertheless adored it; still, you wouldn’t have been considered a talented pianist, because simply, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have “met” the piano altogether. Whereas, if you, the same person who adored the piano, were growing up in New York city, a more approachable and rounded musical environment, if it happened that you played the piano amazingly, you would have been considered a talented pianist.

Why talent is irrelevant


Talent is irrelevant for humans because the absence of it cannot prove that this world can not move forward successfully. One might even argue, that absence of talent can be advantageous to the natural continuation of things in this extremely partially understood world. Can you disprove this? I can’t, but I can’t prove it either.

Earth will still be able to revolve even if you don’t write the next Hamlet. Roses will still be able to bloom in spring, even if you don’t manage to complete your thirty-sixth symphony and instead be left with only thirty-five completed ones. Birds will still be able to exquisitely twit even if you don’t throw eight touchdowns in a single game.

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/classical-violin-piano-violinist-1595342/

All is needed and all is equally important in the continuation of this perfectly evolved world. Thus, the notion of talent is overrated and perhaps irrelevant.

Talent depends on provenance


As we are all equal, I’m afraid once again and hate to burst a couple of bubbles, that talent depends on some of the following factors:

Past experiences: The more relevant experiences you’ve had in your chosen field the more chances to be vainly considered talented.

Say that your neighbour liked listening to classical piano and lent you a couple of CDs to taste some classical pieces. This immediately makes you more educated regarding classical music and favours you in comparison to another pianist who didn’t have access to quality classical music, and this already puts on track to be considered “talented”. Doesn’t surprise you that a lot of good musicians’ parents are also musicians? That doesn’t mean of course that your parents have to be musicians for you to succeed in music, but that’s another story.

Liberal access to the subject in question: Simply put, it’s a matter of access to available resources. Again, it’s like the vitamins our doctor prescribes; the more you consume healthy foods the more your chances of leading a healthy life. In our case, as long as you are exposed to a lot of quality music material and being in the company of relevant and knowledgeable people of your subject, you increase your chances of becoming proficient in your chosen field; and being proficient, equals to being considered talented in this world.

Assistance from others: How much others are willing to help you realise your potential/interest. To succeed (and therefore to uselessly manage to be considered talented) you will need support and lots of it.

Say that you want to learn the piano and become a virtuoso pianist. This is your dream and you know that you can do it. Similarly to a previous example, you live on a remote island and the only way to play the piano is for your parents to buy you one from the mainland. Well, if they don’t buy you one, I’m afraid you’re doomed to forever live in the land of “untalented” pianists. And of course, you’ll never know if you were ever going to be considered a “talented” pianist. It sounds unfair, but that’s life.

Do you begin to be getting the gist of this “talent” nonsense? I hope you do because the sooner you realise that talent means absolutely nothing and kindly dismiss the talent proclaimers, the better are your chances to succeed in music; and, why not, become a more level-headed personality- that never hurts.

Talent requires the element of comparison


In order to be considered talented, you need to always be compared to someone or something, well… “less talented”.

So, for example, if you could only play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with your right hand, but your friend can play a sonatina by Kuhlau hands together, he can arguably be considered more “talented” than you (especially if the person judging is not an expert). But if your friend, who plays the sonatina, is compared with someone who plays Liszt’s b minor sonata in London’s Wigmore Hall, your friend quickly becomes less talented. So unfair, isn’t it?

Talent is depended on who is judging


The more experienced the judge, the strictest they become when judging talent. So, if you’re eager to be considered talented, make sure you are only be judged by gentle judges.

Thus, to the eyes of a friend of mine I could be considered an amazing mind who writes prolific articles, a great piano teacher and pedagogue and a wonderful human being, whereas to the eyes of an internationally acclaimed pianist or critic, I could only be considered a deluded amateur, and a wannabe writer who writes nonsensical and laughable articles with shrill tone. What do you think? 🤔could I be one?



The importance of talent


As much as I cringe at the very idea of “talent” I must concede that, somehow, we need the notion of talent and we need talent itself. We need the talent seekers, we need our groupie aunties, we need friends who think we are the next Hemingway or Christian Blackshaw and we need the word talent to be heard as often as possible.

I would like to conclude this article by expressing that even if talent means absolutely nothing, at least hunting for it can inspire us to reach new heights.

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How to choose the best possible piano edition

How to choose the best possible piano edition

Choosing the best edition of piano music has been a chore for a lot of us pianists since piano music entered the realm of serious music; that means, well… perhaps from the beginning of keyboard history.  Because of editions, pianists had always had to put up with stiff-liped opinions and judgmental experts, together with the ironic smirks of their beloved colleagues.

[with funny voice] “Is this the right edition for my music?” “Is the other one better?” “Will the panel of that piano competition approve of my playing?” “Will my auntie consent to my playing Chopin’s second ballad from this edition?” All those questions popped up at one time or another in our pianistic lives.


Edition anxiety


The reason why there is always a constant twaddle, moaning and superiority complex syndrome about editions and which is the most acceptable, is because pianists associate editions with their own musical standing. They think that a wrong edition could undermine their ability to perform and that a questionable edition would belittle them in the eyes of their colleagues in this judgmental world of classical music. Apparently, a correct edition would give the pianist, and generally the musician, the keys to musical legitimacy and a “license” to perform. It sounds a bit farfetched, but not too far from reality.

If only pianists could think that piano is just a piece of wood, with strings and keys that you press to make sounds…

Who has the right edition?  Nobody ever knew. Nobody will ever know. Do you know? Do you have the ultimate answer to state with authority that yours is the best edition, and no other can compete with it? As soon as the notes escape from the composer’s mind, there’s no return. They enter the realm of interpretation; an abyss of innumerable opinions and considerations. Even the original manuscript, is, in fact, an edition to the composer’s mind; an edition that in no way can replicate the actual mind.


There’s no best edition


There are a few things we are left with in order to make a plausible choice of which edition could be best for our own musical circumstances. Here, we should appreciate that there’s always no “best edition”; there’s only… “better edition”. This is because an edition is really a fictional representation of the original artefact. Even a facsimile edition is still a vaguest representation of the original work, since, arguably, you can still lose a lot of nuances (e.g. a composer’s handwriting stresses and other graphological observations that could signal underlying musical intentions). One could go as far as arguing that even the original manuscript is a “dreamy” statement of the composer’s mind.

So, when it comes to editions, we have a few of the following choices:

  1. Use straight “out-of-the-box” an edition that was suggested to us by someone else. (The suggester could be a teacher, a friend of ours, a scholar of the composer, or generally, anybody else).
  2. Get an edition from the store without really caring about its provenance and quality. Then edit this edition to fit our own performance views, or let our instructor do the editing for us and give us the end result to play.
  3. Acquire all editions of that work available in the world today, compare them (hopefully by researching) and then choose our favourite.
  4. Call every editor and ask them to explain their editorial suggestions, and then make a more informed decision regarding which edition to choose.
  5. Find the autograph music written originally by the composer, conduct our own research, and do our own editing – tough, for the laziest of us.
  6. And of course there are more drastic ways, such as finding the original manuscript of the composition, then, if the composer is not alive remove the composer from the grave and ask them to describe in writing how to perform their piece. Then, of course, make them sign their written description as a worldwide binding contract.

Can you see? The choice and the… madness are endless.


How to choose a music edition 


Simplicity is the elixir of music. 

Just pick an edition and start playing; yes, you’ve read it right. Any edition would do. Is this an oversimplification? Yes, it is. Why? Because, generally editors are mere… editors, and, of course, are human.  Often, they are well read and scholarly efficient people; well, perhaps more so than most of us, who haven’t published any editions in print. Do you have? And yes, every editor is different and every editor can be wrong or right. Every editor has their own advantages and disadvantages. There’s no perfection and there is no perfect editor. Typographical errors together with personal or universal musical preferences cannot count as legitimate reasons for dismissing an edition or an editor for that matter.


The best edition is “change”


It would be such an unfair situation for the composer and for music in general to reach editorial ultimatums and absolute certainties. Uncertainty is what drives music forward and glorifies its ever-changing medium. Static is not healthy.

Change in the musical zeitgeist should be welcomed, and change cannot happen if we live in a constant musical comfort zone. The music language is ever-evolving, and as with our spoken and written language, it evolves with assistance from our own wrongdoings. Editorial mistakes and controversial musical views are what ultimately shape music and, subsequently, our understanding of it.

So, just play; just put your fingers on the keys and paddle your own canoe like there is no tomorrow. No time to think and judge that horrifying edition. Do play and stop thinking, because music thrives in the air and not on the paper; it is this air that will eventually drive, like the most accomplished pilot, the pen on the page.

And one day, you might realise that your slower take on the La Campanella is actually not too far out from the zeitgeist.



(Many thanks to maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com, and http://www.publicdomainpictures.net for using their free images on this post)

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