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Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
keyboardklutz #1461158 06/22/10 06:09 PM
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Piano playing is a difficult mental process, so I'd guess practicing it lifelong and succeeding must mean something as far as "intelligence" is concerned. I think a big "give away" of intelligence is the attention to detail, the finesse of mind ; and pianists definitly must develop that quality.


"Polymathy" is really something else ; though some pianists are known to dabble in poetry or philosophy, it's usually pretty limited in breadth. Music is very time consuming, so I'm not sure it's really feasible to attain a level that would be considered good in another field.
From the little I've heard, and from my point of view, eminent pianists that talk about literary fields usually don't seem really particularly enlightened.

It's also really different than it was a century or more ago, as most fields have dug significantly deeper ; things that were considered arcane and expert during the Renaissance, or even during the Romantic era, are now common knowledge (moreso in science, in literature that definitly wouldn't be the case ; grammar, rhetoric, and many other vital literary subjects have faded into oblivion - despite them being as necessary in linguistics as solfege is in piano playing. But hey, it doesn't prevent anybody from writing songs, poetry, essays, without having a godmn clue - what, bitter, me ?)
Being a professional pianist in the XXth is also different, and is probably really time demanding - especially since virtuosi often miss a good part of their childhood.


I don't think you need to go as far as the professional level to see the effect of piano playing on a brain though. I've had the luck of breezing through most of my school life, and having played the piano was definitly one of the big reason why ; it makes you think, it makes you want to understand - and the traits of analysis/synthesis and curiosity are both paramount in every intellectual pursuit. It's not the only thing that can "make you smart" though ; mathematics, chess, all those things "prodigies" are known to practice have about the same effect because they encourage an active attitude toward an abstract object. However, music was certainly the most fun and rewarding thing for me to learn as a child !

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
Jeff Clef #1461159 06/22/10 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
Why, I've even seen trained chickens who could peck out a tune.

Like this?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN7EfjwkKMo&feature=related


I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.
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Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
dolce sfogato #1461160 06/22/10 06:11 PM
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The vast majority of professional pianists I know are highly intelligent and then I know a few, who, let's says "Thank God" they can play the piano well, because tying their own shoelaces is a chore.

Last edited by stores; 06/22/10 06:14 PM.


"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
RonaldSteinway #1461165 06/22/10 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
I have heard that a surprisingly large number of pro pianists and conservatory whiz kids are not especially good sightreaders. It would seem to be a skill unto itself.



Where did you hear this? If it is true, it will take forever for them to just read and count difficult pieces that they must learn in a short time. Even non artist pianists such as people with master piano performance degree, sight read very well. It is hard to keep up with the requirement without excellent sight read ability.


I think Jeff Clef was probably taking about sightreading in the sense of being able to sit down and whiz off a difficult piece nearly perfectly at first sight, a la Liszt. I have several friends who are excellent pianists with music degrees; some can do this, some cannot. I agree that you've got to be fairly decent with sightreading in order to do well, and I don't know any good pianists who "take forever" to unleash the secrets of the score; but I personally know excellent professional musicians who don't have first-rate sightreading skills.

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
sarah_elizabeth #1461174 06/22/10 06:32 PM
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I think it depends on what we consider "intelligence", here. I know a few pianists that are amazing at playing, but have atrocious people skills. One my teachers is like this. This person says things that are incredibly harsh and out of line, but they don't believe it to be so and have no idea how to empathize with other people (I think this person is a narcissist, but they're so hard to diagnose).

I don't, however, feel like skill level in sight reading is an indication of intelligence. Ive been slowly progressing in my sight reading abilities. Its a skill that requires a lot of practice, but I think competency is very attainable with the right practice habits and time.


Currently working on:
Bach: Invention 8 in F major
Chopin: Prelude No. 6 in b minor
Haydn: Sonata in Dmaj, Hob XVIII/DI
Chopin: Etude op 10/2, only for finger exercise.
Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
cfwpiano #1461189 06/22/10 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by cfwpiano
I think it depends on what we consider "intelligence", here. .
That's why I tried to explain in my OP what should be considered intelligence for the purposes of this thread.

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
sarah_elizabeth #1461192 06/22/10 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by sarah_elizabeth
I think Jeff Clef was probably talking about sightreading in the sense of being able to sit down and whiz off a difficult piece nearly perfectly at first sight, a la Liszt.
I can't be certain of what he was talking about but if he meant many pianists can't sight read as well as Liszt, I would respsond ala Cheney with "So?"

I'd say that the huge majority of professionals can sight read at an extremely high level. I think it's kind of like chess grandmasters and speed chess. While there's not an exact correlation between chess rating(for non blitz) and blitz rating, there's still a strong correlation because the two skills are related.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 06/22/10 07:09 PM.
Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
pianoloverus #1461218 06/22/10 08:12 PM
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One of the most intelligent musicians I know is our friend, ChopinAddict. She is very clever. smile

I don't think the pure and simple motor skills has something to do with intelligence (otherwise Eisntein would have been a terrific violinist), but composition skills and interpretation skills are certanly a product of high IQ, just because both require creativity.

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
keyboardklutz #1461219 06/22/10 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
'The not smart kids (below average)do not understand what they see in front of them.' Agreed but we're supposed to be OT as highly gifted. Just normal kids can become proficient enough - no need to be high flyers.


I agree. The fact not smart kids doesn't sightread or do not understand well the "musical process" does not imply that those who can do it are highly gifted.

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
pianoloverus #1461221 06/22/10 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
]That's why I tried to explain in my OP what should be considered intelligence for the purposes of this thread.
In your OP:

Quote
analytical intelligence, verbal skills, IQ, or general smarts

It all depends on perception. I personally feel that IQ tests are not the be-all end-all to how "smart" someone is. Sure, someone may be book smart, but do they have inter-personal skills? This is what I find to be laking among people who are otherwise very intelligent. I guess it all depends on what we consider "essential" in a human being's personality. I would rather be able to carry on a conversation with someone, rather than have them be insanely smart and completely un-approachable and un-communicative.

Last edited by cfwpiano; 06/22/10 08:24 PM.

Currently working on:
Bach: Invention 8 in F major
Chopin: Prelude No. 6 in b minor
Haydn: Sonata in Dmaj, Hob XVIII/DI
Chopin: Etude op 10/2, only for finger exercise.
Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
sarah_elizabeth #1461247 06/22/10 09:05 PM
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I think sight-reading is more about confidence and familiarity. I wouldn't think of it as something that indicates intelligence.

I've found from experience that if I pick up a score and I'm uncomfortable than I stutter and I sound unsure of myself. Yet, if I've been at it for a few hours and I pick up a score I can sight read rather well.

Sight reading involves many variables. You must be sure of the tone your creating, you must have complete security in your knowledge of music, you have to have a good sense of internal rhythm. So many things must happen to be a good sight reader.

Heck, I bet even personality plays a part. I doubt the hyperactive Argerich is a great sightreader.

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
MikeN #1461251 06/22/10 09:22 PM
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I wish the mechanics of playing the piano were a matter of reason alone. If it were true, all the muddle/gangly/disorganized nerds (I didn't find the correct translation for what I'm trying to say, hope you understand) would play appassionata in a matter of weeks, discovering the reasonable and logical facts behind it. Instead, as my tinny experience sugests, it is a matter of "imput" and feedback. Of course there is a reasonable way to do that, but this is different than saying that there is a logical and discernible unique way to move your body such that it applies to all people.

ps: funny to mention Argerich. There is a brazilian film about Nelson Freire, a pianist who is a great friend of Argerich. In such film there are scenes with Argerich and him sightreading a piece, besides talking and smoking thousands of cigarrets smile . She complains she cannot sightread the score well as he does (she did it quite well of course, but he sighread better than she, despite the fact she is much better pianist than him IMO).

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
deAlmeida #1461277 06/22/10 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by al-mahed
Funny to mention Argerich. There is a Brazilian film about Nelson Freire, a pianist who is a great friend of Argerich. In such film there are scenes with Argerich and him sight-reading a piece, besides talking and smoking thousands of cigarretes smile . She complains she cannot sightread the score well as he does (she did it quite well of course, but he sigh-read better than she, despite the fact she is much better pianist than him IMO).

I've seen that film. Great fun to watch.

Argerich has always been notoriously modest about her abilities, all the more remarkable considering her talent is in (or at least bordering) Horowitz and Richter territory.

It has been reported several times from independent sources that Argerich learned and memorized the slow movement of the Ravel concerto, just by reading through it. This is not considered an easy movement to memorize! But if Argerich wasn't sight-reading, then what was she doing? smile


Jason
Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
argerichfan #1461280 06/22/10 09:59 PM
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I don't know, but thank you for the corrections in my grammar on the quotation smile

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
deAlmeida #1461296 06/22/10 10:16 PM
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What is most amusing is that I've seen this kind of post on other specialist forums -
"Are people with eating disorders highly intelligent", "Are people who love reading highly intelligent", "Are people who excel at X highly intelligent".

It seems to me there is always someone somewhere who wants to belong to a group of people who are considered 'highly intelligent'. Not suggesting that that's what the OP was trying to do - considering the question was about 'professional pianists' and not all people who play piano.

The answer to such questions though is almost always "Some are - some aren't".
And then we could get into arguments about the reliability of IQ tests in determining intelligence. There is large body of evidence showing that IQ tests are useful in determining intelligence in those for whom the test was designed - not 'actual' intelligence.

But that's a whole 'nother discussion!

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
LimeFriday #1461314 06/22/10 10:51 PM
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"I think Jeff Clef was probably taking about sightreading in the sense of being able to sit down and whiz off a difficult piece nearly perfectly at first sight, a la Liszt. I have several friends who are excellent pianists with music degrees; some can do this, some cannot. I agree that you've got to be fairly decent with sightreading in order to do well, and I don't know any good pianists who "take forever" to unleash the secrets of the score; but I personally know excellent professional musicians who don't have first-rate sightreading skills."

Of course, I didn't mean to cast aspersions on our advanced musicians, yet it seems that this statement about who can sightread especially well calls for attribution. So, I'll have to try to dig it up out of my music library. However, I didn't mean reading "as well as Liszt;" he was a very special case and if you can do as well as he, you don't need to care what Clef says.


Clef

Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
keyboardklutz #1461392 06/23/10 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz

Originally Posted by cast12
What struck me about the study was its finding that the average IQ was around 115 -- a full standard deviation above the population mean.

Interesting nugget on IQ 's from 1994: 'When Britain still had the 11-plus examination, children of professional and managerial parents recorded average IQ scores of 113, compared with an average of around 96 for the children of unskilled manual workers. Similar differences have been recorded in the US and elsewhere.'

Now what would be interesting is a study on the demographics of professional pianists in their youth. Actually... it wouldn't.


Agreed, because this calls to mind something I was reading in Oliver Sachs and/or an economics book.

A.) Playing music does affect the brain in a measurable, tangible way. Scans of the brains of professional musicians -and even non-musicians given finger exercises to perform - showed a pronounced physical change. This, interestingly, is in contrast with professional authors, poets or serial killers. While these people are different or distinguished, certainly, it tends not to show up on the physical brain.

B.) A faculty for music does not, however, necessarily mean you are intelligent. Rather, a faculty for music means you are likely to be from an affluent background as described by kbk. One way or another, classical music tends to be the preserve of those who can afford it. Lessons, concerts, etc.
And all _sorts_ of factors go into determining that 'IQ gap' between societal strata, not just your own innate talent. Access to education, formative experience of education, familial attitudes to education and intellect...

So to summarise into a borderline offensive bulletpoint:

Both professional musical ability and intelligence are by products of a third phenomenon: class. grin


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Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
TheFool #1461409 06/23/10 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by TheFool


So to summarise into a borderline offensive bulletpoint:

Both professional musical ability and intelligence are by products of a third phenomenon: class. grin


And the very measures of intelligence are also a product of social classes, developed by members of a particular class in order to measure people according to their own values. I am not trying to say that intelligence is only a by-product of class, but that there really aren't even agreed-upon ways to measure it across class and cultural boundaries (yes, I know there are attempts at that, and some make sense, but they are still being created by people other than those being subjected to the test). It would be interesting to read a good survey of attitudes about the very idea of "intelligence" in various human cultures. Do all of them have that concept?

At any rate, I know that the prosaic intelligence tests of the sort I took as a kid would automatically favor a kid who was comfortable with the scenario of taking the test and the format of the test, and that comfort with the situation was at least in part a class issue.


Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
cfwpiano #1461413 06/23/10 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by cfwpiano
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
]That's why I tried to explain in my OP what should be considered intelligence for the purposes of this thread.
In your OP:

Quote
analytical intelligence, verbal skills, IQ, or general smarts

It all depends on perception. I personally feel that IQ tests are not the be-all end-all to how "smart" someone is. Sure, someone may be book smart, but do they have inter-personal skills? This is what I find to be laking among people who are otherwise very intelligent. I guess it all depends on what we consider "essential" in a human being's personality. I would rather be able to carry on a conversation with someone, rather than have them be insanely smart and completely un-approachable and un-communicative.
I never said that IQ or any of the factors I mentioned were the "best" tests for intelligence or that interpersonal skils aren't useful. I said for the thread I created I wanted the particular kinds of intelligence I mentioned to be the ones discussed in their realtion to professional pianists. This thread is not supposed to be about what kinds of people one wants to have a conversation with.

I'd appreciate it if posters stop discussing sight reading and intelligence. And debating "If one is intelligent, is it true that one can be a professional pianist?

I'm really looking for specific examples(although names can be omitted) of people who personally know or have read enough about specific professional pianists to judge how "intelligent" they are in the sense I mentioned in my OP. Exactly like what Kreisler did early on in the thread. Or the specific examples I gave in my OP.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 06/23/10 06:17 AM.
Re: Are professional pianists highly intelligent?
TheFool #1461420 06/23/10 06:38 AM
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Quote
Both professional musical ability and intelligence are by products of a third phenomenon: class. grin

I don't mean to argue semantics, but that really isn't true. While classic music might be prevalent in the more bourgeois and materialistic class, being a professionnal pianist is not a direct effect of belonging to that social class ; the fact that the parents of most professional musician, independly of social class, are musicians themselves is really more relevant.
It's also not really relevant to music itself ; since the dawn of humanity, children have often followed in the footsteps of their family's craft. Even nowadays, teachers' children often become teachers themselves, doctors' children etc.

Your point on class and social wealth could also be argued against, far more than I care to do ; in early XXth Russia, the Moscow conservatory was, I think, known for having less than wealthy students - so much that teachers such as Glazunov were quite famous for helping gifted individual progressing despite lack of parental or monetary support.

While learning piano seriously can no doubt be an expensive thing, I don't think money is really what matters for a child to become / to not become a pianist.

Quote
I wish the mechanics of playing the piano were a matter of reason alone. If it were true, all the muddle/gangly/disorganized nerds (I didn't find the correct translation for what I'm trying to say, hope you understand) would play appassionata in a matter of weeks, discovering the reasonable and logical facts behind it. Instead, as my tinny experience sugests, it is a matter of "imput" and feedback. Of course there is a reasonable way to do that, but this is different than saying that there is a logical and discernible unique way to move your body such that it applies to all people.

I'm not sure of what you mean exactly by reason ; in fact, piano playing is for the most part a most reasonable and reasoned thing. There is musical theory to guide our understanding, and technical theories and practices to guide our fingers.
I don't see either the point of saying "nerds" can't play an advanced sonata in a matter of weeks either. Piano playing, like mathematics, like chemistry, like physics, like video gaming, like literature, are complex processes that result of a multitude of underlying knowledges and habits. Trying to understand the Appassionata without any prior knowledge would be like trying to synthetize a specific protein or demonstrate an advanced theorem without knowing the basics of chemistry or mathematics.
Likewise, moving your body in a coordinated fashion must be learned and practiced. Some people such as gymnasts or dancers spend their life perfecting these functions.
You really shouldn't confuse innate and acquired knowledge.

Cognitive functions heavily factor in what we usually call intelligence. The ability to analize heavily relies on the ability to perceive - and perception is both the reception of information, and the organisation of that information (seing shapes, seing objects, instead of mere dots of colored lights.)

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