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Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
#2988419 06/06/20 11:35 AM
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Got the idea for this thread while reading A Lasting Record, Stephen Downes bio of William Kapell. Downes makes that claim although it's not clear if he means some kind of overall measure of intelligence.

As far as musical intelligence goes, I think the answer is pretty obviously yes, but as far as other kinds of intelligence I have no idea. Kapell was extremely intelligent in other areas, got excellent grades in school, read a lot, etc. but he is just one example.

So what do you think? Are/were most of the great pianists extremely intelligent by some overall measure of intelligent and/or intelligent in many specific areas of intelligence besides music?

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988432 06/06/20 12:17 PM
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Is the question specifically for piano interpreters or does that include also composers who played on keyboard ?

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
Sidokar #2988436 06/06/20 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Is the question specifically for piano interpreters or does that include also composers who played on keyboard ?
I intended it for piano interpreters but I think it also applies to any great musician...pianist, composer, conductor, violinist, etc.

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988482 06/06/20 02:37 PM
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Your question seems to be about endpoints and outliers

We're living in an RPG. We have a set number of stat points which we put into our character build.

There are very broken builds in reality. For example, the piano-savants which have super-normal abilities that no master can mimic or copy. Yet these savants are that way due to brain-damage, they're blabbering idiots in every aspect outside of piano playing.

If you take a cross section of just pianists, it's large enough a sample that you'll find a statistically normal distribution of intelligence. That is a law of nature. The set of piano players will exhibit the same shape as the set of garbage men. Different variables can skew measurements, but we simply have not evolved much in the space of ~10,000 years to say one person is that much smarter than the next.

Last edited by jeffcat; 06/06/20 02:43 PM.
Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
jeffcat #2988512 06/06/20 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
Your question seems to be about endpoints and outliers

We're living in an RPG. We have a set number of stat points which we put into our character build.

There are very broken builds in reality. For example, the piano-savants which have super-normal abilities that no master can mimic or copy. Yet these savants are that way due to brain-damage, they're blabbering idiots in every aspect outside of piano playing.

If you take a cross section of just pianists, it's large enough a sample that you'll find a statistically normal distribution of intelligence. That is a law of nature. The set of piano players will exhibit the same shape as the set of garbage men. Different variables can skew measurements, but we simply have not evolved much in the space of ~10,000 years to say one person is that much smarter than the next.
My question was about the intelligence of great pianists past and present. There were no savants that were great pianists. I have no idea what character builds, stat points, etc. are and what they could have to do with my question. I completely disagree with your comment that some people aren't much smarter than most others.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 06/06/20 03:51 PM.
Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988517 06/06/20 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
My question was about the intelligence of great pianists but your reply seems to be about all pianists. There were no savants that were great pianists.

You take a great pianist, throw him in a ring with another guy off the street, there's 1 knife, Try-outs.

If you repeat this experiment enough times, you'd realize, it's always 50/50, because any sizable population would have the same normal distribution for any chosen attribute. It is not the case that ONLY those with outlier intelligence can become great pianists. You take 100, (20 is actually enough) great pianists, some will be at the bottom on intelligence testing, yet he's still great at piano playing.

This is a problem of how you measure. Your question is faulty.

Last edited by jeffcat; 06/06/20 03:57 PM.
Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
jeffcat #2988531 06/06/20 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
My question was about the intelligence of great pianists but your reply seems to be about all pianists. There were no savants that were great pianists.

You take a great pianist, throw him in a ring with another guy off the street, there's 1 knife, Try-outs.

If you repeat this experiment enough times, you'd realize, it's always 50/50, because any sizable population would have the same normal distribution for any chosen attribute. It is not the case that ONLY those with outlier intelligence can become great pianists. You take 100, (20 is actually enough) great pianists, some will be at the bottom on intelligence testing, yet he's still great at piano playing.

This is a problem of how you measure. Your question is faulty.
I think most would agree that there are some professions that require above average intelligence. Lawyers and doctors would be two examples. You made a lot of statements but I don't see anything to back them up. I don't know how one would define outlier intelligence but my question wasn't about that.

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
jeffcat #2988534 06/06/20 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
If you take a cross section of just pianists, it's large enough a sample that you'll find a statistically normal distribution of intelligence. That is a law of nature. The set of piano players will exhibit the same shape as the set of garbage men. Different variables can skew measurements, but we simply have not evolved much in the space of ~10,000 years to say one person is that much smarter than the next.
A cross section of just pianists? Seems there is a bit of a difference between someone who can plunk out "Heart and Soul" and someone who can play the most challenging classical repertoire in a public recital. It takes great intelligence to accomplish the latter - and I don't think you can really separate musical intelligence from other types of intelligence.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988544 06/06/20 05:03 PM
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Intelligence is tricky though, like paying Mensa 25 bucks or w/e to see how smart you are - is in itself, quite unintelligent when you could prevent a child from dying in hunger for the same money.

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988553 06/06/20 05:35 PM
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I have no data other than to profile the members of the 3 piano groups I belong to. All are advanced amateurs. I can’t remember everyone but I know we have 2 psychologists, quite a few medical doctors, a bunch of lawyers, an epidemiologist, several IT/programmers, a physicist, math and science teachers, one almost-PhD in India studies, a infomatics scientist, a social worker and a environmental engineer. As far as I know, every member has an undergraduate degree and most have post graduate degrees. IMO, we have a very educated and intelligent group.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988993 06/08/20 09:15 AM
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If the question is about overall intelligence, as opposed to specialized insight, I'd have to say no.

I've met musicians (and other performance artists) whose intelligence runs the gamut from high-functioning on multiple levels. And I've met musicians who are clueless about anything outside their instrument - including plenty of pianists whose musical knowledge outside the piano repertoire is very limited. One question raised: Is this "narrow focus" a product of being shoehorned into learning about piano repertoire only?

Stephen Hough is an example of a musician who has a great deal of knowledge of numerous subjects - both inside music and out. It's worth noting he is also a composer - so he's not just regurgitating music score, he's also a creator. We've met a few times and he also strikes me as someone who is genuinely curious.

On the other hand, last year I met a well known pianist who seemed to have the mental and emotional maturity of a 13 year old.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2988998 06/08/20 09:51 AM
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One of the greatest Bulgarian pianists recently shared on Facebook the nonsense with the photoshopped MS Windows logo over the coronavirus shape (originally just a picture of a circle in a grass field) seriously believing that Bill Gates is to be blamed about COVID-19 and after Facebook marked it as fake news with links to websites debunking that as BS with great argumentation, he pronounced it a censorship and a proof for one US company defending the other one in hiding the truth and reposted it again... And he keeps on posting things like that.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
KlinkKlonk #2989021 06/08/20 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by KlinkKlonk
Intelligence is tricky though, like paying Mensa 25 bucks or w/e to see how smart you are - is in itself, quite unintelligent when you could prevent a child from dying in hunger for the same money.
That reminds me. I did (in a moment of stupidity) an on-line 'intelligence test.' It actually took more than a moment, tbh, just under 13 minutes (it was timed...max 20 minutes). Pressed button at the end and got words to the effect that I can have the results if I pay them $19.99.
They must think I'm stupid wink


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
petebfrance #2989041 06/08/20 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by petebfrance
Originally Posted by KlinkKlonk
Intelligence is tricky though, like paying Mensa 25 bucks or w/e to see how smart you are - is in itself, quite unintelligent when you could prevent a child from dying in hunger for the same money.
That reminds me. I did (in a moment of stupidity) an on-line 'intelligence test.' It actually took more than a moment, tbh, just under 13 minutes (it was timed...max 20 minutes). Pressed button at the end and got words to the effect that I can have the results if I pay them $19.99.
They must think I'm stupid wink
I did an IQ test once at high school under duress, OK, under false pretences. It turned out that it was for someone's research, and I was one of those selected because I looked distinctly un-Western and she wanted to find out if my English language IQ (carefully honed on The Famous Five and other Enid Blyton characters, plus Spitfire pilot Biggles) was up to snuff compared to my general IQ.

At least, I was given the result for free, not that I've ever made use of it.......

I credit my IQ (whoever it is, or was, or had once been) to my classical piano playing and singing. whistle


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
Hank Drake #2989064 06/08/20 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Hank Drake
If the question is about overall intelligence, as opposed to specialized insight, I'd have to say no.

I've met musicians (and other performance artists) whose intelligence runs the gamut from high-functioning on multiple levels. And I've met musicians who are clueless about anything outside their instrument - including plenty of pianists whose musical knowledge outside the piano repertoire is very limited. One question raised: Is this "narrow focus" a product of being shoehorned into learning about piano repertoire only?

Stephen Hough is an example of a musician who has a great deal of knowledge of numerous subjects - both inside music and out. It's worth noting he is also a composer - so he's not just regurgitating music score, he's also a creator. We've met a few times and he also strikes me as someone who is genuinely curious.

On the other hand, last year I met a well known pianist who seemed to have the mental and emotional maturity of a 13 year old.
I think most of what you said is probably true although I have no facts either way. I think there were obviously some great pianists who were very intelligent in many areas or in an overall sense, Gould and Kapell being two I've read about recently in their biographies. There are several professional pianists who are PW members that I know have great all around intelligence.

I think part of the problem in trying to figure out how intelligent high level pro pianists are in a general/overall sense is that, unless one is a personal acquaintance, one is usually only going to hear these pianists talk about music where they are bound to seem highly intelligent.

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2989081 06/08/20 01:57 PM
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Marine biologists say routinely that the octopus is a very intelligent animal. Dogs and great pianists can also be very intelligent, but different measures are needed to assess each of them.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2989117 06/08/20 04:02 PM
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I'd say that all good pianists are capable of thinking very fast, they have very good memory and creativity, so their intellectual potential is very high, but not every one of them is concerned with knowledge besides music, so some of them remain ignorant in areas that we consider essential for an intelligent person. IMHO.

Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
pianoloverus #2989122 06/08/20 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Got the idea for this thread while reading A Lasting Record, Stephen Downes bio of William Kapell. Downes makes that claim although it's not clear if he means some kind of overall measure of intelligence.

As far as musical intelligence goes, I think the answer is pretty obviously yes, but as far as other kinds of intelligence I have no idea. Kapell was extremely intelligent in other areas, got excellent grades in school, read a lot, etc. but he is just one example.

So what do you think? Are/were most of the great pianists extremely intelligent by some overall measure of intelligent and/or intelligent in many specific areas of intelligence besides music?

The very questions you posed demonstrate your lack of understanding of what intelligence is. You've unfortunately stepped into a minefield where experts don't even agree with each other on what intelligence means, how to quantify intelligence, and--god forbid--how to compare intelligence between people.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2989125 06/08/20 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I'd say that all good pianists are capable of thinking very fast, they have very good memory and creativity, so their intellectual potential is very high, but not every one of them is concerned with knowledge besides music, so some of them remain ignorant in areas that we consider essential for an intelligent person. IMHO.

/\. /\. This. Intelligence should not be confused with knowledge. An extremely intelligent person can lack knowledge in many general areas.


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Re: Are great pianists more intelligent than most?
dogperson #2989130 06/08/20 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I'd say that all good pianists are capable of thinking very fast, they have very good memory and creativity, so their intellectual potential is very high, but not every one of them is concerned with knowledge besides music, so some of them remain ignorant in areas that we consider essential for an intelligent person. IMHO.

/\. /\. This. Intelligence should not be confused with knowledge. An extremely intelligent person can lack knowledge in many general areas.

Actually, no.

There is a difference between fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Knowledge belongs to the latter.


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