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nicneufeld

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "povster"
I haven't read Zakir's account. I first hard about the hair tied to a window many years ago, but that was attributed to Inayat Khan.
What is amusing is I've heard that story at least a couple times attributed to other old masters (maybe Tansen, Baba Alauddin Khan, I don't remember!). Definitely that story has entered into the apocryphal/mythological realm in Indian music, although I'm sure it was true for someone at some point!

I had another post which was offered up in oblation to the ravenous forum-god Akismet, but one thing that struck me that is worth pointing out...the various "subskills" involved in this music all can be influenced in different levels by natural gifts/talent. For instance, learning the raags, memorizing taans, that sort of thing, while a good memory and the right sort of mind can help you with this, talent alone isn't going to do it...only hard work will get you there. Likewise, developing physical skill, meend control, speed of the fingers, precision and control...that comes from relentless practice and exercise. However, a sense of sur, having a good ear for pitch, is a more natural gift (that of course can be learned with much hard work) that comes naturally for some people, and not (to the audience's ears' chagrin) to some others. I have been blessed with a decently good ear, and while my meends still sound sloppy and inaccurate, I hear the inaccuracy when I play, and wince. Knowing that you are sharp or flat on a meend is half the battle anyway....a person with a bad ear for pitch can practice til doomsday, but unless they correct the pitch problems and develop a better ear for it, they will labor in vain. I've known singers gifted with an excellent sounding voice (tonally and range-wise, anyway) but with no ear for pitch. It was a waste of an otherwise good voice.
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musicslug

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Reply with quote  #17 
hi Pov,

I don't recall if those books defined talent. the upshot, as far as I recall, and for the purposes of this discussion, is that talent would be defined by contrasting its presence to its absence - i.e. in a hypothetical situation with two otherwise identical people (Nikhil and his clone...) having two identical life paths (riyaz, gurus, etc.), innate talent (whatever it is) in one would result in a better musician. by this I'm ruling out obvious motor-skill limits (having both hands, for example, for an aspiring pianist, inability to discriminate between pitches for any musician, etc.). admittedly it gets tricky, since, at a material level, if there is such a thing as innate talent, it probably exists at a (very subtle!) level in the brain's structure. brain science is a long way from being able to say much about this, so the research has to be clunkier in the meantime. at any rate, I think most people understand what's meant by talent (e.g. "he has a gift"): a person with talent can master that area in which his talent lies more easily than someone lacking that talent. that's the crux of this discussion, no?

if I were a social scientist looking at this, I'd go straight to Bali. in case you haven't been, it's got a crazy-high % of people who are artists of some type (dancers, carvers, painters, musicians, puppeteers, etc.). and there's a historical reason for it: the Hindu kingdom used to occupy the eastern half of Java as well, but when the Muslim kingdom to the west prevailed, the Hindu kind assembled all his artists (and priestly caste) and took them to Bali, creating a perfect experiment in concentrating creative types. the 10,000 hours people would say that these lineages knew how to impart 'riyaz', so it got passed down. the innate talent people would suggest genetic factors (I imagine). I'm not sure how you'd go about doing the research, but what a living social science laboratory!

d
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chrisitar

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Reply with quote  #18 
Great discussion all around, very interesting stuff. Some good talking points:
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I think of "talent" as opposed to "skill" as that quality that comes into the improvisatory aspects of this music.
I think this is the defining factor in the context of ICM, and jazz for that matter, the ability to manifest music out of nowhere that is technically executed perfectly and aesthetically rich and interesting. I think anyone has the ability to train their hands to play simple, memorized patterns on any instrument, but the ability to improvise well is where 'talent' comes in.
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one gets ideas from doing, so the more one does, the more ideas one gets. i.e. it's not that one's capacity for ideas ('inspiration') is set (i.e.innate), ready to be unleashed via riyaz - it's that inspiration comes from riyaz.
I see the point here, but I also think that inspiration is something we are born with and comes out whichever way we choose it to, so long as we find the right 'channel' for it to come out; the right channel being the one that opens wide enough to let the most inspiration flow out of you. Perhaps this is another aspect of talent; people are capable of focusing their inspiration so much that it all comes out when they play. I'm not sure if I think that all people are born with a creative spirit, I'd like to think so but there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it is the times we live in.
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is the perception and expression of beauty acquired or innate?
Awesome question.

Perhaps another element of this topic is the audience for this type of music being so strict and attentive, paying such close attention to detail, waiting for that 'kya baat hai' moment.

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musicslug

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Reply with quote  #19 
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Originally Posted by "chrisitar"
. I think anyone has the ability to train their hands to play simple, memorized patterns on any instrument, but the ability to improvise well is where 'talent' comes in.
...except where are the people who can improvise well but don't have those 'trained hands'? I'm a big fan of free improvisation (Art Ensemble of Chicago being favorites...) and that genre would be a likely place to find such people - in theory, the genre doesn't really require 'chops' - yet all the good ones are super good on their instruments; they just choose to play in what sounds like a chaotic way.

so it seems to me that, even though intuitively it seems that 'ability to improvise' wouldn't require training, the evidence suggests that it does.

I had been studying ICM for something like 6 years before being given the 'ok' to improvise. when I went home from that lesson and tried it, I was stumped: where do those guys get the ideas anyway? when I went back to my teacher, he said 'start simple'; when I went home and tried that, it all just happened. I can never know if that 'ability' to improvise pre-dated all that riyaz, but it's my opinion that that's the crowning jewel of ICM: they figured out how to teach people to tap into creative flow.
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Originally Posted by "chrisitar"
inspiration is something we are born with and comes out whichever way we choose it to
Tantric philosophy speaks of 'Shiva-Shakti', the energy behind everything, which we can access internally, and which flows out from us if our 'kosas' ('sheaths') are aligned - imagine a bunch of wiffle balls aligned so their holes are lined up such that a light at the center can shine out. it's this 'alignment' that is supposedly the goal of yoga (all eight 'limbs'). I personally have found that one thing ICM artists don't struggle with is 'inspiration' - somehow their training enables them to access ideas reliably and consistently (if not always equally beautifully...). contrast that with the stereotypical western artist, always struggling for ideas/inspiration. (I imagine the jazz fans will object to that line, but the 'jazz vs. ICM' discussion is a whole nother can of beans... ) I'm of the opinion that the reason for the difference is that the Indian philosophy of art ascribes ownership of the ideas outside the artist (I heard a ICM singer once translate a lyric: "I didn't create these songs - I just found them and gave them names"), while western (Renaissance and after) philosophy ascribes the ideas to the artists themselves.

so, cutting to the chase, I'd say that it's not that we're 'born with' inspiration so much as we have to learn how to access the source of inspiration, which emanates from our centers, which are themselves linked with the whole - i.e. it's outside ourselves. looked at this way, the work of the artist is to train his hands, but also 'align his sheaths', and the inspiration then flows, unimpeded by those misaligned wiffle balls, and then, at that last, most physical, wiffle ball, unimpeded by unskilled hands. we're not born with 'talent', we're born with the potential to access the source of ideas through hard work (riyaz). the ideas belong to everyone and anyone who's willing to do the work can access them.

just my .02, as they say. I do love this topic.
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chrisitar

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Reply with quote  #20 
I see what you're saying. You had to wait 6 years before you could improvise ICM, did you have any experience with another instrument before? Had you ever improvised before? Did you start with Dhrupad/Veena? I ask because my entire music making experience has been about improv, first I learned blues when I was a kid, I just listened to solos and made my own up. Then I got into jambands with lots of improv during my teens, I learned how to 'go with the flow' and see where the music goes, listen to my bandmates and try to maintain audience interest. Then I got into jazz in my 20s and had a blast with the freedom it allows. Although the word jazz is a bit of a stretch, it was more like this stuff:
Quote:
I'm a big fan of free improvisation (Art Ensemble of Chicago being favorites...) and that genre would be a likely place to find such people - in theory, the genre doesn't really require 'chops' - yet all the good ones are super good on their instruments; they just choose to play in what sounds like a chaotic way.
I've been into ICM pretty much exclusively for the past 7 years and it just feels like it all led up to the raga. I've never had any musical training, and I'm not saying I'm this amazing and talented superman, I'm just saying I feel comfortable with my improv abilities and my knowledge of raga behavior that I learned from years of listening to the masters and I've never 'practiced' ie riyaz a day in my life.
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...except where are the people who can improvise well but don't have those 'trained hands'?
Like Nic said earlier, I hear when I play a sour meend and that is motivation enough to get it right next time. I see it like talking, music is a language and if you spend enough years immersed in a foreign language you will pick it up. Once you know the words, nobody has to teach you how to speak your mind.
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they figured out how to teach people to tap into creative flow
couldn't agree more

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musicslug

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Reply with quote  #21 
hi Chris,

my previous music background was keyboards, jazz drums, and tabla. my improv experience was blues and 'experimental' (free improv, but more like european - e.g. FMP label stuff).

I totally agree that listening is a huge part of learning (how else would you know what you like?)

and I absolutely agree that music is like a language - that you have to immerse

that's interesting that you don't do riyaz. I guess I see the point of riyaz as removing physical impediments between musical ideas and their execution: so that when you have an idea it immediately and effortlessly becomes sound. on the other hand, it sounds like you're doing a version of riyaz if you keep doing meends until they're right - that's called 'deliberate practice' (as opposed to what I call 'noodling'...)

one of the more interesting things I've found in ICM, and which differentiates it from jazz is the idea that you can 'call' the raga by doing everything right (play the right scales, with the proper strong/weak notes, at the right time of day, etc.) and the the raga materializes in the 'ether' where you're located - and you then learn from it. it's as if the raga already pre-exists 'out there' - i.e. the artist doesn't 'create' it so much as coax it into appearing. when I hear outstanding ICM performances, that's what seems to occur, often within seconds of starting (although sometimes it takes 2 hours...) - the atmosphere in the room is so thick with rasa (vibe, mood, feeling) it feels like you could cut it with a knife. one way of knowing when this has happened is if, at the end of the performance, the audience takes a few seconds to 'come to their senses' before applauding.

at any rate, I think this somehow pertains to the original question...
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nicneufeld

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Reply with quote  #22 
I also came from an "improvisational" background and the art of teaching people to improvise and create music on the fly is a very deep and interesting one. I was in a college course with music majors on improvisation in jazz, and it was interesting how these folks (who in many respects were much, much better musicians than me) struggled so much with the concept of improvisation. There are some Western musicians (particularly in the classical fields) who have practiced hours a day for years and decades, but remain unable to improvise, or improvise easily at least.

And my background in other instruments led me, when I first received my instrument, to start off with freer improvisation, and then only later when I started concerted study with a teacher, to focus purely on exercises. So I started out improvising, mostly on Yaman and Bhupali, from the first, which helped really cement my love for the instrument early on. We all learn in different ways...not saying all ways of learning are equally good or effective, but where some people benefit from first gaining mastery over the instrument via exercises and paltas, and then moving on to the more open areas (alap, etc), I started by exploring meend and alap, and then later getting more serious and developing speed and technique through fixed compositions and taans taught by my teacher.
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dvb

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Reply with quote  #23 
Diving in a little late here (& with my first post!) but found this topic interesting in light of a passage I am reading in Mukherji's "Lost World of Hindustani Music" ... sorry for any typos as it's long & I'm typing fast:
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He [Bade Ghulam Ali Khan] once narrated a story to me, which, no doubt, others had also heard from him. At the age of 17 he decided to sing to his father Ali Baksh Khan ... Later in the evening, young Ghulanm Ali enquired from his father why he had not said anything. Was it because he did not like the singing? Would he please correct the errors, if any? Ali Baksh kept quiet for a few seconds, then replied with a sigh, 'What can I say? One who does not have sur has nothing'.
Quote:
I could not believe my ears. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan did not have sur? Even at that tender age how could the great Ghulam Ali deserve such a caustic remark from his father. It however indicates 2 things. First, he had no talim from his father ... Secondly, he was not a born musician. The great Bade Ghulam Ali Khan owed his stature to riyaz, unimaginable hard work and of course an innate sense of artistry.
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Fil

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Reply with quote  #24 
From personal experience, have to say that at the very least a person has to have an damn fine innate sense of rhythm and pitch if they are going to excel in music. I know some good amateur players who are technically very advanced, but because they have a glitch in their timing, they just don't cut the mustard and never will. Obviously the same goes for anyone playing a variable pitch instrument who is even slightly tone deaf (ditto a singer). Practice will help a lot, but no violinist ever reached the solo concert stage without innate perfect or absolute pitch.

Practice and the growing confidence it brings will of course steadily improve anyone with a measure of talent. But there is no doubt that some people are just born to be superb musicians and most aren't. There is a huge difference between the likes of a Shankar, Liszt or Menuhin and the first violin in the local orchestra.

What is annoying are people who can reach very high levels of performance seemingly effortlessly and with very little practice. Like my wife, who is a pianist. She only has to hear a song or tune once and she can play it in any key, complete with any variations or subtle accidentals (that are easy to miss on a first hearing). She remembers the words of every song she has heard and liked, well enough to win on a musical quiz show every time. Yet she never practices. Drives me nuts.

Anyway my time for revenge, as she hates ICM and especially sitar, lol. ;-)
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pbercker

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Fil"

Anyway my time for revenge, as she hates ICM and especially sitar, lol. ;-)
That explains your avatar picture ... it just screams "well ... take that ... Ping!"

(not sure what the best word to use to express the sound of sitar, but one sitar book I have talks about "the sweet clink" of a sitar! "clink" is not what comes to mind with respect to the sound of sitar.)

By the way, I largely agree with what you say. There's been something of a movement these last few years to the effect that talent is overrated (promulgated, among others, by Geoff Colving in a book by that name "Talent is overrated:...") and that what really matters is hard work and "deliberate practice", a new concept in the theory of learning. The general idea is that even the highest level of expertise and performance, be it in music, sports, etc..., is really open to everybody so long as they are willing to put in the hard work of "deliberate practice". I applaud the general democratizing aspect of this line of thinking, and wish indeed that it were true, but regretably I can't help but think that some blessed few do really possess something innate that potentially sets them apart from everybody else with respect to talent.



Pascal

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Fil

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Reply with quote  #26 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "pbercker"
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Fil"

Anyway my time for revenge, as she hates ICM and especially sitar, lol. ;-)
That explains your avatar picture ... it just screams "well ... take that ... Ping!"
Yep. You got it.

There's a story to that avatar. I was idly looking at some sitars on Google image, when I came across that pic, which instantly cracked me up. I just had to show it to my wife, who also cracked up. She's been moaning good naturedly to some friends on FaceBook about me getting another sitar, so she then shared the photo around for lols.

It's actually a photoshop of the famous "Rage Boy". Some guy in Kashmir who's image was often used when the media needed a picture of a response to some perceived outrage against Islam in the West. He's since been 'shopped onto all sorts of things, like a fake cover of Time magazine. His face is just one in a million. Scares the hell out of racist people who think all Muslims are terrorists or whatever. hehe.

Google image Rage Boy and you'll see what I mean.
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Danielmorgan

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Reply with quote  #27 
whether you are going to this or some either way to hon your skills into the a relevant area what mater most in my opinion is the dedication and efforts you put towards that as i consider the fact totally wrong that people come to a certain talent naturally .. it's of their quick pick they become a master of the art while others who lack in concentration stay a far behind to them ..
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pbercker

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Reply with quote  #28 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "musicslug"
there's actually been a lot of research into this question recently - the evidence suggests that it's all about work, not talent. perhaps the most interesting thing is the fact that there seems to be a 'magic number' of hours one has to practice (assuming it's deliberate, not noodling, practice...) before acquiring something approaching mastery: 10,000.

if you want to check out the research, you could look at a couple books: 'the talent code' and 'talent is overrated'

I personally find it fascinating that this research exactly confirms the Indian system of riyaz (deliberate practice) over many years. those guys hit the 10,000 hour mark at about age 16...
A recent book "The Sports Gene" disputes that 10,000 hour notion ...
Quote:
“In The Sports Gene David Epstein blows up the notion that 10,000 hours is all that is required for dominance in a sport and reveals the true complexity behind excellence.”
—DARYL MOREY, Houston Rockets general manager; cofounder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference
http://thesportsgene.com/
Quote:
One day in the early Aughts, Malcolm Gladwell, a writer at the New Yorker, was looking for a body of work that would provide a counterintuitive and inspiring take on how to succeed. At some point he came across K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist who’d looked at musicians and found that the significant difference between a middling music teacher and a concert soloist was 10,000 hours of dedicated practice..... The Sports Gene is an implicit—and, in one chapter, explicit—refutation of the 10,000-hour benchmark ...
The somewhat depressing conclusion is this ...
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Epstein fights his own conclusions throughout the book, saying early that “nature and nurture are so interlaced in any realm of athletic performance that the answer is almost always: It’s both.” He tries to end on that note, too, but everything about his book feels like a takedown of the argument we all want to make. In Epstein’s world, the outliers are not a more practiced version of you and me. They’re just better.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-01/book-review-the-sports-gene-by-david-epstein


I've not myself read it, so I don't know.


Pascal

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