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Getting down with the kids
April 24, 2007 3:12 AM   Subscribe

Child prodigies. (Just in case you were starting to feeling content with your middle-aged achievements.) [Warning: YouTube-heavy posting] [Warning: Chopin-heavy posting]
posted by humblepigeon (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope there aren't any dupes in the list of links. Several of the postings don't name the performer, and the video quality is pretty poor, so I couldn't make out faces.
posted by humblepigeon at 3:16 AM on April 24, 2007


*sigh*

I think I may have spent too much time playing in the dirt as a kid.
posted by chillmost at 3:43 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


damn 14 link youtube post
posted by anonaccount at 4:07 AM on April 24, 2007


I already hate myself. I did not fucking need this. Thanks a lot.
posted by chrismear at 4:20 AM on April 24, 2007


Woah, sensory overload. I can't decide what link to click.
posted by Brittanie at 4:43 AM on April 24, 2007


The new inline youtube feature is an option everyone should turn on at least once, just to see how it looks.
posted by carsonb at 5:42 AM on April 24, 2007


Awesome. Life is what you do with what you get. Some kids get amazing talent. No guarantee of a decent life though and sometimes extra ability or sensitivity can make life harder than easier. I wish all those kids an excellent life with their amazing abilities.

The l link in your "Child" is 10 year old Enzo, playing after learning at age 9 (!). His playing is beautifully moving, tender and mature. Incredible those small hands rippling over the keyboard.

Check out Rimpa Shiva, the princess of tabla and her first, homemade vid.

Shirley Temple on The Good Ship Lollipop and with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Bianca Ryan, age 11, has an awesome voice. Amazing twinkle and presence.
posted by nickyskye at 5:43 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


The every-letter-is-a-link style looks like complete shit with the new youtube icons.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:01 AM on April 24, 2007


Okay, that Rimpa Shiv clip freaks me the fuck out! It's awesome!
posted by liquorice at 6:02 AM on April 24, 2007


Wow, it might be time to learn the other eight minutes of Stairway to Heaven.
posted by Demogorgon at 6:08 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with liquorice (again) - the Rimpa Shiv tabla video is pretty inspired stuff.

There are a LOT of really talented young guitarists around, and I've had the pleasure of teaching a few of them back in the states. It's a popular instrument.

Has anyone here been watching Play It Again?
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:19 AM on April 24, 2007


Watching Shirley Temple being handled and face-smeared by a busload (or is it a train?) of men reminded me of Graham Greene's remark that "her admirers - middle-aged men and clergymen - respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality..."
posted by pracowity at 6:23 AM on April 24, 2007


Here's another clip of Rimpa Siva (seems her name is spelled a number of ways) studying with a music teacher, who recites the tabla bols to her and then she plays them. She's got lotsa bols. :)
posted by nickyskye at 6:42 AM on April 24, 2007


I don't know, whenever I see really young kids playing that well I wonder how much of it is love for the instrument and how much is the overwhelming perfectionism of their parents.
posted by schroedinger at 6:45 AM on April 24, 2007


schroedinger, all any teacher or parent can do is guide a child as they teach themselves to play. A careful guide will help a student maintain proper technique and discipline... but 90% of it is really down to the student and their love for the process.

There are some evil parents out there who chain their kids to a piano bench, but I've never met any of them.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:50 AM on April 24, 2007


I wonder how much of it is love for the instrument and how much is the overwhelming perfectionism of their parents.

Lots of both. You can be forced to practice and the practice is required, but you'll never be better than pretty good if you don't practice your ass off ("It’s estimated that Mozart practiced at least 10,000 hours before he was 8.") and have great talent and desire. Peak Performance: Why Records Fall:
"I taught piano for many years, and there's an enormous difference between those who practice dutifully and get a little better every week, and those students who break away from the pack. There's plenty of room for innate talent to make a difference over and above practice time. Mozart was not like you and me."
posted by pracowity at 6:57 AM on April 24, 2007


How Eddie van Halen learned:
In April 1996, in an interview with Guitar World, when asked about how he went from playing his first open A chord to playing "Eruption", Eddie replied:
"Practice. I used to sit on the edge of my bed with a six-pack of Schlitz Malt talls. My brother would go out at 7pm to party and get laid, and when he'd come back at 3am, I would still be sitting in the same place, playing guitar. I did that for years — I still do that."
posted by pracowity at 7:06 AM on April 24, 2007


schroedinger, There seem to be a number of variations on the child prodigy thing. One of them is definitely the kid who is bullied by a stage parent into attempting to become "a star", so that the closet narcissist parent can get fame by proxy. There are any number of famous examples of this, Brooke Shields, Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. These kids did have extraordinary talent and beauty but it was relentlessly pushed by their sMothers.

Mozart, who started composing his masterpieces by age 5, was pushed relentlessy by his father, so that he likely died early because of that stress, as depicted in the excellent movie, Amadeus.

Here's another child prodigy, Akiane, painter and poet. Not my visual cup of tea but obviously talented.

Other kids may have phenomenal talent that is prevented from blossoming by an envious, narcissistic parent, for example as told in the movie Shine, based on the real life story of David Helfgott. Or the talent isn't appreciated and nurtured in a healthy way, as told in the movie, Little Man Tate. and then there are kid savants, like Kim Peek (model for Rain Man), who people thought was retarded until he was in his 30's (!).

Extraordinary talent in a child can be a burden, a mixed blessing or a boon, which may depend on any number of conditions or circumstances.
posted by nickyskye at 7:14 AM on April 24, 2007




Constantly comparing your accomplishments with those of others is a sign of poor self-esteem. You idiots.
posted by Bokononist at 7:23 AM on April 24, 2007


This raises a question I've always struggled with. If you just find that you have an innate talent for something, do you really deserve any praise for it?
posted by chrismear at 7:24 AM on April 24, 2007


The problem with these prodigies is that eventually they aren't prodigies. When they are 20, will it have mattered? Will they all still be pushing themselves, or will they have learned that they can awe everyone simply by coasting.

Consider that painter Akiane that nickyskye linked. When she become 15, that style of painting will no longer be impressive. Likewise, when these pianists are 25, they will be on par with other kids who came up the hard way. Will they have some innate talent that helps them break free? Maybe, maybe not.

There has yet to be a child prodigy with a depth of thought or wisdom, because those only come with experience. I'm not trying to downplay these achievements, just trying to put them in perspective. Better the child struggled to listen and understand the composition so that when they reach 25 they can compose something beautiful for a prodigy to reproduce with mechanical perfection.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:28 AM on April 24, 2007


And some not-so-smart kids sadly win a Darwin Award.
posted by nickyskye at 7:38 AM on April 24, 2007


This raises a question I've always struggled with. If you just find that you have an innate talent for something, do you really deserve any praise for it?

Although there's undeniable (and abnormal) talent involved here, I think it would be downplaying how hard most of them work (or are forced to work) at what they do. In the link I posted previously, you see the comic effect of someone suddenly realising he can just play the piano. That's not how it works for real. They just learn faster and better than most.

It's an interesting question though, whether or not talent should be praised... bit like praising breathing in some cases I suppose. Maybe it should be admired rather than praised.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:43 AM on April 24, 2007


This kid is an amazing jazz pianist and composer. He's also autistic.
posted by mike3k at 7:43 AM on April 24, 2007


Oh, musical prodigies. WARNING: LONG, BORING, SAD RANT.

Here's the thing that most people don't realize. It's actually pretty easy to pump out a prodigy, i.e. a kid with great technical skills at a certain instrument and absolutely no skills outside of that. The most important thing is just not giving a shit at all about their human development. Make sure the only positive feedback they get from you, ever, is when they play well- and you can be sure that they'll "love" playing. They'll also be completely broken and useless people after puberty.
Classical music is an industry, and a darker industry than most because the vast majority of the populace will never look into it. I grew up in it, sort of- my brother and sister are now professional classical musicians of a high caliber, and I played violin from age 3 to 16. My brother and sister have always loved classical music, and I never felt that passion, but I was playing because my mother told me to- and because she told me I couldn't quit. By the time I finally quit, I hated it.
During the school year, we'd spend every weekend at orchestra prep programs. I grew up with very few friends, because I was gone so often. Every summer we'd go to a festival, where we were supposed to practice at the very least 4 but hopefully up to 8 hours a day. I was woken up at 5 am to go practice in unheated rooms- when I was ten. And the worst thing? I was never all that great (I certainly never got "prodigy" status) and the way we lived was far from the worst. I met broken kids constantly- kids who could play beautifully but were functionally illiterate and couldn't really speak, who were so riddled by nervous tics they couldn't sit still during concerts. During those years, my mom made some bad personal decisions- but unlike other mothers, she didn't beat us mercilessly or literally pimp us out for lessons. Some musical luminaries happen to be pedophiles, you see- and I know of at least one extremely famous conductor who would basically molest kids in exchange for pushing their "careers".
Ergh. Now I feel bad, because I'm certain that many of these kids just really like playing, and happen to be innately talented, and WANT to practice that much. But...there is a whole world out there of kids who don't, who are forced into it, and I worry sometimes that the classical music obsession with prodigies ends up hurting a lot of people, as well as classical music itself. If half of the next generation of classical musicians are non-functioning people, how are they going to sustain a dying art form if they have to struggle to stay alive?
posted by 235w103 at 8:33 AM on April 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


235w103, thanks for your very personal story.

how are they going to sustain a dying art form if they have to struggle to stay alive?

I think that classical music is nearly completely ossified. It's presented as some rarefied high art in a way that theater and Shakespeare in particular are not, and no effort has been made to teach people how to listen to it so that now no one has any interest because to many it sounds like noise. In popular music today is mostly over-the-top beats with a bit of melody, how are people going to relate to music that has no drum beat.

In addition, many of those who do attend performances attend out of performance envy. Ex-pianists and violinists going to see how the pros do it. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it sort of misses the point. Can a 13 year old really perform Chopin in a way that communicates something meaningful? Does the 13 year old understand the mood of the piece, or what those moods are? 8 hours a day of practice doesn't leave a lot of time for life and love which inform the understanding of these pieces.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:09 AM on April 24, 2007


Powerful story 235w103. Thanks for sharing it here.
posted by nickyskye at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2007


It's presented as some rarefied high art in a way that theater and Shakespeare in particular are not, and no effort has been made to teach people how to listen to it so that now no one has any interest because to many it sounds like noise.

There are more eloquent people here who'll argue against you, but I have to say that I was attracted to classical music because it moved my soul. I wasn't taught to like it. This love came on suddenly in my early thirties and I was shocked when it arrived out of the blue. Prior to that I'd loved little more than indie music!

Sometimes I'm on the brink of tears when listening to Bach, or Chopin. Not just the lingering emotional pieces either, but full on up-tempo performances. Classical music touches a spot deep inside me in a way that pop music just can't. Pop music is inherently limited.

I suspect, although might be wrong, that appreciating classical music (really appreciating it, beyond liking the pretty melodies, or how it sounds) requires some weird kind of maturity/knowledge/presence. Some people are born with this. The first girl in the links above plays very powerfully, although maybe lacks technical ability. It's in her. It was in Vanessa Mae, I suspect. It's not in 99% of children, or even 99% of adults. If you're lucky, as I was, it might arrive later on.
posted by humblepigeon at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2007


There has yet to be a child prodigy with a depth of thought or wisdom, because those only come with experience.

I have to agree with the YouTube comments on the Bartok linked above: this kid plays with great emotion, feeling and subtlety.
posted by letitrain at 10:46 AM on April 24, 2007


For those of you not clicking the links- the 3rd-to-last and 2nd-to-last links are absolute dynamite. Blows all those other hacks aways! :)

That Shirley Temple video is uncomfortable- in part because a friend showed me a paper someone in her film studies class had written about Shirley Temple. It mentioned that in her autobiography she talks about how, even at her young age, it was still quite common for producers to try to introduce her to the famed casting couch. I mean, sweet jesus!!!

Child prodigy is a loaded term- as some have noted, the only difference between "prodigy" and "normal talent" is age; an 8-year-old playing Chopin is impressive, and 18-year-old is utterly unremarkable. Not every kid who picks up music quickly (which I'd argue, with the right teaching, would be "most of them", the same way you can teach kids any other language fairly easily- music is so innate I refuse to believe that most everyone couldn't play Chopin handily if they were taught well and early enough) is the next Mozart. Pracowity's quote is right; people like Mozart are different from the rest of us.
posted by hincandenza at 11:03 AM on April 24, 2007


Sadly, such a waste, since all that talent, effort and dedication will never be enough to make anyone skip a stride when they're rushing to catch the next subway train fifteen minutes before the workday starts.
posted by TimTypeZed at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2007


Working Boys and Girls - on the sexualization of children in early American film. I think this was on Metafilter at some point.
posted by schroedinger at 1:20 PM on April 24, 2007


"Mozart, who started composing his masterpieces by age 5, was pushed relentlessy by his father, so that he likely died early because of that stress, as depicted in the excellent movie, Amadeus."

"Amadeus" is fictional. Yes, Mozart and his sister Nannerl were trotted about Europe throughout their youth, but to say that Mozart's gift, successes and early death are because of his father is an incorrect portrayal. It's a stretch to say that even in "Amadeus" this connection is made.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled thread. This Mozart nerd is over and out.
posted by hollisimo at 1:43 PM on April 24, 2007


"For those of you not clicking the links- the 3rd-to-last and 2nd-to-last links are absolute dynamite. Blows all those other hacks aways! :)"posted by hincandenza

I thought your smiley icon meant "see how nice I am to save you the trouble of rummaging for the great stuff - no, please, it's my pleasure!"

You are a truly terrible person:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:13 PM on April 24, 2007


hollisimo, Yes, Amadeus, the movie, was a fictionalised version of Mozart's life, as Shine and Rain Man were also fictionalised versions of Devid Helfgott's and Kim Peek's lives. But the parallels and points are there about their lives as badly manipulated child prodigies.

From what I've read about Mozart, there are many conflicting opinions and none is deemed The Correct Version. He had a typically domineering, over-controlling stage father, who trotted him out to perform from age 5 and "between the ages of six and fifteen Mozart was continually on tour". Mozart was taken away from the rest of his family to play all over Europe, becoming completely dependent on his father. "Having begun his professional life as an international celebrity, he could not tolerate being treated like a servant; he became insubordinate when the archbishop forbade him to give concerts or to perform at the houses of the aristocracy, and his relations with his patron when from bad to worse. Moreover, his complete dependence on his father had given him little opportunity to develop initiative..."

" His pupils dwindled, the elite snubbed his concerts. His last year of life -- 1791-- when he was in desperate financial straits and his health was failing, would make a grim opera plot. He received a commission for a comic opera, Die Zauberflute (The Magic Flute), and while working on it was visited by a mysterious stranger dressed all in gray who carried an anonymous letter commissioning a requiem, a mass for the dead. As Mozart's heath grew worse, he came to believe that the requiem was for himself and rushed to finish it while on his deathbed. (In fact, the stranger was the servant of a nobleman who intended to claim the requiem as his own composition.)"

His father never approved of Amadeus' wife and after years of financial instability, Amadeus died young at age 35 and was buried in an unmarked grave...There's a lot there in the movie Amadeus that is based in facts that are known about Amadeus brilliant but short life.
posted by nickyskye at 5:18 PM on April 24, 2007


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