Jennifer Lin Plays Piano
July 29, 2007 10:20 AM   Subscribe

At fourteen years old, Jennifer Lin is a shade better on the piano than most eighth-graders. (video) [via]
posted by Malor (54 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is an unusual video player, in that if you float your mouse cursor in the picture, it will let you jump to chapter marks instantly. (no waiting like with YouTube.)

Be sure to check out the "improvisation" section. An audience member picks out five notes: Ms. Lin then thinks about them for about thirty seconds, fiddles around a bit on the keyboard, and launches into an apparently original composition that's quite remarkable to my untrained ear.
posted by Malor at 10:20 AM on July 29, 2007

(I did look, by the way, and didn't see much else available about Ms. Lin. The only other thing I was able to find was this article at pointing back to the same video.
posted by Malor at 10:26 AM on July 29, 2007

That page has great SEO.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on July 29, 2007

Metafilter: known to draw tears even via podcast.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Malor, the Google Video player also lets you jump around at whim. One would think that ability would trickle down to the YouTube player, but no such luck.
posted by zsazsa at 10:45 AM on July 29, 2007

She's related to Art Tatum somehow, isn't she?
posted by danb at 10:46 AM on July 29, 2007

Check out who the "random" volunteer is that comes up on stage to help the improv section.
posted by Juggermatt at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2007

That was really cool. Thanks, Malor.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2007

Fun link, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2007

Is that Goldie Hawn? This is weird.
posted by spitbull at 10:56 AM on July 29, 2007

pretty cool. The inprov piece was by far the simplest thing she played, assuming because it is improvisation and I wouldn't take anything away from her for that. It also got the biggest reaction, which got me wondering if people liked THAT piece so much because it was a very good inprov, or because it was easier to follow.

I thought her right sleeve was going to eat her hand in the first section.

No sheet music

Very collected speaker/performer for being so young
posted by edgeways at 11:12 AM on July 29, 2007

I'm not a brilliant musician by any means, but I love improvising on the piano, so I skipped ahead to the part where Goldie Hawn picks out five notes and she improvises on it. And I'm not sure about this (like I said, I'm no great musician), but isn't she mostly just playing a really common chord sequence beneath the melody? I don't think the improvising on a random five notes is as hard as it may seem. Maybe a better pianist than me can tell me if I'm wrong?
posted by Ira.metafilter at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2007

"I don't think the improvising on a random five notes is as hard as it may seem. "

I can't speak to the difficulty as I'm not at all a pianist, but I suspect the difficult part here wasn't the improvising. It was that she improvised well, which is a whole 'nother pantaloon of fish.
posted by majick at 11:23 AM on July 29, 2007

Yes, it's Goldie Hawn, it says so in the description
a state of mind that cannot be forced. Lin invites audience member Goldie Hawn to choose a random sequence of notes
I've always found improvising much easier then playing something someone else wrote, and it's easier to improvise something complex then it is to play it from notes.
posted by delmoi at 11:28 AM on July 29, 2007

I'd like to see you play it without notes.
posted by found missing at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2007

Same on Oprah at 16.
posted by scheptech at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2007

The fact that Goldie Hawn was the volunteer surprised me more than anything that followed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2007

posted by lazaruslong at 11:51 AM on July 29, 2007

It was that she improvised well, which is a whole 'nother pantaloon of fish.

I guess to my ears she didn't improvise well enough for the "virtuoso" and "unbelievablyimpressive" tags. Not going out of my way to be a critic here - not the type of person to go into a thread just to say meh. It's just improvising over common chords is something I love to do - perhaps like delmoi, I'm always found improvising easier than playing other people's stuff - and what she's doing there sounds very familiar.

And once she's that good on the piano, she would be familiar with many basic structures from all the pieces she's learnt over the years that she can recall, especially in her left hand. Maybe that's what improvisation is? I don't know.

And, this is purely personal taste, but her piano playing didn't do anything for me. I can recognise that she's great at it, but some piano playing really moves me. Just a matter of personal taste that, I guess, and not something I can explain.

Really great speaker though.
posted by Ira.metafilter at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2007

She's a fantastic pianist -- unlike a lot of her rough contemporaries, she really loves the music, she has great technique but she sometimes plays faster than even her fingers can take her, just because she gets excited.

I've only heard the first piece but I'm already looking forward to the rest. Great post.

(I agree that improvising is easier than playing someone else's piece -- particularly without sheet music !boggles!)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:00 PM on July 29, 2007

Perhaps what I'm trying to say is not "She's not very good", but "Thanks for the link - it's encouraging, because something that impresses and delights so many people doesn't seem that out of reach."
posted by Ira.metafilter at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

That much we're in agreement with, at least. She's certainly a great speaker, all the more so considering her age at the time this was recorded.
posted by majick at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2007

not the type of person to go into a thread just to say meh.

Actually, some of her song structure formations and chord progression choices were pretty advanced on a music theory level. Whether it did anything for your particular musical taste or not, on a technical and theory level I'm willing to bet money that 14 year old girl can probably kick your musical improvising ass to Saturn.

And mine.

And anyone else posting in this thread.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:06 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

OK, enough. Everyone who's carping about simple chord structures needs to step back for a second. Remember when you were 14? Go ahead and think about it for a while. Put yourself in eighth grade. You're insecure, your body is changing, your follicles and pores have completely turned against you, those blond bitches in the corner are super rude to you for no reason, everything's all awkward and wrong and you just want middle school to end...
I'm sorry, but my memory of that time does not include being able to string a simple sentence together, let alone displaying a talent even remotely resembling what this girl does. Yes, we're all very proud of those of you who can improvise on the piano now. Pats on the back all around. But seriously, we're not accepting this as legitimately amazing? Am I the only person here who doesn't see middle schoolers do shit like this on a regular basis? I'm lost as to what it would take to please some of you.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2007 [7 favorites]

but would you want it on your %personal_music_device%?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2007

Alright, chill people - it's not a competition. I'm not saying I'm better than her, or that she's no good. But "known to draw tears via podcast" did not move me, that is all I'm saying. Yeah, no doubt that 14 year old girl could kick my musical improvising ass to Saturn yeah - but it's not a fight. I'm just saying it didn't move me, and some of what she was improvising sounds familiar to me. That's all, right. It's okay everyone, I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't enjoy it.

Personal reactions, y'know? Music? Art? Not everyone feels the same or reacts the same way?
posted by Ira.metafilter at 12:13 PM on July 29, 2007

I'm lost as to what it would take to please some of you

art is, by working definition, that which computers can't do (very well / yet).

Technical prodigy is one thing, but post another fpp when she has something like this in her bag.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2007

Your favorite virtuoso teen piano improv sucks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Your favorite 14-year old piano virtuoso sucks.
posted by Tacodog at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

which reminds me, the entire DVD collection of X Japan is about to go up on a certain jpop tracker, should you be interested.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2007

ok, that was weird.
posted by Tacodog at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2007

I enjoyed the performance. The improvisation was really simple at it's root...I was expecting that she would offer 12 cards instead of seven. It would have been a more impressive mind trick to improvise a beautiful melody from Eb, G#, F, F# and B. But the point isn't that she improvised a melody, it was that she used a random sequence of notes, selected by an audience member, to connect to her audience. It's the same as that well known Chris Bliss video that went around a while ago - nothing technically outstanding, but the connection matters. When Jason Garfield dissed Bliss's performance by doing the same thing with five balls instead of three, he impressed us all with his technical prowess, but he largely missed the point of performance.

I echo others about Lin's confidence too - a great lesson in presence.
posted by salishsea at 12:27 PM on July 29, 2007

At 14 ... I couldn't even HUM that.
posted by RavinDave at 12:29 PM on July 29, 2007

You can't improvise anything without relying on crutches and cliches, I don't care how good you are.

I don't think you judge it based on that, but only by how it made you feel listening to it.

As far as her other pieces, I'm no classical music fan, but isn't she playing those songs way faster than they were mean to be played?

Also, she's remarkably poised for a 14 year old. That was more impressive to me than the music.
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on July 29, 2007

Shorter Me:

"Talent is hitting a target no-one else can hit, genius is hitting a target no-one else can see" -- Schopenhauer.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:35 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

So old I'm shocked it wasn't posted to Metafilter back in 2004. It made the rounds of all the blogs.
posted by smackfu at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2007

Also, she's remarkably poised for a 14 year old. That was more impressive to me than the music.

Agreed. She seemed like a woman in her twenties. The improv brought tears to my eyes too and I loved how she practically jumped off the bench while playing Bumble Boogie. And as for it being 'old', I hadn't seen it before and I don't "make the rounds" of many blogs, mostly because most don't have too much to say that's interesting. I guess that's why I come here. Great post.
posted by sluglicker at 2:03 PM on July 29, 2007

Anybody else think that improvised piece sounded like the Tetris theme song?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:08 PM on July 29, 2007

no waiting like with YouTube
Yeah, and no buffering like with YouTube either. For people with less than optimal bandwidth like me, this player sucks. I can't just hit pause and then play it back later. It won't load the video unless it's playing.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2007

I guess that's why I come here. Great post.

Sorry for the confusion, when I said "this is old so I'm surprised it wasn't posted when it came out", I didn't mean "this SUCKS".
posted by smackfu at 2:40 PM on July 29, 2007

I'm probably alone on this, but whenever I see a 14-year-old [whatever] genius, all I think is, "I wonder what normal childhood activity she's missing out on because her parents forced her to practice [X] instead?"

My mom went to a music conservatory when she was a child because her parents made her. I guess I'm trained to be against this sort of thing.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:00 PM on July 29, 2007

Little sister.....
posted by growabrain at 3:05 PM on July 29, 2007

I saw her before now on Oprah and I freaked out entirely. The tears come from the magic of someone so young having such talent and insight into art. But I've been known to cry in museums, laugh uncontrollably at family gatherings. The seach for the sublime. Some folks don't do so well with the unrestrained joy.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:06 PM on July 29, 2007

1adam12: Me too. I think it's part of my not entirely positive reaction to this.
posted by Ira.metafilter at 3:08 PM on July 29, 2007

Advanced music theory? My ear isn't quite fast enough to pick up that whole progression, but it sounded like a fairly standard jaunt through a step-wise descending bass with root- and first-position triads. On paper it's a fairly unremarkable tonal progression. HOWEVER, by no means am I denigrating her performance: anyone who can voice chords nicely on the fly definitely has chops. Let's not exaggerate, is all (I might be biased because in the course of my education I've heard enough well-formed example tonal progressions to make my ears bleed).

I think a lot of the contention in this thread is that some people object to the people going nuts about the actual musical product. It's undoubtedly well-done, and she's a great player, and for fourteen years old she is unbelievably talented and present, but this video is an example of a mind-blowing ear and talent given her age. Some people seem to be reacting to it almost as if they'd be happy to listen to her over any other pianist until the end of time, which would be unfortunate.
posted by invitapriore at 3:19 PM on July 29, 2007

I thought she was very poised, has great potential to develop an awesome personal style based on her obvious technical talent, and that she didn't recognize Goldie Hawn.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:11 PM on July 29, 2007


// Agreed. She seemed like a woman in her twenties.

What's with the old lady coat, is she performing 'in character' ?
posted by _squid_ at 4:22 PM on July 29, 2007

Why do you think she didn't recognize Goldie Hawn? She seemed a little flustered when Hawn approached the stage.
posted by found missing at 4:28 PM on July 29, 2007

What's Goldie Hawn been in within the last 14 years?
posted by smackfu at 5:18 PM on July 29, 2007

Kind of nice that she seems to give a shit about music, not just perfection.
posted by tmcw at 6:12 PM on July 29, 2007

Be funny if she ever fleshes that improv out, calling it "The Goldie Variations."

And yes, she is quite the talented, poised young woman. How did she do in the evening gown portion?
posted by rob511 at 6:36 PM on July 29, 2007

Yeah, she's talented. No, I wasn't as talented as her at 14, though I feel like I ran into my share of similar talents while participating in various piano competitions. Yes, I was improvising and composing at 14, though I don't know how to judge what I was doing back then through the filter of bias and memory.

I liked her playing and her speaking, but agree that her improvisation/composition was very conservative and not especially interesting (though very polished). I feel like I've heard far more interesting improvising and composing by 14-year-olds. I do think the fact that she's engaged with music on this level, though, probably adds to her understanding of music and helps her playing.

With that out of the way, what sort of bugs me about this is the sideshow quality of it all -- the fact that she can do all this at 14 seems to supercede any attention paid to the actual music itself. And I feel like this focus on technical prowess over depth or insight has been detrimental to the realm of classical music over the years. Will we care about what Jennifer Lin is doing in 10 years? Why do we have to rewind to her 14-year-old self to care about it?
posted by speicus at 7:00 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Awesome, really enjoyed her playing, her brilliant, articulate and unpretentious communication, loved the improvisation. There is something authentic, very powerful and moving about her and her music. Looking forward to hearing more Jennifer Lin.
posted by nickyskye at 9:08 PM on July 29, 2007

speicus, I think you answer your own question. Right now, we care about Jennifer Lin because her technical ability is exquisite. At 14, however, we can't expect her to have the emotional connection with the piece that an older artist would have; she probably doesn't have the range of life experience to adequately convey that kind of meaning. In ten years, her accuracy, while still impressive, will no longer be enough, and we'll then be looking for the kind of depth that you expect from a more mature artist. The standards for kid performers are different because, well, they're kids. I, personally, am hugely interested in what she'll be doing ten years from now. Given that she's already miles ahead of her age bracket, she shows amazing potential.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:54 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

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