Piano Lessons Could Be Really Awesome, or Tesla: A Genius Marching Differently

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Nikola Tesla

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Harmony of the Spheres.

Yes, it’s the idea that each celestial body emits its own frequency.

I don’t know if some guys on YouTube recorded planet sounds. They recorded something that sounds like planet sounds…maybe…

I’m trying to get you to think that piano lessons are a really good idea, even if you don’t want to practice…so I looked up scientists and music…

Yes, that is where I found that Einstein violin music…

So, I found this Nikola Tesla interview where he says Einstein didn’t understand music, hadn’t heard the music of the spheres, and that relativity was just…plain…wrong.

Who was Nikola Tesla? He was a really unsung science guy who is now being recognized in popular culture. Anyway, here’s a sample of the interview:

Particles of Light are written note. O bolt of lightning can be an entire sonata. A thousand balls of lightening is a concert.. For this concert I have created a Ball Lightning, which can be heard on the icy peaks of the Himalayas.
About Pythagoras and mathematics a scientist may not and must not infringe of these two. Numbers and equations are signs that mark the music of the spheres. If Einstein had heard these sounds, he would not create theories of relativity. These sounds are the messages to the mind that life has meaning, that the Universe exists in perfect harmony, and its beauty is the cause and effect of Creation. This music is the eternal cycle of stellar heavens. The smallest star has completed composition and also, part of the celestial symphony. The man’s heartbeats are part of the symphony on the Earth.

That’s just some of what he said, you can read the whole thing here:

http://www.freedomtek.org/en/texts/nikola_tesla_interview_1899.php

Well, yeah, Tesla does sound a little nutty, but keep in mind he spoke eight languages…maybe they overlapped, or something.

No, he didn’t invent that car, but he did invent three phase electric power, the induction motor, wireless telegraphy, alternating current, the neon lamp, the remote control, a death ray, an earthquake machine that shook the ‘pants’ off Mark Twain, and the Tesla coil…

What does that have to do with playing the piano?  Ummmmm……maybe if you learn to play an instrument, you could do this:

Or this:

Now put your hand down and go practice your Czerny.

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Einstein Played the Piano

Yes, he did!

Many know that Einstein played the violin. You can even hear his performance of Mozart in this recording:

Beautiful. It’s also a fine example of how intonation supersedes crashing through a lot of notes. Delightful to hear this brilliant man working within the limits of his ability and making the most of his assets! I wish all students who think playing very fast is the only way to prove talent would hear this and be enlightened.

But enough of that…on to his pianist inclinations.  Seems his mother was a pianist.  And he loved music. I got most of this information from an excellent article on the  Psychology Today website:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/imagine/201003/einstein-creative-thinking-music-and-the-intuitive-art-scientific-imagination

It would be best if you read it yourselves, but I’ll paraphrase for those in a hurry.  It starts with an Einstein quote: “The greatest scientists are artists as well.” It goes on to elaborate on how he ascribed his scientific discoveries more to intuition than to equations.

Directly snipped from article:

In other interviews, he attributed his scientific insight and intuition mainly to music. ‘If I were not a physicist,’ he once said,  ‘I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music…. I get most joy in life out of music'(Calaprice, 2000, 155).

For the purpose of justifying the title of this post:

His son, Hans, amplified what Einstein meant by recounting that ‘[w]henever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties’ (quoted in Clark, 1971, 106). After playing piano, his sister Maja said, he would get up saying, ‘There, now I’ve got it’ (quoted in Sayen, 1985, 26).

Of course everyone who plays the piano, or any other instrument, isn’t a brilliant scientist, but it’s important to recognize that eliminating the arts from the educational curriculum is probably a bad idea if we want to produce students who can solve all kinds of problems creatively.

 

What’s Your Objective?

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Thanks to my daughter and son-in-law, I got to see a New York Mets game this summer!

When you sign your child up for a sport, what do you expect?  I imagine it’s that, with some decent coaching, he or she will learn to play well enough to cooperate in a team setting, be a good sport, be more fit and healthy, get out of the house, get some fresh air, have skills he or she can call on later in life, be more socially acceptable, etc.  Your little one will go to practice once or twice a week and play in season games.  If he or she shows special talent you might consider a more intense path, but even with average performance, you still value the activity for all the above reasons.  Right?

Objectives for signing a child up for music lessons should be similar, except for the fresh air part.  He or she will acquire physical, emotional, and intellectual skills that go along with learning to play an instrument.  And while musicians (except for the rock variety) don’t have the iconic status of athletes in American culture, learning to read and play music is still valuable for building character, confidence, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and academic skills.

In sports, extra time practicing at home is more effective than only showing up for team practice and games.  Piano lessons are the same.  Progress will be slower with only one 30 minute lesson a week and little practice.  Practicing every day for 30 minutes will have better results and produce greater self-confidence. Realistically, you should set up an expectation or reward system, or even better, you can sit down on the bench with your little one.  Even accomplished musicians with years of experience, fame, and fortune must exercise strong discipline to practice like they should, so what will your 10-year-old do?

If you want a prodigy like Tiger Woods, you probably have to act like a tiger mom. Being proactive in your child’s development is a wonderful thing, but I’m not advocating for tiger motherhood.  Mainly, I think it’s great if playing an instrument is a normal part of a child’s general education, like learning to how to swim, draw, dance, or play baseball.

The Value of Piano Lessons

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You know that American Express “Priceless” ad campaign that starts with a someone using their card to buy all sorts of expensive stuff and ends with someone holding hands?   Or, how about the commercial that shows a mom and dad proudly watching their daughter clunk out a simple recital piece and then becoming ecstatic when the stage erupts in fireworks that they paid for?    I believe the message in either of those is completely relevant to the process of taking piano lessons.

I can’t begin to express my admiration and respect for the wonderful parents who arrange for their progeny to study the piano or any other musical instrument.

The first obstacle is the the expense of acquiring and maintaining a piano.  Even if a family‘s lucky enough to inherit Aunt Tillie’s sacrosanct parlor model, it’s so much trouble to have it moved that people will give it away to avoid the burden.  The daunting project needs to be undertaken by special piano movers, who are expensive, but not as expensive as a damaged instrument.   Regular movers will cry and whine when they see a piano, and even piano moving experts will moan if they have to negotiate stairs.  Still, with professional handling, the piano will arrive intact.  After that, the beast must be tuned!  Pianos should ALWAYS be tuned after moving, and at least once a year for regular maintenance.

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Once all that’s taken care of, the conscientious parents
will have to find a piano teacher and pay for lessons.  But that’s the least of their worries.  The real test of intestinal fortitude comes when they need  to constantly implement and reinforce practice and lesson routines with children, who are, after all, children and would rather do all the lovely things that children adore when not facing school, homework,  extracurricular activities, or household chores.

Nevertheless, arduous as all of this sounds, it is completely worth it!  And it’s worth it to persist in spite of many obstacles and juvenile resistance.  There’s abundant scientific and educational research documenting the benefits of music lessons, easily found by Googling, binging, or whatever, but, I’d like to make an analogy.  I think almost everyone is familiar with the Led Zeppelin tune “Stairway to Heaven.”  It’s on all the top rock songs of all time lists, and most people know the opening lyrics:

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

Maybe I thought of that song because expense of piano lessons.  Or maybe it was because I learned about it from a former rather brilliant teenage boy student who barely removed his ear buds for the business end of the lesson. (I, myself, am a rock and roll idiot; it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I never know who sings what, or most of the lyrics…)  Regardless, something made me think of that song, which reminded me of this:

I would like to compare that musical stairway to learning how to make your own music, and the escalator to all the stuff in the modern world for accessing music passively.  It’s wonderful, in a way, because you can find anything you want to hear, or even see, instantly.  But it’s not the same as being able to make and play it yourself.  And I believe that the remarkable parents who arrange for their children to take lessons know the difference between the glittery stuff and real gold.  I’ll leave you to your own conclusions about heaven.

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This is a wonderful post from a Nicole Cody’s blog. I wanted to share it, because it’s great advice.

Cauldrons and Cupcakes

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” ~ Steve Jobs

In this time-pressured life of ours, where everything is vying for our attention and our money, and where there is so much emphasis on success, I’ve observed something that saddens me greatly.  Most grown-ups I know are more and more reluctant to be a beginner.

Oh sure, people want to try new things.

But they try new things based on hoping or expecting that they’ll be good at it, and if they aren’t they quickly move on to something else.

Even worse, I know people who won’t even start…

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Why Take Music Lessons?

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Posthumous portrait of Sir Philip Sidney, poss...

Posthumous portrait of Sir Philip Sidney, possibly by Hieronimo Custodis, after an original attributed to Cornelis Ketel, 1578, at Longleat House. See Strong, 1990. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Were you beginning to wonder of the title of this domain should be “almost anything but music?”

Me too.

That’s why I will now address the subject in a lofty manner.

If you search using the title of this piece, you’ll find all manner of websites dedicated to the topic, most referring to neurological and educational research. These points of view are familiar and dear to me.  I do intend to expound upon the multiple virtues of taking piano lessons, but as I was trying to decide what to write, it occurred to me that all of my thinking was defensive and that many of those websites were, too.

Being the lucid and direct thinker that I am (not), I was reminded of the first time I encountered Sir Philip Sidney‘s Defence of Poesie.  Why on earth would anyone have to defend poetry?  (After many hours in graduate seminars, I found out.)   I took another look at the DoP to figure out what was roughing up my mental landscape and stumbled upon this craggy ridge:

… I will give you a nearer example of myself, who, I know not by what mischance, in these my not old years and idlest times, having slipped into the title of a poet, am provoked to say something unto you in the defence of that my unelected vocation…

And yet I must say, that as I have more just cause to make a pitiful defence of poor poetry, which, from almost the highest estimation of learning, is fallen to be the laughing-stock of children…

At first, truly, to all them that, professing learning, inveigh against poetry, may justly be objected, that they go very near to ungratefulness to seek to deface that which, in the noblest nations and languages that are known, hath been the first light-giver to ignorance, and first nurse, whose milk by little and little enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges…

Sidney, Philip. A Defense of Poetry and Poems.   London: Cassell and Company, 1891.  Project Gutenberg eBook, 1999. Web. 8 Nov. 2012 <http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1962/pg1962.html&gt;

Exchange “music” for “poetry” and it’s almost exactly how I feel!  Reference to classical music in our contemporary culture has almost become a semiotic flag for laughable elitism or even arrogance. In the mainstream, classical music hides in soundtracks for movies, games, and cartoons, where frequently the message is less than positive, for example, the use of “Ride of the Valkyries” in Apocalypse Now!  In spite of some negative connotations, I’m grateful for the soundtracks.  Those were my first experiences with classical music.  I hope that’s what might happen for today’s children who won’t necessarily recognize a snide subtext and just hear powerful beauty.

I remember being enchanted with Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concertsas a child. There were all those dressed up New York-y people, with their well-behaved children, laughing politely in all the right spots and obviously delighted. I wonder if young people now would tolerate the programs (unless forced to view them in music class where the alternative would be active instruction). I’m sure I was partially lured into appreciation by the fact that my dad was from New York: a place, he intimated, infinitely more sophisticated than quaint little San Antonio. I was just trying to figure out what planet he came from. And that’s exactly the point.  From those first tiny screened black and white encounters, I came to understand that there was something else, something higher, something better, something different…

This is what exposure to classical music, and the world of classical music, can do. As Sidney said of poetry:”… in the noblest nations and languages that are known (it) has been the first light giver to ignorance, and first nurse whose milk by little and little enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges…”

Sidney was “defending” against the Platonic idea that poetry is false because it creates an alternate reality, a “lie.” In modern culture any pursuit of knowledge unrelated to the acquisition of wealth is mostly regarded as “false” and foolish. Except, without the sense of something “else,” material possessions, beyond basic necessities, become empty.

The serious study of music, classical music, or any music complicated enough to provoke curiosity, is a gateway to the other arts, languages, literature, world cultures, comparative religion,  philosophy, and more. It also teaches the joy of persistent, methodical striving for and achieving goals that are just out of reach.  That makes it a perfect antidote for junk media overload and not at all antithetical to being competitive in the economic world.

Updated Hoboken Hurricane Sandy Update

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As of noon, today, my daughter’s power has been restored and they’re enjoying heat, refrigeration, lights, steamy water, and all other modern technologies!!!

Thanks to the PSE&G (New Jersey power company) and volunteer electricians from other states who worked around the clock to make it happen!

My son-in-law took this picture yesterday on an excursion into NYC for hot showers, a trip to the toy store, and Starbucks, with the following caption:

My little stormtrooper!

Hoboken Update

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While I’ve been working on some articles about music, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.  Since I wrote so much about Hoboken, I thought I might provide a short account of what’s going on there.

We’ve been in pretty close contact with my daughter and her husband through Facebook and phone.   On Monday at about 1:00 PM, she posted these photos of the view from their window:

Their view of Hoboken High School football field

Parking lot before storm surge

She mentioned on her Facebook entry that they live about a mile from the Hudson River.

At 3:58 PM, she posted that they heard a transformer blow, but they still had power.  At around 5:00 PM, their power went out, came back on, briefly, and then went out for good. At 8:15 PM, my daughter communicated this:

Spoke too soon. Crazy flooding. May lose our car :0(  We are high and dry, so that is good. No electricity and a symphony of car horns from being flooded now going off.  All from the Hudson.

At 10:15 PM, this:

Update: Our building even has water inside the lobby. Car gone. Fire alarm for building had been going off for a while. Loud.

About the same time, my son-in-law added this:

Parking lot during storm surge

This was the parking lot of our building… it is now a lake with at least 3 feet of water…we’re being serenaded by the sound of car alarms going off like crazy and the submerged headlights are providing an underwater light show.

Then this photo:

Muck in stairs

About 2 feet of the 3+ feet of water that’s surrounding our building snuck into the ground floor (this is our fire stair tower).

At around 3:00 AM, my daughter said:

Fire alarm finally got turned off. Maybe it just grew tired :0) ? The water has receded some but there is still a good foot or two out there. Parking lot is full of debris water and cars…. same as the street. Unable to see the sidewalks.

Yesterday, October 30th, at around 7:00 PM, from  my daughter:

Made a run to Walgreens…. walk I should say. They were letting people in one by one. Most needed candles and food… we needed diaper rash cream and PediaSure. Car claim in and now just waiting for life to go back to normal. Looks like folk’s basements are filled to the top.

And shortly thereafter, from my son-in-law:

Still without power in Hoboken…grilling on the balcony and it’s so f’ing dark and quiet outside except for the sirens in the background…

They can’t restore power until the water recedes, which it’s doing slowly.  The Hoboken City website says there are 500 million gallons of water mixed with sewage and gasoline from the drowned cars.  Pumps are removing about 75 million gallons per day.  Low tide and natural abatement should take care of the rest within the next 48 hours.

The National Guard has arrived to help those in dire situations.

Fortunately, my daughter’s apartment is on the fourth floor, they have plenty of food, and water in Hoboken is still good and they’re getting it through their taps.  No hot showers, of course, and it’s supposed to get down in the 40’s (fahrenheit) tonight.  They’ll probably do OK with the temperature, as they’re rather warm-blooded. (I think they keep their apartment nearly in the 40’s for most of the summer!)