Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:20 am

karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:... I'm perfectly fine with the rest of what you say, but as far as my gut feel on how much intelligence (or genius) is on display in a given composer's body of music, would it be outrageous to say that John Cage displays almost none. I'm not saying he was unintelligent, but his music, or what I've heard, which isn't really much, were not showpieces for whatever musical intelligence he had.
The key is there in your own words; maybe you've not heard the Cage works which would convince you of his genius.

(For the record, I find genius a problematic word; so I am not necessarily endorsing Cage for a genius . . . but he certainly wrote some wonderful music which the world would be poorer without IMO.)

Cheers,
~Karl
Well perhaps there is some genius evident in some of that work, I don't know. But don't get me wrong, I'm not a Cage rubbisher. 4'33" is a single stroke of ingenuity, although one doesn't get any sense that a prodigious and comprehensive intelligence was at work in its creation, as you might in something like Brahms second piano concerto. So perhaps I should defer any overall evaluation of Cage for now.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:31 am

Chalkperson wrote:
karlhenning wrote:For the record, I find genius a problematic word
Me too, it's thrown about way to often and is often not applied correctly, I like this paragraph from the Wiki definition...

Other qualities associated with genius include curiosity, playfulness, imagination, wonder, wisdom, inventiveness, vitality, sensitivity, flexibility, humor, and joy. Specifically, joy at making a new connection, obtaining a new insight, or accomplishing a new feat can be a powerful motivator of geniuses. Another view is that all significant creative leaps involve the components of talent and technique, and that the most universal and necessary aspect of technique is dogged persistence.

That seems to apply to both Mozart and Bach... :wink:
Just to footnote, that those "other qualities" are all highly important to the creative process, but they are not "genius" itself. And now I'm repeating myself, but evidence of genius means evidence of aptitude or talent. Genius and extraordinary talent are fairly equivalent terms in my view, although genius is only potential, talent is that potential brought to fruition. The terms are used fairly interchangeably. Perhaps talent is the better word as John suggested, certainly less subject to interpretation.

For the record, here is the dictionary definition of genius.
a. Extraordinary intellectual and creative power.
b. A person of extraordinary intellect and talent: "One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius" (Simone de Beauvoir).
c. A person who has an exceptionally high intelligence quotient, typically above 140.
Source - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/genius

In any case, thanks to Tarentella for provoking a very interesting discussion, as least from my POV. If nothing else, just talking about Mozart, and Bach, not to mention Cage and Sweelinck, always stimulates my curiousity about music in one direction or another.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:26 am

slofstra wrote:I think we're a bit at cross purposes with how we take the word "genius". It's important, because if I took your definition of genius it would completely change what I tried to say. Genius just means high intelligence. The word used to mean an IQ of 150 or higher. However, I've read that musical performance draws on a dozen different kinds of intelligence, not all of which are required in order to perform music. So it's hard to come up with a single measure of intelligence for music, and even the notion of general measure of high intelligence is suspect. But people can be measured for verbal skills, mathematical, mechanical and so on. With respect to music, genius would only mean someone who measures high on the scale of musical intelligence or ability.

I don't know how you measure musical intelligence, but surely there are aptitude tests for this.

I'm perfectly fine with the rest of what you say, but as far as my gut feel on how much intelligence (or genius) is on display in a given composer's body of music, would it be outrageous to say that John Cage displays almost none. I'm not saying he was unintelligent, but his music, or what I've heard, which isn't really much, were not showpieces for whatever musical intelligence he had.
Yes, we are at cross-purposes, and perhaps we've taken this as far as we can. It may be that somebody defined genius as "an IQ of 150 or higher," but that trivializes it. You don't establish whether Mozart or Bach was the greater genius by giving them an IQ test. General intelligence has nothing to do with composing the Matthew Passion or Don Giovanni, nothing that I can think of anyway, and it's only with respect to music that either Bach or Mozart was exceptional, as far as their biographies can tell us. Also, you think of genius and talent exactly opposite to the way I do. So I guess that's that.

I don't believe there is a test for measuring specifically musical intelligence, but if there were, I doubt it would tell us much. What we call inspiration, or more prosaically, coming up with ideas, is surely fundamental here, and as far as I know, it isn't about intelligence of any kind. Intelligence comes in when working with your ideas - choosing which to pursue or reject and working them out - but it's not about actually having them.

Somehow we drifted into a discussion of genius when the subject of this thread was only whether Mozart's music is overrated. But since we did, a few further comments. Genius involves originality - no genius is needed just to copy somebody else's ideas - but it's not about originality alone. I could create original music by simply taking an existing work and rewriting it backwards or upside down. Or by changing the numbers in a certain John Cage "composition" to 7' 16". That's not difficult enough to require genius or even talent. Difficulty is crucial - you don't qualify as a genius by solving easy problems. And I can't help feeling that the importance of the innovation, its significance and consequences, figure in as well. By these and any other standard I can think of, Einstein was a genius. Would we say that of Ron Popeil? Whether any of John Cage's innovations or compositions qualify him to be considered a genius, I don't know (and frankly I don't care); it may be too soon to tell.

(I can't believe I just checked the spelling of "Popeil." But I did. :) )
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:46 am

John F wrote:
slofstra wrote:I think we're a bit at cross purposes with how we take the word "genius". It's important, because if I took your definition of genius it would completely change what I tried to say. Genius just means high intelligence. The word used to mean an IQ of 150 or higher. However, I've read that musical performance draws on a dozen different kinds of intelligence, not all of which are required in order to perform music. So it's hard to come up with a single measure of intelligence for music, and even the notion of general measure of high intelligence is suspect. But people can be measured for verbal skills, mathematical, mechanical and so on. With respect to music, genius would only mean someone who measures high on the scale of musical intelligence or ability.

I don't know how you measure musical intelligence, but surely there are aptitude tests for this.

I'm perfectly fine with the rest of what you say, but as far as my gut feel on how much intelligence (or genius) is on display in a given composer's body of music, would it be outrageous to say that John Cage displays almost none. I'm not saying he was unintelligent, but his music, or what I've heard, which isn't really much, were not showpieces for whatever musical intelligence he had.
Yes, we are at cross-purposes, and perhaps we've taken this as far as we can. It may be that somebody defined genius as "an IQ of 150 or higher," but that trivializes it. You don't establish whether Mozart or Bach was the greater genius by giving them an IQ test. General intelligence has nothing to do with composing the Matthew Passion or Don Giovanni, nothing that I can think of anyway, and it's only with respect to music that either Bach or Mozart was exceptional, as far as their biographies can tell us. Also, you think of genius and talent exactly opposite to the way I do. So I guess that's that.

I don't believe there is a test for measuring specifically musical intelligence, but if there were, I doubt it would tell us much. What we call inspiration, or more prosaically, coming up with ideas, is surely fundamental here, and as far as I know, it isn't about intelligence of any kind. Intelligence comes in when working with your ideas - choosing which to pursue or reject and working them out - but it's not about actually having them.

Somehow we drifted into a discussion of genius when the subject of this thread was only whether Mozart's music is overrated. But since we did, a few further comments. Genius involves originality - no genius is needed just to copy somebody else's ideas - but it's not about originality alone. I could create original music by simply taking an existing work and rewriting it backwards or upside down. Or by changing the numbers in a certain John Cage "composition" to 7' 16". That's not difficult enough to require genius or even talent. Difficulty is crucial - you don't qualify as a genius by solving easy problems. And I can't help feeling that the importance of the innovation, its significance and consequences, figure in as well. By these and any other standard I can think of, Einstein was a genius. Would we say that of Ron Popeil? Whether any of John Cage's innovations or compositions qualify him to be considered a genius, I don't know (and frankly I don't care); it may be too soon to tell.

(I can't believe I just checked the spelling of "Popeil." But I did. :) )
There most definitely are ways of measuring the various aptitudes required for musical expression, either composition or performance. I just don't happen to know what they are, but have read about this issue. In any case, if these aptitudes can be identified, then they could be tested, and you could indeed test Mozart or Bach for their musical genius, hypothetically anyway. But I would caution that such a test would not measure the quality of their music or life's accomplishment.

But wait, there's more ... (referencing Ron Popeil here).
I have the following book on my shelf, but have yet to read it.
http://daniellevitin.com/publicpage/boo ... -on-music/
Of course, there's also Oliver Saks book, Musicophilia, which I did read, and isn't directly about the subject of "genius", but does talk about the brain and music.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:08 am

"The various aptitudes required for musical expression" is not the same as "musical intelligence." Yes, there are tests of some musical aptitudes. The best-known is probably the Seashore Tests of Musical Ability, which I took in high school. The part of it that I remember is the ability to distinguish different pitches, but there was more to it than that. You can read about it here:

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1736.htm

The Seashore Tests were devised in 1919 and apparently aren't used any more, and if they were, what they measure is so basic that any musician, and most non-musicians who aren't actually tone-deaf, could score well. And as the author says, there are "vast dimensions of musicality that'll never show up on a set of one-dimensional measures." At best such tests may measure aptitude; they can hardly measure talent, and certainly not genius.

Of course the brain has something to do with music. :) I've read Levitin's and Saks's books and others besides. What I've been saying in our conversation reflects what I've gotten from my reading, among other things; not much help when talking about one-of-a-kind individuals like Mozart and Bach.
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by IcedNote » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:36 am

slofstra wrote:There most definitely are ways of measuring the various aptitudes required for musical expression, either composition or performance. I just don't happen to know what they are, but have read about this issue. In any case, if these aptitudes can be identified, then they could be tested, and you could indeed test Mozart or Bach for their musical genius, hypothetically anyway. But I would caution that such a test would not measure the quality of their music or life's accomplishment.
I very much doubt all of this. Clearly we're not talking about testing knowledge and ease of music theory, so we can toss that. There are surely ways to test pitch memory and musical memory and such, but those don't help with composition. I can't think of a single way of testing who's better able to come up with "better" musical ideas--aka those musical ideas that we'd classify as "genius."

And I'm not quite sure that there are "musical problems" that need to be solved (to branch off from what John was saying about genius). Perhaps: "I don't know how to express this deep turmoil I have growing inside me via musical means, so I must solve that!" But those problems seem that they would vary from composer to composer.

-G
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by johnQpublic » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:58 am

John F wrote: " The best-known is probably the Seashore Tests of Musical Ability, which I took in high school. "
"READY NOW, for the PITCH TEST" :D
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:33 pm

IcedNote wrote:And I'm not quite sure that there are "musical problems" that need to be solved (to branch off from what John was saying about genius).
Actually, I was talking in general terms there - Einstein as well as Bach. You'd know better than I whether compositional decisions can be seen as solutions to compositional problems, and whether composers actually do see them that way. Beethoven's sketch books show him laboring over the shape of a theme through several different versions before deciding he's found what he needs; sure looks like problem-solving to me. And some forms, such as canon and fugue, are set as tests in music theory courses and such; the child Mozart had to write a fugue, on a theme he had been given, to qualify for membership in the Bologna Academy. That kind of thing looks like problem-solving to me, but of course it's not what composers normally do. Anyway, I've no stake in whether it's called problem-solving or some other name for the process of getting a result, my point is that if it's easy it doesn't count as a work of genius.
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:51 pm

John F wrote:"The various aptitudes required for musical expression" is not the same as "musical intelligence." Yes, there are tests of some musical aptitudes. The best-known is probably the Seashore Tests of Musical Ability, which I took in high school. The part of it that I remember is the ability to distinguish different pitches, but there was more to it than that. You can read about it here:

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1736.htm

The Seashore Tests were devised in 1919 and apparently aren't used any more, and if they were, what they measure is so basic that any musician, and most non-musicians who aren't actually tone-deaf, could score well. And as the author says, there are "vast dimensions of musicality that'll never show up on a set of one-dimensional measures." At best such tests may measure aptitude; they can hardly measure talent, and certainly not genius.

Of course the brain has something to do with music. :) I've read Levitin's and Saks's books and others besides. What I've been saying in our conversation reflects what I've gotten from my reading, among other things; not much help when talking about one-of-a-kind individuals like Mozart and Bach.
I don't agree, and neither does the dictionary. Genius is high aptitude or talent, nothing more or less. If you can measure aptitude you can determine who is a genius. I think all you've indicated is that the current state of testing for musical aptitude is poor.

gen·ius
a. Extraordinary intellectual and creative power.
b. A person of extraordinary intellect and talent: "One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius" (Simone de Beauvoir).
c. A person who has an exceptionally high intelligence quotient, typically above 140.
2.
a. A strong natural talent, aptitude, or inclination: has a genius for choosing the right words.
b. One who has such a talent or inclination: a genius at diplomacy.
Last edited by slofstra on Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:15 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:06 pm

IcedNote wrote:
slofstra wrote:There most definitely are ways of measuring the various aptitudes required for musical expression, either composition or performance. I just don't happen to know what they are, but have read about this issue. In any case, if these aptitudes can be identified, then they could be tested, and you could indeed test Mozart or Bach for their musical genius, hypothetically anyway. But I would caution that such a test would not measure the quality of their music or life's accomplishment.
I very much doubt all of this. Clearly we're not talking about testing knowledge and ease of music theory, so we can toss that. There are surely ways to test pitch memory and musical memory and such, but those don't help with composition. I can't think of a single way of testing who's better able to come up with "better" musical ideas--aka those musical ideas that we'd classify as "genius."

And I'm not quite sure that there are "musical problems" that need to be solved (to branch off from what John was saying about genius). Perhaps: "I don't know how to express this deep turmoil I have growing inside me via musical means, so I must solve that!" But those problems seem that they would vary from composer to composer.

-G
Generally speaking, if you enter grad school, you write a GMAT or LSAT test which tests your ability in various areas - verbal, mathematical and so on. Certainly, a composite test could be devised for musical performance ability, but I would stress that it's much more involved than a pitch test. As you know some students have a stronger sense of ear, and some are better at working with notes on the page, and "typing" those into the piano. Somewhere in my past, I read an article or study which broke down the kinds of raw intelligence required for musical performance into a dozen or so factors, like the two I mentioned. No one would possess all these factors in high degree, and a given individual would draw on a different composite of these factors in order to perform music. In an analogous way, a lawyer might draw on different aspects of his or her intelligence to present a case, or a programmer in designing a software system. But the bottom line is that these elements of intelligence can be measured, and I'm sure an overall suitability to musical performance or composition study could be devised. Tell me why music would be different in that respect than any other area of study. I know college entrance for music programs don't actually work that way, and I suspect that the reason is that there are much easier ways to find good candidates. For one thing, in musical performance, unlike other areas of study, you can audition, and that's likely more meaningful and easier to do than any battery of tests. But the non-existence of the procedure to test a "genius" level in musical aptitude or intelligence does not mean it couldn't be done.
Regarding classifying "ideas" as genius. A person's work can exhibit genius, but there are other factors at play in producing significant work, and that's true in any endeavor.
Regarding "musical problems" I'm not sure what you mean. Problem solving is only one aspect of any creative process. If I architect a house, is that solving a problem? Not necessarily, I don't think the sweep of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs were solving a particular problem, but at some point in the process any creative task does break down into the solution of a series of problems. I would think that would be true in musical composition.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:25 pm

You just don't give up, do you, Henry? :D OK, let's look at those dictionary definitions.

Definition 1a clearly applies to artistic creativity. Definition 1b will pass, since it relates genius to extraordinary talent - I won't fight that. Definition 1c is irrelevant to our topic; it's psychometric jargon, an arbitrary label for a particular level of scores on IQ tests, which do not measure talent.

The Wikipedia article "Genius" has this to say about IQ tests:
Wikipedia wrote:One usage of the noun "genius" is closely related to the general concept of intelligence. One currently accepted way of attempting to measure one's intelligence is with an IQ test. The label of "genius" for persons of high IQ was popularized by Lewis Terman. He and his colleague Leta Hollingworth suggested different scores as a cut-off for genius in psychometric terms. Terman considered it to be an IQ of 140 on the Stanford Binet (about 0.4% of the population), while Hollingworth put it at an IQ of 180 (theoretically extrapolated at 1 in 2 million).

In addition to the fundamental criticism that intelligence measured in this way is an example of reification and ranking fallacies, the IQ test has also been criticized as having a "cultural bias" in its interpretation despite assurances that these tests are designed to eliminate test bias.

Anders Ericsson argues that generally (with highly demanding fields like theoretical physics as the exception), after a person's IQ surpasses 120, success is determined more by other qualities. In other words, there may be general decreasing return on raw mental power. Ericsson proposes social skills as an example of other qualities that are then more relevant to success. He also warns that IQ does not measure what many would consider "creativity" — sometimes measured by looking at an individual's Latent inhibition instead of IQ.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genius

If IQ doesn't measure creativity, what has it to do with creative artists like Bach and Mozart? And if the two psychologists who invented the label "genius" for high IQ scores couldn't even agree on the cut-off score, how seriously can we take their label?

Both definitions under 2 are informal (i.e. loose) talk and hype, overpraising something that may be very good but doesn't require genius. It's like praising a good BLT sandwich as a work of art, which people also do. Of course after Andy Warhol's Campbell soup cans, some might claim that a BLT sandwich can literally be a work of art, if you say it is. Fooey.
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:28 pm

John F wrote:You just don't give up, do you, Henry? :D OK, let's look at those dictionary definitions.

Definition 1a clearly applies to artistic creativity. Definition 1b will pass, since it relates genius to extraordinary talent - I won't fight that. Definition 1c is irrelevant to our topic; it's psychometric jargon, an arbitrary label for a particular level of scores on IQ tests, which do not measure talent.

The Wikipedia article "Genius" has this to say about IQ tests:
Wikipedia wrote:One usage of the noun "genius" is closely related to the general concept of intelligence. One currently accepted way of attempting to measure one's intelligence is with an IQ test. The label of "genius" for persons of high IQ was popularized by Lewis Terman. He and his colleague Leta Hollingworth suggested different scores as a cut-off for genius in psychometric terms. Terman considered it to be an IQ of 140 on the Stanford Binet (about 0.4% of the population), while Hollingworth put it at an IQ of 180 (theoretically extrapolated at 1 in 2 million).

In addition to the fundamental criticism that intelligence measured in this way is an example of reification and ranking fallacies, the IQ test has also been criticized as having a "cultural bias" in its interpretation despite assurances that these tests are designed to eliminate test bias.

Anders Ericsson argues that generally (with highly demanding fields like theoretical physics as the exception), after a person's IQ surpasses 120, success is determined more by other qualities. In other words, there may be general decreasing return on raw mental power. Ericsson proposes social skills as an example of other qualities that are then more relevant to success. He also warns that IQ does not measure what many would consider "creativity" — sometimes measured by looking at an individual's Latent inhibition instead of IQ.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genius

If IQ doesn't measure creativity, what has it to do with creative artists like Bach and Mozart? And if the two psychologists who invented the label "genius" for high IQ scores couldn't even agree on the cut-off score, how seriously can we take their label?

Both definitions under 2 are informal (i.e. loose) talk and hype, overpraising something that may be very good but doesn't require genius. It's like praising a good BLT sandwich as a work of art, which people also do. Of course after Andy Warhol's Campbell soup cans, some might claim that a BLT sandwich can literally be a work of art, if you say it is. Fooey.
So John, if I understand you, the term 'genius' to you means someone who exhibits great creativity, correct? I think that's probably 'a' definition that many people take from the word genius, but is not a) what I meant, and b) not the correct denotative term. Now to untangle a couple of other concepts - IQ is not even synonymous with "intelligence", but a very narrow aspect of intelligence. The term intelligence today encompasses many forms of intellectual ability outside of IQ tests. People speak of emotional intelligence, social intelligence and kinetic intelligence, for example. All together Howard Gardner in his work on "multiple intelligence" mentions eight kinds of intelligence. Genius, meaning high intelligence, refers to all these kinds of intelligence, not simply high IQ. Which kind of intelligence is being referenced when we say "genius", whether musical, social, mathematical or multiple intelligence, depends on context. It is not incorrect to use genius to mean "high IQ" in certain contexts.
Because experts cannot agree on the IQ level of a "genius" does indicate anything. So what if one person says 140 and another 180. How fast does a car need to go before we can call it a race car?
But I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment. A person of medium intelligence, someone who is most decidedly not at a genius level, may still be able to achieve something that is highly creative or creatively significant. Great intellectual accomplishment is often the domain of people who are merely bright, and operating significantly below the level of a genius. Conversely many a genius not only falls short of their potential, but accomplishes very little in life.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:35 pm

John F wrote:
IcedNote wrote:And I'm not quite sure that there are "musical problems" that need to be solved (to branch off from what John was saying about genius).
Actually, I was talking in general terms there - Einstein as well as Bach. You'd know better than I whether compositional decisions can be seen as solutions to compositional problems, and whether composers actually do see them that way. Beethoven's sketch books show him laboring over the shape of a theme through several different versions before deciding he's found what he needs; sure looks like problem-solving to me. And some forms, such as canon and fugue, are set as tests in music theory courses and such; the child Mozart had to write a fugue, on a theme he had been given, to qualify for membership in the Bologna Academy. That kind of thing looks like problem-solving to me, but of course it's not what composers normally do. Anyway, I've no stake in whether it's called problem-solving or some other name for the process of getting a result, my point is that if it's easy it doesn' ... of genius.
The mark of a genius is not the difficulty of the task itself, but the speed at which a given task can be accomplished, or the speed at which the mind works. I can play the Appasionata right through if you give me a few hours to do it. Obviously for performing a Beethoven piano sonata, that will not do, but in many other areas, it's okay to go a little slower. Musical composition might be one of those things, I don't know, certainly in computer programming not being a quick study can be offset by extended focus on the task. Certainly a good journeyman often produces better results because they are less easily bored and distracted. And this is why 'bright minds' often accomplish significant things creatively, because of their dedication and perseverance. Perhaps Mozart could have accomplished more creatively if he wasn't such a musical genius.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by IcedNote » Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:28 pm

slofstra wrote:Tell me why music would be different in that respect than any other area of study.
Because "genius" in music is entirely subjective. An objective test for a performer might be, say, how in tune they can play the violin. Or, perhaps, how steady the rhythm of a percussionist is. But we all know that even if you play PERFECTLY in tune and PERFECTLY in rhythm, that won't make for a "genius" performance. Hell, probably far from it. If it did, computers would easily be able to construct flawless, "genius" performances. I don't see many DG albums dedicated to software. :D

Re: composition...it gets even hairier. Ask 100 A-level theory students to write you a 3-voice fugue. Assume their are zero "errors" anywhere in it (e.g. parallel 5ths, untreated dissonances, etc.). Does that mean that you'll have 100 "genius" fugues? Nope.

I can't believe that you actually believe any of the above, so perhaps we're not really understanding each other.

-G
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:11 pm

IcedNote wrote:
slofstra wrote:Tell me why music would be different in that respect than any other area of study.
Because "genius" in music is entirely subjective. An objective test for a performer might be, say, how in tune they can play the violin. Or, perhaps, how steady the rhythm of a percussionist is. But we all know that even if you play PERFECTLY in tune and PERFECTLY in rhythm, that won't make for a "genius" performance. Hell, probably far from it. If it did, computers would easily be able to construct flawless, "genius" performances. I don't see many DG albums dedicated to software. :D

Re: composition...it gets even hairier. Ask 100 A-level theory students to write you a 3-voice fugue. Assume their are zero "errors" anywhere in it (e.g. parallel 5ths, untreated dissonances, etc.). Does that mean that you'll have 100 "genius" fugues? Nope.

I can't believe that you actually believe any of the above, so perhaps we're not really understanding each other.

-G
Garrett, I believe we mystify the Arts un-necessarily to quite an extent. I think that the reason our perspectives might be different is the reading I've done (many years ago now) in the area of Artificial Intelligence. I believe in not too many years, a computer will produce better music than Bach or any human composer ever did. Not only is musical composition a function of intelligence, but a function of specific and measurable intelligence. What do you think about that one?
Now to look at the specifics of what you've said. You suggest a particular objective test for musical ability. Again I say, as I said to John F, that you've got the wrong test. In terms of musical performance ability, you need to break down the activity into ALL its constituent parts, and then test ALL those parts to come up with an overall score. So that would include scores on pitch detection, sense of rhythm and so on, but also reading sheet music, musical memory, eye-hand co-ordination (possibly), and other factors, and then produce a composite of those scores. I'm not an expert in that area, so I really don't know the constituent parts. I'm confident it could be done, because there's no human mental activity for which potential cannot be measured in some manner.

But that score on its own would not be a predictor of success, because any human endeavour also requires hard work ... the great equalizer, or at least it evens things up a bit.
GMAT, LSAT, why could there not be a test for post-graduate work in music? (Remembering that your past record is considered in addition to your aptitude for entrance into any post-grad program.) I'm not saying we need to have such a test, I'm just saying that aptitude for musical performance can be measured.
Re: composition...it gets even hairier. Ask 100 A-level theory students to write you a 3-voice fugue. Assume their are zero "errors" anywhere in it (e.g. parallel 5ths, untreated dissonances, etc.). Does that mean that you'll have 100 "genius" fugues? Nope.
This sentence suggests to me that we are talking at cross purposes. I don't like the terminology, "genius fugue". It might happen that a non-genius writes an incredible fugue, then it's a non-genius fugue, but may be the best of the 100 that you had written. Perhaps s/he works a little longer at it, and serendipity and luck may also have had something to do with the outcome. We need some other word to measure the quality of a fugue than "genius". A fugue is just sound and has no intellectual capacity of its own. A fugue might 'reveal' genius in the writer; that's the best it could do. If we listen to 100 pieces of music by Bach, then we might obtain some sense that the composer is a genius, because of that person consistently writing incredible fugues and other pieces of music. My original remarks indicate that I see a genius lurking behind the music of Mozart, and I have speculated whether Bach has the same level of genius as Mozart had. However, I am willing to concede that my skepticism on that score is due to other factors, which we've discuss in preceding posts, primarily the forward development of music between the times of the respective composers.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Mon Jul 30, 2012 5:29 am

slofstra wrote:I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment.
In other words, for you a genius might be a person of no ability or accomplishment at all, or at least no creative ability or accomplishment, of high general intelligence but with no special talent in any particular activity. Basically, then, an extension of the crude definition of genius by intelligence testers as IQ 140+. We absolutely disagree, then, and there's no getting around it.

As for devising an objective test that would identify musical genius, or even aptitude for composing and performing music with competence, you're confident that such a test could be devised, and ask "why music would be different in that respect than any other area of study." I could equally well ask you why music would be the same. Such a test would have practical uses, for example in deciding among applicants for admission to a music conservatory; it would surely have been devised by now - if it could be. But it never has. The logical reason why not is that nobody knows how to devise an objective test that really does measure musical aptitude in a nontrivial and reliably verifiable way.

Maybe some day this can be done, maybe not. Your confidence that it can, rests on your concept of musical aptitude as being essentially like other aptitudes and relating in a significant and measurable way to general intelligence. But you provide no evidence for this and I don't know of any; it appears you take it on faith. (And even if a test could measure raw aptitude, like the potential to compose a competent fugue, it could hardly measure genius, the potential to compose fugues on the level of Bach's.) If general intelligence were a major factor in musical aptitude, then one would expect it to figure in studies like Levitin's "This Is Your Brain on Music." But the word "intelligence" appears in that book's index only once - "intelligence, effect of music on" - which is the other way around, and refers to a discussion of the so-called Mozart Effect which it debunks.

What more is there to say?
John Francis

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:05 am

IcedNote wrote:Because "genius" in music is entirely subjective.
Not entirely subjective. It is a common error, in discussing musical evaluation, to move irrationally from the process cannot be entirely objective to it is therefore entirely subjective.

The process is a hybrid. You'd think that in today's world of alternative energy strategies, that concept would be easier to twig ; )

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:09 am

IcedNote wrote:And I'm not quite sure that there are "musical problems" that need to be solved (to branch off from what John was saying about genius).
If that's not how you approach your work, Garrett, that's fine (obviously). John may have been referring to (e.g.) Stravinsky, who famously remarked to the effect that each score was the "solution" to a "musical problem" he had posed himself. Another aspect of this, is that problem has a purely mathematical/logical resonance here; it is not the nuisance sort of problem.

Cheers,
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:12 am

slofstra wrote:I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment.
Oh, Henry: you see, I think this is quite wrong. I should think, if there be such a thing as genius in the world, that it is a rarely fecund intersection of intelligence and creative ability.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:14 am

I also think that it is not utterly necessary for an artistic genius to be an exceptionally rarefied intelligence; but probably that strays into the various types of intelligence discussion.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:17 am

John F wrote:
slofstra wrote:I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment.
In other words, for you a genius might be a person of no ability or accomplishment at all, or at least no creative ability or accomplishment, of high general intelligence but with no special talent in any particular activity. Basically, then, an extension of the crude definition of genius by intelligence testers as IQ 140+. We absolutely disagree, then, and there's no getting around it.

As for devising an objective test that would identify musical genius, or even aptitude for composing and performing music with competence, you're confident that such a test could be devised, and ask "why music would be different in that respect than any other area of study." I could equally well ask you why music would be the same. Such a test would have practical uses, for example in deciding among applicants for admission to a music conservatory; it would surely have been devised by now - if it could be. But it never has. The logical reason why not is that nobody knows how to devise an objective test that really does measure musical aptitude in a nontrivial and reliably verifiable way.

Maybe some day this can be done, maybe not. Your confidence that it can, rests on your concept of musical aptitude as being essentially like other aptitudes and relating in a significant and measurable way to general intelligence. But you provide no evidence for this and I don't know of any; it appears you take it on faith. (And even if a test could measure raw aptitude, like the potential to compose a competent fugue, it could hardly measure genius, the potential to compose fugues on the level of Bach's.) If general intelligence were a major factor in musical aptitude, then one would expect it to figure in studies like Levitin's "This Is Your Brain on Music." But the word "intelligence" appears in that book's index only once - "intelligence, effect of music on" - which is the other way around, and refers to a discussion of the so-called Mozart Effect which it debunks.

What more is there to say?
Well, quite a lot actually.

"Musical intelligence" and "general intelligence" are not the same thing. A person may well possess both, but that's not necessarily the case. My own aptitude for musical performance by any test I've ever done is middlin', and my general intelligence has been shown to be relatively high. When we speak of a genius in music, I mean high musical intelligence.

I see "musical genius" and "creative output" as independent, not as mutually exclusive. You've clearly taken my meaning as "mutually exclusive" in your first paragraph, and that's not what I meant. A person who is not a musical genius might produce significant creative output, and vice versa. But of course the two are related. A musical genius is some who has the potential for a high level of creative output.

As far as a test being devised for musical intelligence, I readily admit that is conjecture on my part, and governed by my notions about every kind of intelligence and human mental activity. The reason no such test has been devised is that a) it would be difficult, and b) the tradition in musical education has been to audition and test practical musical ability. I would argue that "performance" is more expedient in musical testing, and not available in other disciplines. If a student wishes to get into law school, it's difficult for them to demonstrate their skill level in some kind of 'performance', although there are disciplines which require an oral exam. Thus, the need for a standardized aptitude test, the LSAT. There actually is no practical need for such a test in a music school. Just ask the kid to play. But that does not mean that such a test couldn't be devised.

The other factor (c) is that it's still early in the science of understanding human intelligence, and musical intelligence, in particular. We've only recently moved from even the recognition of intelligence as being multi-faceted or multiple as opposed to general.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:22 am

karlhenning wrote:
IcedNote wrote:Because "genius" in music is entirely subjective.
Not entirely subjective. It is a common error, in discussing musical evaluation, to move irrationally from the process cannot be entirely objective to it is therefore entirely subjective.

The process is a hybrid. You'd think that in today's world of alternative energy strategies, that concept would be easier to twig ; )

Cheers,
~Karl
By my definition, 'musical genius' is purely objective. There is no designation of 'genius' outside of pure intellectual capability, even in the music world. I readily admit that colloquially the term genius is used in a more loose fashion, but this falls outside the dictionary definition. OTOH, quality of creative output is a function of objective and subjective factors, for example, emotional expression enters into a creative work, and for that there is no measure, and one doesn't need to be a genius to be emotional. A musical genius who omits the emotional or social aspects in their work may also have difficulty obtaining recognition.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by josé echenique » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:23 am

Many years ago I saw a list of the supposedly "most intelligent" people in different fields.
I remember 2: Pauline Kael, movie reviewer in the New Yorker and Pierre Boulez in music.
Though I greatly admire Pierre Boulez as composer and conductor, I wouldn´t necessarily think he is a greater composer than Britten or Messiaen, or a greater conductor than Giulini or Blomstedt.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:34 am

karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment.
Oh, Henry: you see, I think this is quite wrong. I should think, if there be such a thing as genius in the world, that it is a rarely fecund intersection of intelligence and creative ability.

Cheers,
~Karl
Tricky. First of all, what I mean here by 'creative ability', is developed or learned technique. Let's consider the 'piano'. A child possesses high musical intelligence, but depending on quite a few factors, that may or may not translate into advanced technique in performance. Musical 'genius' is not a milestone of achievement in performance. An adult whose musical ability remains latent might still be a musical 'genius', even though their high water mark is playing Whole Lotta Shaking Going On by ear.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:43 am

karlhenning wrote:I also think that it is not utterly necessary for an artistic genius to be an exceptionally rarefied intelligence; but probably that strays into the various types of intelligence discussion.

Cheers,
~Karl
At this point the discussion is purely semantics, and how we understand the word genius. I would avoid the use of the word "genius" in the case that you describe. In the musical world, not every great artist is a "musical genius". And this could open up the question of which great artists are musical geniuses, and which are not. I think we tend to ascribe attributes of intelligence to those who accomplish things, that may or may not actually exist. (Very true in the business world, less so in those areas where more raw talent is required, and less accident of birth or event.) An analogy might exist in literature. Harper Lee is arguably not a literary genius, even though To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the greatest works ever written. Lee doesn't demonstrate great command of the English language in her writing, and she only had the one book in her. I suppose, one could argue that she demonstrates innate genius in story telling, but that is a colloquial and imprecise use of the word "genius". By comparison, George Eliot is undeniably a literary genius, capable of great subtlety and insight, a master at crafting prose, and for many readers, the cause of great mental fatigue and boredom also.
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:46 am

josé echenique wrote:Many years ago I saw a list of the supposedly "most intelligent" people in different fields.
I remember 2: Pauline Kael, movie reviewer in the New Yorker and Pierre Boulez in music.
Though I greatly admire Pierre Boulez as composer and conductor, I wouldn´t necessarily think he is a greater composer than Britten or Messiaen, or a greater conductor than Giulini or Blomstedt.
Yes, and although I've run into trouble with the parameters I suggest around the word "genius" I think it's interesting to contrast raw musical ability, however defined, with creative results.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:54 am

slofstra wrote:
karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment.
Oh, Henry: you see, I think this is quite wrong. I should think, if there be such a thing as genius in the world, that it is a rarely fecund intersection of intelligence and creative ability.
Tricky. First of all, what I mean here by 'creative ability', is developed or learned technique.
That will not work with composition, and I think that even if you do not compose, you can see that. One develops technique, certainly; but neither the origination of the material upon which applies the technique, nor nuances in the application of the technique, are themselves the technique.

Cheers,
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:56 am

slofstra wrote:
karlhenning wrote:I also think that it is not utterly necessary for an artistic genius to be an exceptionally rarefied intelligence; but probably that strays into the various types of intelligence discussion.
At this point the discussion is purely semantics, and how we understand the word genius. I would avoid the use of the word "genius" in the case that you describe. In the musical world, not every great artist is a "musical genius".
Agreed (obviously); but (at the risk of drawing an objection to semantics) I don't see a degree of intelligence as the agent of separation.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:15 pm

karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:
karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:I do take genius to mean a person of high intelligence, quite independent of creative ability or high creative accomplishment.
Oh, Henry: you see, I think this is quite wrong. I should think, if there be such a thing as genius in the world, that it is a rarely fecund intersection of intelligence and creative ability.
Tricky. First of all, what I mean here by 'creative ability', is developed or learned technique.
That will not work with composition, and I think that even if you do not compose, you can see that. One develops technique, certainly; but neither the origination of the material upon which applies the technique, nor nuances in the application of the technique, are themselves the technique.

Cheers,
~Karl
No it won't work for composition. There is an aspect of creative ability that has to do with intuition or intelligence. Perhaps it's clearer to separate creative accomplishment or work, from musical intelligence, rather than use the term creative ability, although I was the one to introduce it. And the intelligence which comes into play in composition is different from that required to play.
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:24 pm

karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:
karlhenning wrote:I also think that it is not utterly necessary for an artistic genius to be an exceptionally rarefied intelligence; but probably that strays into the various types of intelligence discussion.
At this point the discussion is purely semantics, and how we understand the word genius. I would avoid the use of the word "genius" in the case that you describe. In the musical world, not every great artist is a "musical genius".
Agreed (obviously); but (at the risk of drawing an objection to semantics) I don't see a degree of intelligence as the agent of separation.

Cheers,
~Karl
If I understand what you mean by "agent of separation", you would call the greatest of the great, "musical geniuses"? I wouldn't. I separate genius or intelligence from accomplishment in art. Some great artists may not be geniuses, and vice versa. Let's take Korngold as an example. Generally considered a "musical genius" (by Mahler, for one), his legacy in musical composition is not first rank. Whereas with Rachmaninoff the reverse may be true. Of course, all this is arguable, but hopefully you get my point about musical intelligence and artistic accomplishment as different entities.

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:46 pm

Well, at least we've gotten to where you recognize the existence of different kinds of intelligence, one of them being musical intelligence. I'm sure nobody would deny the relation between musical intelligence and musical genius, but I've seen nothing that defines just what that relation is.

We can also agree that "A musical genius is someone who has the potential for a high level of creative output." But that hardly needs to be said. Someone who has created great music self-evidently had the potential to do it. Where we've differed is that you have supposed there's a way to discover and evaluate that potential in someone who hasn't actually shown it in the only way it really can be shown, by creating extraordinary works. But what you're now saying about auditions - and it applies to composition students too, they are typically required to show some work they've already done - suggests the gap between us is narrowing.
slofstra wrote:The other factor is that it's still early in the science of understanding human intelligence, and musical intelligence, in particular. We've only recently moved from even the recognition of intelligence as being multi-faceted or multiple as opposed to general.
Recently, in our case, being since about 6:30 this morning. :mrgreen: Anyway, we can certainly agree on that.

Got to end this and go to work. Cheers!
John Francis

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:49 pm

John F wrote:Well, at least we've gotten to where you recognize the existence of different kinds of intelligence, one of them being musical intelligence. I'm sure nobody would deny the relation between musical intelligence and musical genius, but I've seen nothing that defines just what that relation is.

We can also agree that "A musical genius is someone who has the potential for a high level of creative output." But that hardly needs to be said. Someone who has created great music self-evidently had the potential to do it. Where we've differed is that you have supposed there's a way to discover and evaluate that potential in someone who hasn't actually shown it in the only way it really can be shown, by creating extraordinary works. But what you're now saying about auditions - and it applies to composition students too, they are typically required to show some work they've already done - suggests the gap between us is narrowing.
slofstra wrote:The other factor is that it's still early in the science of understanding human intelligence, and musical intelligence, in particular. We've only recently moved from even the recognition of intelligence as being multi-faceted or multiple as opposed to general.
Recently, in our case, being since about 6:30 this morning. :mrgreen: Anyway, we can certainly agree on that.

Got to end this and go to work. Cheers!
Hmm, I've been talking about uniquely musical intelligence and Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences (one of which is musical) since the bottom of page 4. But I guess neither one of us expected to be writing a dissertation on this. Sorry for trying to get one more post in. If you wish one more, I will try not to answer. :)
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:47 pm

Knowing how Henry loves to have the last word, maybe this post will deny him that...

THE LAST WORD... :mrgreen:
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:34 am

slofstra wrote:If you wish one more, I will try not to answer.
Likewise. I'll mention only that I've been rereading Levitin's "This Is Your Brain on Music," and the chapter titled "What Makes a Musician" suggests that we may both have been off course. Or maybe not.
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:18 am

John F wrote:
slofstra wrote:If you wish one more, I will try not to answer.
Likewise. I'll mention only that I've been rereading Levitin's "This Is Your Brain on Music," and the chapter titled "What Makes a Musician" suggests that we may both have been off course. Or maybe not.
I've been meaning to read that one . . . .

Cheers,
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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by slofstra » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:13 pm

John F wrote:
slofstra wrote:If you wish one more, I will try not to answer.
Likewise. I'll mention only that I've been rereading Levitin's "This Is Your Brain on Music," and the chapter titled "What Makes a Musician" suggests that we may both have been off course. Or maybe not.
I love it; that answer has to cover all cases. I'm not arguing here so technically this is not a "last word" post. :) Actually, that book has been sitting unread on my shelf for far too long as well, maybe we can all read it and start another thread. I also believe that Levitin is a personal friend of Edwin Outwater, the conductor of our local symphony orchestra.

Well, what do you know ...
http://www.ideacityonline.com/talks/lev ... -goodyear/

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Re: Arnold Rosner: Mozart most overrated of all composers

Post by John F » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:52 pm

Levitin has a strong and varied professional musical background, rare in his field I should think. He started with that and moved into psychology, neurology, etc. It's in rock/pop music, and his knowledge of classical music is shallow, as a few gaffes reveal. Also, his prose style is relentlessly popularizing, which for me is kind of wearing. But all this doesn't matter much if he knows his stuff, since his research isn't about classical music and musicians but music in general. If you do read his book, I'll be very interested in what you think of it.
John Francis

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