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talent, technique, imagination - long

updated tue 30 apr 96 on sat 13 apr 96

Hi all-
I've been following the "talent" thread intermittently, with interest. I
have been a musician my whole life, and I struggled for years with the
natural ablilty/native talent issue-concluding at some point that I had
neither. Then I met a teacher who had a profound influence on my thinking and
playing. I spent some years with him and he never once showed me what to play
(i.e. a certain rhythm or figure to imitate) Of course I had to play
something- but it was clear that those materials were exercises, not music.
What I was learning was how to play not what to play- how to get my muscles
to do what was required of them to produce the motions necessary to make the
intended sounds, and how to strengthen the link between those muscles and my
mind. My teacher was always clear that at no time during a performance should
I ever consciously think about any of these issues - I should just play.
Technique is not talent. I don't know exactly what talent is, but in my
experience it relates to imagination-and, also in my case, imagination does
not function on demand. It is however a faculty with a muscular analogue- it
needs to be used in order for one to be able to use it. Technique makes it
possible to relax enough about the issues of making something (music-pots) to
let imagination do what it should- inform decisions about the work, and
hopefully surprise you on occasion. I think many people do not do the kind of
exercise that keeps that muscle in shape, it's a lifelong group of habits,
ways of thinking about and reacting to stimuli. In general it seems that most
people are not taught to do this - those with "natural ability" simply can't
be stopped. The rest of us have to figure out how to start. But given the
time and the opportunity, and enough determination, anyone's "talent" can
manifest itself. Then there's the whole next set of issues about whether the
stuff's "good" or not. That's where I get off the bus... Later on.....

John Anthony
Phila.,PA USA