Is GTD More Relaxed and Loose than I think

TesTeq

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At birth we are on the top of the "Hill of Possibilities".

BigStory said:
Do you think it is possible that the difference here is cultural, rather than skill or talent? Asian cultures are not normally very emotionally expressive and focus on what is "proper", in my experience. And Europe (I think) has a "Romantic" history" that may not have a a parallel in Asia. My knowledge is extremely limited, but it seems possible to me.
Yes. But another question occurs immediately:

Why has Europe such "Romantic" history and culture - so different in comparison to Asia. Probably cultural path chosen hundreds years ago affects the future for ages.

The same can be true for personal skills development. If we assume that:
- at birth everybody has nearly the same chance to learn a given skill;
- the skills learned at the beginning affect our future learning capability;
we can say that the first days, weeks and months of life determine your future abilities.

So at birth we are on the top of the "Hill of Possibilities". There are many paths down with groups of related skills. The light push in a given direction determines our path on which we travel comfortably. But changing the path (learning the non-related new skill) will require some climbing (more effort than in case of people that at birth were pushed in this direction and are already here).

andersons, what do you think about the "Hill of Possibilities" idea?
 

kewms

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andersons said:
Now my question is, what made you devote a lot of practice to an athletic endeavor despite the discouragement of high school?

Thank goodness high school experience does not define one's whole life.
Amen to that!

It's an interesting question, and I'm not entirely sure of the answer. Aikido (and also recreational cycling, which I did a lot of in between) is more mentally engaging, I think, and also more of a means to an end. At my school, at least, there's also less emphasis on external competition and more appreciation of the value of consistent effort. Beginners in particular are respected for simply showing up regularly, regardless of how quickly (or not) they learn. (And I was not an aiki-prodigy by any means.)

I think a number of intangible factors figured in, too. I like the people at my aikido school a lot better than most of the people I went to high school with. I was blessed with very good instructors at the early part of the learning curve. That sort of thing is hard to measure, but was very helpful at the early part of the learning curve.

Katherine
 

andersons

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another view of the Chopin Piano Competition

TesTeq said:
In the "XV International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition Warsaw" (http://www.konkurs.chopin.pl/index.php) in this year there were some exceptionally trained pianists from China, Japan and Korea. They were playing perfectly, no wrong note, perfect timing. They could play the music twice as fast with the same accuracy. But the winner was young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz. Why? He simply feels the romantic soul of Chopin's music. He doesn't play notes. He plays stories, emotions, landscapes. Can it be acquired by practice?

You can learn the craft by practice but the real art and mastery requires talent.
I fully appreciate the difference between playing notes with technical mastery and playing with emotion and soul. But I see it more as a value judgment, not as a demonstration of talent. Most Western music lovers will share your value of the emotional expression (including me), but objectively I could just as easily say that the Asians' greater speed and perfect accuracy is evidence of their greater talent.

As BigStory mentioned, the differences in cultural psychology between Asians and Europeans could account for much, if not all, of what you hear in their performances of Chopin. And along with their cultural differences, their training goals are also different. You get what you train for. The Asians practice for dazzling speed and accuracy, not for a creative or emotional interpretation. For the Europeans, though, the technical precision is just a requirement for the most important goal of the creative, expressive, emotional interpretation of a piece.

I once saw a review paper about the differences in cultural psychology of Asians versus Americans. I didn't read the whole thing, but the conclusion was that there were large and fundamental differences between the cultures, including perceptual differences. For example, when both groups view the same scene, they see and remember different things. Even their eye movements (saccades) trace distinctly different patterns. The authors concluded that the findings of cultural psychology for the US could not be applied to Asians.

Coincidentally, I had lunch today with a friend of mine from Korea who is a proficient pianist. I asked her for details about her musical and piano training in Korea. Starting in early childhood, she attended piano school after regular school for 2 hours a day. School time and practice time increased as she got older. She said that none of her teachers ever talked about emotional expression as a musical goal; that speed and absolutely perfect accuracy were drilled into them; that they did a huge amount of just technical training; that there was a spirit of high-pressure competition for speed and accuracy. There was no learning about the historical context of the music, the composer's viewpoint, the theory, the analysis. The European music was new to them, and -- well, foreign. The students' goal was to master the technical difficulties so that they can play the music correctly and perfectly, exactly like the one perfect performance they are taught to imitate. They are strictly to imitate, never diverge or create.

It is hard for me to imagine piano lessons without a teacher working on the emotional expression of a piece, so I asked her if there were any emotion attached to the music at all. Don't they feel anything when they play Chopin? She said that for their own Korean music, they paid much more attention to the emotions it expressed. But learning European music was a competitive endeavor: it is prominent in world-level competitions; it is technically difficult; and the Koreans are determined to master the difficulty and perform it faster than anyone else.

My friend said that any original thinking is discouraged in Korea, in music as well as in the rest of their education and in their lives. They are not to think for themselves; they are to master skills with drill and respect their elders.

In the US, even in the more casual piano training I received (lessons once a week, rather than piano school every day), artistic expression was emphasized at every lesson.

And the Europeans view(ed) Americans as philistines (at least in some books I have read). From early childhood, the young European pianist has daily lessons with master teachers. (One author ridiculed the American way of taking lessons once a week and asked how we could expect to improve without daily lessons. In a week, he said, the child would practice incorrectly and therefore learn the bad habits which would then be hard to unlearn. The "talented" child needs daily guidance to avoid developing "bad habits" between lessons. If a pianist has such special talent, why is so much daily correction needed? This is the same author who believes you either have the talent or you don't.)

Early in training, the young pianist is taught the goal of emotional expression. The Europeans believe that expression is learned by 1) broadly learning about the historical context, the theory, and the structure of the music; 2) listening to the masters and training the ear; and 3) explicit direction in playing the notes and phrases of the music. In one master class I observed, the master teacher spent a great deal of time relating the historical context of Mozart and the structure of the entire piece to the dynamics of the notes in one phrase. For about an hour. On that one phrase. And in Europe, the student apparently listens, listens, listens to the masters, live in master classes, attending concerts, hearing recordings, etc.

But another explicit goal for the European (and American) pianist is a unique and creative interpretation. Chopin's music has been around a long time and has been interpreted hundreds or thousands of times; Europeans and Americans want to hear something different -- a unique viewpoint, a unique interpretation -- that is still consistent with the essence of Chopin. Koreans do not even know what you're talking about when you say that.

Although we are always impressed by a uniquely creative artistic viewpoint, it is never seen without a tremendous amount of work. So yes, it is most definitely acquired; and the artist's goal throughout training is to develop that artistry. It may not be achieved through a precise sequence of steps, but many, many hours of practice and training are most definitely required, not only for the more technical aspects but also the connection of the technique to the expression of emotions.

So Rafal, playing the music of his fellow European (Pole?), in his native culture, is at an advantage to play Chopin in a way that Europeans will most appreciate. But the large differences in training of Chopin between Europeans and Asians also account for the differences in how they play his music.

For me, seeing a source for the artistry heard in the playing of Rafal (goal-directed training) does not eliminate the magic. The source is not magic, but the effect is. To me, at least. Maybe I can get my Korean friend to hear it if I can get a recording of Rafal.
 

andersons

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"Hill of Possibilities" version 2

TesTeq said:
The same can be true for personal skills development. If we assume that:
- at birth everybody has nearly the same chance to learn a given skill;
- the skills learned at the beginning affect our future learning capability;
we can say that the first days, weeks and months of life determine your future abilities.

So at birth we are on the top of the "Hill of Possibilities". There are many paths down with groups of related skills. The light push in a given direction determines our path on which we travel comfortably. But changing the path (learning the non-related new skill) will require some climbing (more effort than in case of people that at birth were pushed in this direction and are already here).

andersons, what do you think about the "Hill of Possibilities" idea?
TesTeq, in this thread I have maintained that talent does not account for skilled performances that we observe, even in the megastar performers. However, I don't really believe that everyone is equal at birth or even thereafter. I would not call the differences "talent" but rather "genetic differences" or "genetic advantage." I think something like your idea, targeting early development, is probably the right direction for identifying genetic advantages assuming they exist.

On the other hand, we have to remember that researchers have already tried to identify those genetic advantages early in childhood, but with little success. I always have to come back to this fact, and it's really quite remarkable. Why have genetic advantages been so hard to find? One reason is that almost nothing is 100% heritable or even highly heritable; there are always interactions with environment during development, even in how genes are expressed in the developing fetus in the womb. (Eye color is the only thing I can think of off the top of my head that is 100% heritable.)

And genetic advantages are hard to find because training is still absolutely necessary for skill. So if a 3-year-old is tested and said to have special talent for music, but doesn't train properly, she won't become highly skilled.

IQ, BTW, is supposed to identify a genetic advantage by testing for "intelligence" independent of knowledge and learning; but IQ doesn't predict achievement.

Or perhaps a critical early interaction between genes and environment happens a lot earlier than researchers have been looking for. In a classroom of 4-year-olds, for example, there are already large differences in their exposure to music. I had heard a lot of Chopin by the time I was 4. My classmates had not.

Getting into more speculation, it's possible the researchers looking for genetic advantages have been testing the wrong things. They hypothesize about what might be a "fundamental ability," resistant to teaching, for a given domain. For example, to identify "talent" in a 3- or 4-year old before piano training, they might look for musical abilities to sing pitches (among many other things). But these domain-specific tests have failed to predict who will end up with performance skill years later; "low-talent" children show high skill in piano playing years later, and vice versa. (Tests of "fundamental abilities" in adults don't even "predict" who already has skill at the time of testing!) However, maybe the supposed "fundamental abilities" are not the right ones to be testing.

Instead, maybe the genetic advantage lies in something like what moises mentioned, motivation and drive. This would be consistent with the findings that early "talent" equals a child's motivation to train, rather than measurable performance superiority. After all, young children willing to spend hours each day training to become a chess master, pianist, or tennis player are not that common. Motivation and drive are brain functions that would connect goal-directed practice to a strong sense of reward. Findings in neurobiology are shedding a lot of light on how motivation and drive work in the brain. Perhaps a child with strong connections between intention, working memory, and reward systems in her brain, when exposed to a domain like music, learns a strong motivation to continue to practice in that area. Especially when parents and the child's culture strongly reward and encourage the skill as well.

So this speculative idea tweaks and elaborates on yours. I would agree that "the skills learned at the beginning affect our future learning." But in the statement "the first days, weeks and months of life determine your future abilities," the word "determine" is far too strong. There are too many influences all throughout development. And one more tweak -- alas, I find the comfortable downhill travel of the "hill of possibilities" a bit too easy. Even the most highly skilled pianists describe practice as being intensely hard and long. It seems more like an uphill climb for everyone.

But for now, we still can't identify possibilities in children. Even if these elusive possibilities do exist, skill development still requires massive training. And there are no shortcuts. The most "talented" performers have spent more time training.
 
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