Multiple Intelligence Monday: the equity of genius

I’ve written about the ten thousand hour rule and referred to it to make the point that preparation is the most important work of a conductor.

So my sister posted on my Facebook wall a link to this Radiolab story about genius, which distinguishes between “rare ability” and “extraordinary love” sources of apparent genius.

I’d like to add a third option, as a theory, with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

I’ve mentioned that conductors are conductors because conducting isn’t their work, it’s their passion.  I’m a conductor because I’ve been obsessed with conducting for twenty years.  Why would anyone go into an esoteric profession with little hope for fame or fortune?

Love.  Passion.  Obsession.  Fixation.  Compulsion.  These are words we use in reference to poor mental health and great genius.  No wonder the two are commonly linked.  Great art and wild genius could very well simply be products of unstable mental faculties.  A brain slightly out of balance is really good at seeing the world in unique ways.

Speaking sincerely for a moment, I know more cooky, zany, eccentric conductors than I know sane, calm, rational conductors.  I am in the majority here: nestled comfortably among other slightly wacky colleagues, the number of my quirks does not deviate far from the standard.  I wish I could say that the wacky conductors are the best conductors, and sane people aren’t as good, but that’s just not true.  I’ve sung for/studied with/worked with great conductors I’d never want to speak to in real life, and others who are so well-balanced they have actually made me saner.

Because, as I’ve also said, it’s not your strengths that make you a good conductor, but knowing how to use them.

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2 Responses to Multiple Intelligence Monday: the equity of genius

  1. Allegra says:

    Ugh, I find the ten-thousand-hour rule so depressing; I only read about it this summer. There are so many different parts to being a conductor; do I have to put ten-thousand-hours into all of them? Gesture, rehearsal technique, diction, harmonic analysis, teaching vocal technique…already we’re up to fifty thousand hours.

  2. amelianp says:

    Ha! I’m sure experts at everything feel the same way about their field: it’s not just one thing, but lots of little skills that add up to a whole, or more than a whole. Maybe we can think of conducting as one thing, and put in two thousand hours to each–or better yet, spend the time figuring out which ones we need to put time into. The ten thousand hour rule says it doesn’t so much matter how you practice, just so long as your spending the time on that task.

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