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Thread: Nature vs Nurture (Talent or Time)

  1. #16
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    That is why I like this board, regardless of the poster. We love the same lady; how can I dislike you?
    . . and what if she's playing favorites ?

  2. #17
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    Personally, I regard talent as the end-result of years of fascination and passion for music (or art, literature, ping-pong playing, or whatever). To my mind, those who are more talented than their peers are those who are more driven to capture and own that which captivates themselves.

    It is not so easy to tell to what degree someone feels a passion for some art such as music. We might see someone 14 years old who excels at musicianship and say, "it 'comes so easy' to him/her... see talent at work." But what 'comes easy?' How can we know of the hours and hours that person spent absorbed by the music (even if not absorbed by the practice)? How can we know how driven they are?

    Physical skills and manual dexterity exists. Like, we're all different. Two people with equal drive/passion for music will advance in musicianship at disparate rates. To my mind, both are equally "talented." Throw in a third person, with malformed fingers, and they too might have this same talent (even if, obviously, musicianship is beyond their physical limitations).

    So, essentially, I have two definitions, depending on context. One is that passion for music which causes some people to obsess on music. That degree of obsession is equal to their talent (potential, if you prefer). The other is that visible and observable excellence which can only be the result of the first definition (superb musicianship, if you prefer).

    As an example, did Steve Vai not have talent back at the beginning when he was struggling with an open F major? Did he have more talent later? The constant part of Steve Vai that I'd regard as "talent" is his passion for and simple neeeeed for music.
    Great post.
    "Talent" really is only the degree of obsession and commitment that enables one to put in the necessary hours of practice without it ever feeling like "work".
    "Fascination" is a good word for what it feels like on the inside. However physically tough or draining practice might get, it's never "hard", subjectively, it's never boring. That's what sorts the sheep from the goats. Find it hard work? Tedious? Then give up, my friend. (Or maybe find some other kind of music...)

    Of course, the question then is - where does that fascination come from? Why do some have it and others don't?
    Eg, some are clearly fascinated (even obsessed) to begin with about music; but after a few months of learning to play they give up. "Man, it's hard!"
    So, you can love music, passionately, but not be able to find your way into being a musician.
    As a teacher, I do find some people are so slow it seems their brains are just wired differently. They have as much drive as the next person (apparently...), but they can't seem to make the stuff work (not just physically in their fingers, but in their heads too).

    I had almost the reverse experience. No real musical passion to begin with (no teacher would ever have identified me as a potential musician, quite the reverse), but the physical (and theoretical) aspects of guitar came quite easily to me. Or at least, as a nerdy teenager, I had the right degree of obsession to play through the pain of that F chord, to want to nail it. There was, quite simply, nothing else I wanted to do but learn guitar. Well, apart from get a girl, maybe... (and then they were still secondary...)

    I mean, I think my point is that age has a HUGE impact here. The earlier someone starts learning music, the better they will be (the easier they will find it) later.
    If you leave it until adulthood - once you have a job and a family - finding the ability (or the time) to obsess about it to the necessary degree is harder. Even if you have the requisite fascination, your other commitments will always get in the way.

    Your comment about "loving the same lady" is pertinent. In my experience, real women tend to get jealous of her...

  3. #18
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    Is it talent or time that makes great musicians?
    The question you really have to answer first is, what is a 'great' musician? I think the perspective of this thread and your blog is perhaps tilted towards instrument skill...the holy grail of technical mastery, as I think someone has put it before. It is possibly the first aspect that springs to mind, but I'm sure everyone recognises that there is something more fundamental than this. Great playing is one thing, but great music is another (The latter includiing the creative element.)

    Investing 10,000 hours into either technique or creativity (for want of better terms) will produce very different levels of success. Technical mastery is generally an option open to anyone who is willing to divest enough time and effort into the pursuit of it. Writing great music, however, is not simply a question of hard grind! Focussing on both is obviously the best way to acheive musical success, but Im separating the two to demonstrate the difference - Technique can be a matter of talent, but can also be the product of time. Creativity can only really be a matter of talent.

    So the question you pose can kind of be answered by determining who is musically greater - the writer or performer? As an example, consider the 'hummer' composer, Danny Elfman, who cannot read/write music or play an instrument significantly well. He exemplifies innate creative talent without 10,000 hours of practice under his belt, or having been forced onto an instrument throughout his childhood. Now consider the musicians who perform his work (or for that matter, any composer's scores). They have invested in many, many hours of training.

    What is fairly clear from this example and from the music market generally, is that demand for material is greater than the demand for performance. IOW the demand for performers is a derived demand from the direct consumption of music itself. I mean, even when you consider innate talent for technical skill, you'll find that whilst demonstrating musical greatness, it does not lead to success. Think of the autistic savant Derek Paravicini, with a natural predisposition to excellence on piano. He can reproduce almost any music after just one listen, but (as is common with musical savants) does not have a creative mind. This kind of greatness, whilst acknowledged, is not appreciated enough to generate demand and define the music market. It seems like I'm drawing a sweeping conclusion from this, but it really is that simple. Musical greatness, as indicated by its market, is appreciated in the musical conception (and therefore in the talent of creativity.)

    Basically, talent makes a great musician because unlearnable creativity is the central element of musical greatness. Time is really only a necessity to learn how to push keys, fret strings, or write in certain styles. It's easy to take for granted how supremely inefficient musical instruments are. 10,000 hours?!! With regard to musical greatness, surely that's all just superficial?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    as music has been passed on through the millenniums, through all cultures, it is a evolutionary trait, necessary for our survival (perhaps the way that birds appeal to their mates through birdsong, humans also appealed to the opposite sex through song and dance: think; "Man.. this guy sure can dance, with that body, I bet he can bring home some meat for dinner everyday"). That would mean that we all have talent for music, it has been passed on genetically from out ancestors.
    Have to say I think this sounds a bit shaky - the kind of fusing of instinct and logic as an evolutionary mechanism. A musical mating ritual might be a vaguely plausible hypothesis on the purpose of music, but the ubiquity of the evidence you would expect to see today is just not there. Music is used in religion and ritual more than it is in sex, which brings me on to the next point. Richard Dawkins (the evolutionary biologist) comments on the existence of art and religion, and the questions of why we have evolved to do them. One of the common misconceptions about evolution is that every natural trait and habit is accountable to survivability. IOW, there is no room for extras or anomolies, since any feature is selected indirectly by its positive effect on survivability. However, this ignores 'side effects' (think about suicide!) Basically, our intelligence, self-awareness and emotionality provided us with a massive survival advantage, but had the side effects of subconsciousness, dream, analogy, delusion, paranoia, mysticism, religiosity, perception of beauty, music and art. AFAIK that's the generally accepted hypothesis.

  4. #19
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    10,000 hours?!! With regard to musical greatness, surely that's all just superficial?
    Hmm.. I'd have to check the way I stated the 10,000 hour concept but regardless, I (or more appropriately Mr. Levitin in his book) doesn't claim that genius is born at the 10,000 hour mark, rather proficiency is. And it would also seem logical that Danny Elfman, although may have not dedicated 10,000 hours to technical expertise on any particular instrument, certainly has dedicated that much time to writing music. The 10,000 hour concept is for anything; song writing, guitar playing, fishing. And as I said about my own career, it started at about that line which put me at 18 years old, and by no means was I anything more than average at that point. I didn't find confidence until about 40,000 hours!

    I also think, at least by my standards, a "great" musician doesn't have to simply be a virtuoso, after all, there are plenty of guitar players with chops and nothing else.

    I do think that there are people with a general disposition to be musical, but the argument is whether or not it takes somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 hours for the disposition to announce itself as talent.

  5. #20
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    Have to say I think this sounds a bit shaky - the kind of fusing of instinct and logic as an evolutionary mechanism. A musical mating ritual might be a vaguely plausible hypothesis on the purpose of music, but the ubiquity of the evidence you would expect to see today is just not there. Music is used in religion and ritual more than it is in sex, which brings me on to the next point. Richard Dawkins (the evolutionary biologist) comments on the existence of art and religion, and the questions of why we have evolved to do them. One of the common misconceptions about evolution is that every natural trait and habit is accountable to survivability. IOW, there is no room for extras or anomolies, since any feature is selected indirectly by its positive effect on survivability. However, this ignores 'side effects' (think about suicide!) Basically, our intelligence, self-awareness and emotionality provided us with a massive survival advantage, but had the side effects of subconsciousness, dream, analogy, delusion, paranoia, mysticism, religiosity, perception of beauty, music and art. AFAIK that's the generally accepted hypothesis.
    Forgive me for quoting directly from Levitin's book and from Darwin's
    "The Descent of Man";

    "I conclude that musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex."

    You would have to read more and I don't have the time to type out the entire entry but Darwin goes on to say something along the lines that music, and the ability to do it somewhat proficiently, was a trait necessary to pass on our genes. Unlike psychologist Dan Sperber who calls music "an evolutionary parasite" as you say, a "side effect."

    And again from Levitin; "Music may indicate biological and sexual fitness, serving to attract mates." It is advertising.

    I also would bet that music accompanies sex more than religious ceremony!

  6. #21
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    Wow, very thoughtfull posts from everyone,
    ..........until now -
    In Chris' blog he seems to be using the word 'talent' the way the rest of us,(including Chris ) are using words like: fascination; obsession; desire; love. 'everyone is born with a talent for music'. That would seem an appropriate use, by strict definition. Proficiency is another matter entirely.

    Whether or not training or, becoming proficient makes one a "better", (or great) musician ?.......seems awfully subjective but, as long as we have a scale to measure these things, sure. The more you know, (the more able you are) the more likely you are to excel.
    I also believe it's possible for the untrained musician/composer to create music that's appreciated by the masses. Surely this was the case 10,000 years ago. Now, measure this composers 'greatness' against Beethoven, who ya' gonna' pick ?

    Now, I'm not sure how what you're going to think about this but, the 10,000 hour mark strikes me as a bit arbitrary, (with all due respect to Levitin and Chris). The meaning I'd give to that ideal is: It's going to take some, (a lot of ?) time/practice to be your best, (bear in mind that I have no idea what kind of research Levitin put in to this book).

    I find the Darwin assertions on music very interesting, I have not heard that before. Animals do use the means at thier disposal to attract mates.

    Okay, enough out of me. I'm going home and practice my altered scale(s).

    -best,
    Mike

  7. #22
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjo
    Now, I'm not sure how what you're going to think about this but, the 10,000 hour mark strikes me as a bit arbitrary, (with all due respect to Levitin and Chris).
    Levitin says that figure emerged surprisingly often from many different pieces of research (not his). Obviously it's an approximation, but various separate researchers (in different fiields) came up with figures very close to it - as a measure of the work it takes to become pre-eminent in a particular art or craft.

    And of course the concept of "talent" is perhaps something else. But it makes no sense to say musical talent is inborn in some - unless it's inborn in all of us, and only needs particular application (a personal fascination or obsession, and/or lucky circumstances) to develop it to "expert" level.

    Creativity, too can be learned (or unlearned). It's a universal human trait, encouraged in some, falling into disuse in others.

    It's worth noting that the concept of "genius", and of music as a specific "profession" only open to a few special people is a peculiarly western idea. In most of the rest of the world (particularly in more primitive societies) music is part of everyday life for everyone, a common social acitivity.

  8. #23
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    It may take more time, or less time, with different instruments. And presumably it also depends what type of music we are talking about - classical clearly requires more dedication than the most basic forms of "rock".

    I often wondered how much practice was done by famous contemporary guitarists.

    Most of them seem reluctant to be specific about it. Sometimes they say they just practiced one hour a day. Although I find that hard to believe. Especially when they say other things which appear to imply that they expended many more hours than that.

    Just to take one almost arbitrary name, my guess is that players like Paul Gilbert probably had a period of several years where they worked exceptionally hard for many hours a day. And after that they were probably playing live so much, and rehearsing songs so intensely every day, that the days were effectively filled with practicing.

    However, for the rest of us, I think it's not sufficient merely to put in the practice hours. You have to make every hour really count.

    That means practicing things that you find difficult. Looking critically at the way you are practicing each thing. And thinking carefully about practicing each element properly.

    So for example - when you practice scales it's much easier to just play through the scales from the patterns you see in a book. Without thinking too much about it.

    But instead when you practice those scales, what you should do is force yourself to pay close attention to everything. Eg, by strict alternate picking of each note, by correct 1-finger-per-fret playing, sounding each note clearly & cleanly by proper movement and correct angle of the left hand fingers, fretting behind the wire, muting unwanted noises, noting the name of each note as you play, noting each interval as you play, playing the scale from different points & not always from root-to-root, playing the scale in extended forms lengthwise up the neck (as opposed to following the book patterns going across the fretboard) ie making your own scales rising up the fretboard on 2, 3,4 strings etc., playing as CAGED forms or as 3nps, or playing the scales all on one string, or on 2 strings. Then you may want to do that, not with alt. picking, but by legato. Etc.

    So even something as apparently simple as scale practice can, and in some ways should, be much more challenging.

    It also helps to play scales against different beat patterns and tempos on a metronome. I don't often use a metronome for other things. But it's quite revealing when you try it at higher tempos on scales and arpeggios.

    I often mention tutorial DVD's here, because in the absence of a private teacher, I've found those things to be invaluable as a basis for all my practice sessions. But I sometimes get the idea that guys here think you need to do little more than put the DVD in the machine and just listen & watch what the presenter is saying & doing. But of course that's no use at all.

    What I do, is to transcribe everything that's played on the DVD & try to understand what the guy is saying about the theory behind each exercise. And then I try to play through it all, and try to understand how each part relates to the wider context of music and guitar playing.

    Obviously, it only takes 2 or 3 hours to watch & listen to something like Scott Henderson's DVD. Whereas, if you are treating in the way that I do, then you may need to practice from it 3 hours a day for years ... unless you are already so good that you can do it all & understand it all immediately... in which case you probably didnít need the DVD anyway.

    Exactly the same thing must happen with private lessons.

    You could go to lessons every week for years, and still not make much progress, unless you really work at what the teacher is telling you.

    IOW, your next weeks practice starts when that 1-hour lesson ends - after the lesson you go away and practice all that youíve been shown, but also try to think about it all, try to understand the lesson in the context of music theory and how that fits with what youíve been playing.

    When you return for the next lesson, you should be able to show that youíve done your best to master the playing and to understand the theory from the last lesson. And that may mean you have a whole load of questions which arise from that weeks practice ... but thatís how you learn, ie by solving some of those questions/problems, exposing other questions/problems ... and picking all that up with the teacher at the next lesson.

    So I think a great deal depends, not just on how many hours you practice, but how seriously you treat that practice time.

    If you treat it lightly, and just do the easy things, then you might need vastly more than 10,000 hours to reach the desired standard.

    If you treat your practice seriously, and force yourself to face up to each playing issue, & really try to overcome each obstacle, then you might achieve that standard in far less than 10,000 hours.

    My apologies for the length of all that waffle .

    Ian.


  9. #24
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    wonderful discussion, thanks ChrisJ for the topic !!

    civil, and thought probing, with excellent comments by all the IBreatheMusic.com Community !

    I've read all the posts by everyone in this thread,

    definately agree I don't think there is an "arbitrary time of x amount of hours" and that the quality of time is a very important factor

    I also don't think age is a factor AT ALL(I think some people tend to use their age as an excuse not to do something)
    just as I do not think hand size is a factor(if you have a abnormal hand then you will need to make some adjustments), etc

    but history has proven this can be accomplished:

    there are musicians who because of necessity have overcome obstacles
    (ie. Django Reinhardt played incredibly with a malformed fretting hand because of burns, there are others who play what many consider to be unorthodox like marty friedman yet still he is able to play wherever his musical creativity takes him, and I could give you TONS of examples of people both old and young who are incredible musicians, so age is an insignificant factor)

    Fact:
    where there's a will there's a way, if your motivated to do something you will do it

    which brings me to the word I haven't seen mentioned yet, and that is that a musician has significant Motivation,
    (though some of the comments have referenced various forms of motivation like attracting girls/mate, etc)motivation really hasn't been given the importance due in a thread like this.

    while it's true different people will be motivated by different things, the fact remains they are still motivated.

    motivation is what drives people to do what they choose to do.

    and life is about choices!!
    Last edited by Schooligo; 09-14-2008 at 07:36 PM.
    "Success is arriving at a Personal Satisfaction within yourself"

    Dedicated To Guitar!!!

  10. #25
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schooligo
    definately agree I don't think there is an "arbitrary time of x amount of hours" and that the quality of time is a very important factor
    I agree too. I was a little surprised by the "10,000 hours" figure in Levitin's book, but - as I said - it emerged (according to him) from many different kinds of study by different researchers of experts in different fields (artistic and sporting ones I think).

    As Ian says, quality of practice must matter at least as much as quantity but I suspect that figure takes an average.
    And my view is that ANY time spent playing your instrument is valid practice time. You can choose to focus on a particular task (narrow practice) to conquer a weakness or hone a particular technique - or you can more or less just noodle about (broad practice). IMO, it's all valid and useful.
    Clearly, it's not a good idea to always be lazy in practice and ignore technical weaknesses - you can develop bad habits and a very narrow outlook. But at the same time simply using your brain to address music in some way counts as practice time, IMO. I suspect that would be Levitin's argument - as long as you are "thinking" music, you are practising it in some way. Even just listening to CDs - as long you pay proper attention - would count! (IOW, count towards developing your musicianship, outside of technical capacity on the instrument.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Schooligo
    I also don't think age is a factor AT ALL(I think some people tend to use their age as an excuse not to do something)
    I disagreee here. All the evidence I'm aware of suggests age IS an issue. Young people learn anything faster and better than old people. If they are interested in a subject, they can focus and obsess about (to the exclusion of all else) better than adults can. It's partly the condition of the brain, partly social forces.
    Adults DO have some advantages when learning. Their greater experience and broader outlook means they can judge the value of tasks and learning materials better. They may have a better idea of a future goal in mind, and how to tailor practise tasks and time to that goal - the long view, IOW, rather than the short view of a child/adolescent, who mostly thinks about what fun something is in the short term.
    Of course you're right some people use age as an excuse to be lazy or give up - but I don't think that invalidates the argument. The evidence is everywhere that the later you start learning something (anything) the longer it takes you to get any good at it. As I say, that may be due partly to social forces, but they are almost as inevitable as biological ones.
    Still - that's no excuse for adults not to try starting! They just have to be aware of the difficulties they will face; and be prepared to find things harder than a kid might.
    Quote Originally Posted by Schooligo
    I could give you TONS of examples of people both old and young who are incredible musicians, so age is an insignificant factor)
    We're not talking about being good at any age, were talking about learning at any age, especially the difference between starting to learn as a child and as an adult.
    Can you name me geniuses who began learning their chosen skill as an adult? I'm sure there are some (I just don't know of any), but how long did it take them?
    We've all seen kids who started at under 10, who are amazing by age 14 (say). Someone who starts at 20 will not be as amazing by 24. And certainly (IMO) someone who starts at 30 will not be amazing by 34. Or - if they are - they will have to put in MUCH more hard work than the 10-year-old does.
    (I guess what I'm saying - if the 10,000-hour figure is right - is that the older person has more trouble finding those hours, and excluding all distractions.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Schooligo
    Fact:
    where there's a will there's a way, if your motivated to do something you will do it
    True. I'm only saying it's harder as an adult, there are more obstacles in the way. Motivation - of the right monomanic kind - comes much more easily to a kid (especially an adolescent) than it does to an adult.
    Quote Originally Posted by Schooligo
    motivation is what drives people to do what they choose to do.

    and life is about choices!!
    Yes. And by the time you are an adult, you have (probably) already made several important choices that are going to inhibit your progress as a musician. Such as (a) taking a full-time (non-music) career; (b) getting married and having kids.
    The great advantage in being a kid or adolescent is that you are supported. You don't have to earn a living. Yes, you have schoolwork that can get in the way (the equivalent of that adult career) - but if you fail at that, it won't affect your living! Nor do you have dependants whose lives it will affect.
    And these are just the social forces of course. Sure, anyone at any age can develop motivation - and any disability can be overcome, in some way. (I'm not offering a counsel of despair!) But young brains are different from old brains. They are quicker and livelier. (More stupid sometimes - but that's not a bar to the narrow-minded obsession that focussed learning of a musical instrument requires. It may even help...)

  11. #26
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    Hmm.. I'd have to check the way I stated the 10,000 hour concept but regardless, I (or more appropriately Mr. Levitin in his book) doesn't claim that genius is born at the 10,000 hour mark, rather proficiency is. And it would also seem logical that Danny Elfman, although may have not dedicated 10,000 hours to technical expertise on any particular instrument, certainly has dedicated that much time to writing music.
    I suppose what I meant is that time = learning, and various disciplines require completely different amounts of it. Musical instruments are incredibly complicated, so much so that they require thousands of hours of learning to overcome physical limitations and reach levels of 'great proficiency'. For eg, the pianist Kong Xiangdong spent his childhood practicing 8-12 hours per day playing and vocalising notes on a paper keyboard! (From the ages of 5 to 7 at least). You can moderately estimate that he now has over 50,000 hours behind him. He has dedicated his life to practice and I suppose epitomises the obsession/desire/motivation/passion that you've been talking about. But the point is, although some of that time went into cultivating styles, developing ear and feel, the reason SO much time is needed is to overcome the physical limitations of playing. "Learning the piano is so hard -- it means a child almost has no childhood." This is a success story, but it's quite humbling to think of all the untold hardship and unacknowledged greatness/wasted time.

    Anyway, in comparison, composers like Danny Elfman may have spent many hours learning to compose...but there is no real physical barrier to conquer with an essentially cognitive discipline. The means by which to create (the form of writing/notation/dictation) presents a learning curve, but with advances in technology this is now fairly shallow and accessible to anyone. Hypothetically, a musical genius born today would not have to learn an instrument in order to compose the music which came naturally. Midi technologies (etc) are becoming so intuitive.

    I know it sounds a bit idealistic, but technology is bound to make music writing AND playing more intuitive than it currently is. Inefficiency will be conquered, (and guitars are inefficient!) Look at something like animation. It's only a matter of a few decades ago when every cell was painstakingly hand-painted, but computer technologies have now completely redefined and streamlined the discipline. As a result, time and effort play a smaller role, allowing great animators to stand out more by virtue of their talent. It might seem a bit too much like 'ivory tower postulation', but to ask a general question like; is it talent or time that makes great musicians? you have to take things to their ultimate conclusion to find the ultimate answer. This is what I meant by "10,000 hours?!! With regard to musical greatness, surely that's all just superficial?"

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    "The Descent of Man";

    "I conclude that musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex."
    Darwin's theory of evolution is very much different from the theory of evolution today. (The distinction between Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism). You have to remember that this quote was part of a very controversial and unsupported theory written in the 1860s! Darwin had huge loopholes (heredity/incidental change) to address and arguments about "non-adaptive features" (birds' excessive plumage, human morality etc) to counter. Much of the book focused on attributing these features to sexual selection. (He really couldn't afford to have inexplicable 'side-effects' in his already dubious theory.) He also attributes religion amongst other things to survivability, but this is generally discarded by Neo-Darwinism (as fronted by Dawkins). These things can't be proven afaik...but one original Darwinian loophole was the subject of heredity, which in fact he didn't understand. He falsely posed the theory of Pangenesis (just to give an example of a Darwinian falsehood.) I wanted to post some Dawkins quotes, but no luck finding them on the net so far...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    I also would bet that music accompanies sex more than religious ceremony!
    It probably accompanies driving more than it does sex!
    Last edited by jimc8p; 09-15-2008 at 02:06 PM.

  12. #27
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    Darwin's theory of evolution is very much different from the theory of evolution today.
    It is? "very much"?
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    (The distinction between Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism). You have to remember that this quote was part of a very controversial and unsupported theory written in the 1860s!
    "unsupported"?? Don't you count the evidence he drew on? Evidence which has expanded since his day. Darwin's central ideas are also increasingly supported by evidence discovered since. There is certainly no better theory of how life got to where it is.
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    Darwin had huge loopholes (heredity/incidental change) to address and arguments about "non-adaptive features" (birds' excessive plumage, human morality etc) to counter.
    What makes you think excessive pluimage and morality are "non-adaptive"?
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    Much of the book focused on attributing these features to sexual selection. (He really couldn't afford to have inexplicable 'side-effects' in his already dubious theory.)
    Why is "excessive plumage" inexplicable, if sexual selection explains it? Who says his theory is "dubious"? (Never mind religious objectors from his time.)
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    He also attributes religion amongst other things to survivability, but this is generally discarded by Neo-Darwinism (as fronted by Dawkins).
    Dawkins is a huge supporter of Darwin. It's true Dawkins has struggled to understand how religion comes about - perhaps as a result of Darwin's confusion.
    Dawkins weakness (IMO) is his exasperation with religion as an opposing force to evolution and science. He's always trying to argue with religious people (as if they can sensibly be argued with on the matter of origin of life), when he'd be better to leave them alone. IMO, he should take a step back and regard it as a an explainable quirk of human psychology. Religious people ARE deluded (on logical/scientific grounds), therefore not worth arguing with on that level; although useful discussions can be had with them about morality (up to a point).
    Dawkins is right that religion is a dangerous delusion, of course, especially in the current world. It has to be confronted, socially and politically. But that's a separate argument from the scientific one about evolution. Religion simply has no counter-argument there.

    Religion itself (the human impulse for religion, the appeal of the "numinous") is easily explainable - as are all human social characteristics - in evolutionary terms. It aids social cohesion in various ways, which improves species survival (or did in ancient times... not so much today, clearly...).
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    These things can't be proven afaik...
    Perhaps not. But science isn't about proving theories, it's about disproving them - and then modifying accordingly.
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    but one original Darwinian loophole was the subject of heredity, which in fact he didn't understand. He falsely posed the theory of Pangenesis (just to give an example of a Darwinian falsehood.)
    I think "falsehood" is the wrong word. It was a reasonable hypothesis, based on observation, later proved false.
    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    I wanted to post some Dawkins quotes, but no luck finding them on the net so far...
    Keep looking!
    I'm not a 100% fan of Dawkins, but I'll take him over a proponent of ID any day.
    (Of course, we shouldn't let this thread get sidetracked too much.. )

    As for music, Levitin makes a very good case for music predating language in human development - rather than being a kind of accidental, later offshoot of it, as some suppose.
    As such, it has to have some survival benefit - beyond being a system of signals, as most animal sounds are.
    Then again, we can point to birdsong, and the way in which it seems far more complicated, variable and arbitrary than it has to be if it's merely a signalling system. Clearly, with birds, it has a role in sexual selection.

    One of the prime attributes of successful humans is their imagination and adaptability. It's how our species has taken over the world. Music is a clear example of an activity displaying those attributes in a playful way - in a way that clearly charms other humans. Therefore we can see is as not only part of sexual selection, but as a social bonding force, bringing people together.

    Darwin's principles can help in understanding social forces - tho we need to be careful to exclude conscious social organising forces, such as politics. Darwinian principles shouldn't be applied consciously, because that ends up as crude authoritarianism, even fascism. But people's natural sociability and gregariousness (incuding "high" moralities such as altruism) are easily seen as a survival mechanism. If we look after our fellows, they look after us (and our offspring, which is what matters).
    This is presupposing a primitive world, however, in which we had to struggle against nature (environment and other animals). The human species has now reached a stage where the main struggle is with other humans. We have outgrown our planet at a speed far faster than evolution can act to correct the problems created. (Homo sapiens is still "designed" for a world of limitless raw materials, and little competition with other humans.)
    So we now see one group of humans as "US", who we instinctively protect and identify with (family/clan/community, up to the size of a nation or culture/language group), and other humans as "THEM" (taking the place of predatory animals). We see differences (= threats) before we see similarities (= kinship).
    Music, however, can still be a "kinship marker" which over-rules those perceived (false) differences. It's an old cliche, but music really can be an international, intercultural binding force for the good (of the species).

  13. #28
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    Whoa .... very dodgy stuff - evolution vs. religion - likely to arouse strong opinions lol (& not opinions about music either!) .

    But hey ... I find the Richard Dawkins forum is good for an exchange of views on all those issues . If guys have doubt's about Darwin & evolution, then I think the best I can say here, is that they are entitled to their opinions, however, I'm not sure evolution is really relevant to the present discussion anyway (except in the very much broader context of how & why our earliest human ancestors first began making musical sounds .... presumably it was related to the sounds of speech & communication).

    Jon is clearly right to say that older people do have more difficulty trying to learn new things. And sadly I do think a substantial part of that probably is due to decreasing mental capacity. One example of that is Chess players who almost always decline after the age of about 30 ... although they may make up for that by being less impulsive.

    On the other hand, as I say - if we're talking about well known & celebrated contemporary guitarists, then my impression, from what they say (sometimes reading between their lines), is that have all put in many thousands of hours in serious practice, and I mean they really applied themselves in a very focused & almost obsessional way.

    So I think that figure of 10,000 hours is probably not too far wide of the mark.

    You might do it in half the time, or even a quarter of the time, if you have youth & intelligence on your side. And that might amount to three years or less, when practicing as many hours a day as possible.

    Or alternatively, if youth and intelligence are behind you now, then you might never achieve even a very modest playing standard even after 30,000 hours or more (should you live that long!). But I think that could be significantly shortened by really dedicated application and total commitment of say 5 to 7 hours a day...in which case I think older players can achieve a decent standard in maybe 4 or 5 years.

    One factor here, which applies to me personally, is that although I picked up the guitar and only started to play really seriously again in my mid-late 40's, I had been pretty serious about my love of guitar since about the age of 12. So although most of my youth was spent not really getting very far with my guitar playing, and certainly not understanding a word of theory (not even scales or keys), nevertheless I was constantly trying & I did of course learn quite a lot of personalised technique in the same way that self-taught blues players have always done.

    Some of that self-taught technique was of course more like learning bad habits which have had to be un-learnt. But basic ideas of blues phrasing and string bending and vibrato etc. all date back to my early teens.

    I think that clearly applies to a lot of older players nowadays - ie they are guys returning to guitar, and although their youthful attempts may have been regarded as a "failure", nevertheless they probably did learn quite a lot, albeit not in any formalized or organized way.

    So, many older guys are not actually re-starting completely from scratch.

    Ian.



    Last edited by Crossroads; 09-15-2008 at 07:17 PM.

  14. #29
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    (Of course, we shouldn't let this thread get sidetracked too much.. )
    eek.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    It is? "very much"?...
    Neo-Darwinism is the shell of the theory Darwin invented filled out with the science of Mendelian inheritance, genetic mutation, variation, reams of evidence and sub-sciences, whilst discarding Pangenesis etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    "unsupported"?? Don't you count the evidence he drew on? Evidence which has expanded since his day.
    Darwin's theory was very speculative. It was something unable to be based on scientific investigation, but more on passive observation. IOW, he couldn't demonstrate heredity, variation or natural selection. Posing such a controversial yet undemonstrable theory caused a big stir that Darwin had to settle with his subsequent essays. So, my comment was really to highlight the intense, justifying nature of his writing at that time.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    There is certainly no better theory of how life got to where it is.
    It actually annoys me that evolution is belittled with the label of 'theory'! It gives people the impression that there might be reasonable doubt on the matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    What makes you think excessive pluimage and morality are "non-adaptive"? Why is "excessive plumage" inexplicable, if sexual selection explains it? Who says his theory is "dubious"? (Never mind religious objectors from his time.)
    Again, I was meaning to illustrate the mindset in which Darwin's then 'dubious' work was being received at the time, (rather than my own, hence "non-adaptive" in inverted commas). The Decent Of Man was, in part, a response to questions about non-adaptive features thought to be unnecessary for survival, such as the beautiful peacocks' tail, art or music. Darwin attributed most of these features to sexual selection, which in the case of a bird's plumage or a fish's dance is certainly true. In the case of music it is much more debatable. Whether or not Darwin considered the possible existence of side-effects or by-products in evolution, it would have significantly weakened his theory in the eyes of his opponents. (Or even have been seen as submission).

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    It's true Dawkins has struggled to understand how religion comes about - perhaps as a result of Darwin's confusion.....Religion itself (the human impulse for religion, the appeal of the "numinous") is easily explainable - as are all human social characteristics - in evolutionary terms. It aids social cohesion in various ways, which improves species survival
    Actually, Dawkins comes down quite firmly on the purpose of religion (and definitely against the social cohesion idea.) He believes religion is a by-product, like altruism, war hunger, homosexuality, suicide and music. These are really non-adaptive features within our consciousness, (according to the most prominent evolutionary biologist in the world anyway!)

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    Dawkins weakness (IMO) is his exasperation with religion as an opposing force to evolution and science...
    Agreed! I respect his closed-minded rationalism, but find his 'battle' amusingly misplaced.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    Music is a clear example of an activity displaying those attributes in a playful way - in a way that clearly charms other humans. Therefore we can see is as not only part of sexual selection, but as a social bonding force, bringing people together.....
    It's an old cliche, but music really can be an international, intercultural binding force for the good (of the species).
    Whilst I agree with this, I would side with Dawkins over any evolutionary impact. Music is a big part of being human, but our survival has never hinged on it.

    So, er, yea...it's talent that makes great musicians

  15. #30
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    I knew this would happen when I created the thread. I was hoping it would start up something fun like this.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    Whilst I agree with this, I would side with Dawkins over any evolutionary impact. Music is a big part of being human, but our survival has never hinged on it.
    Playing the Devil's advocate:

    I don't know. I've gotten a few Babes on gigs!

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