Monday, 11 March 2013

Piano - Problem Solving for Geniuses: Albert Einstein and Walter Bishop - Fringe (tv series)

I'm a fan of the science fiction tv show Fringe, it's updated version of the X-Files by JJ Abrahms. One of the main characters, a Dr. Walter Bishop, a scientific genius and eccentric 'mad professor' boffin boasts an IQ of 196. The character loves classical music and there's a scene of Walter Bishop playing the piano; an activity which helps him process all the data and complexities of a problem and then solve it.

No doubt this Walter Bishop genius character was based on violin (and piano) playing Albert Einstein, whose favourite composers were Bach and Mozart.

In fact, Einstein would have gladly traded physics for music:

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ... I get most joy in life out of music.” Albert Einstein.

Einstein's second wife Elsa (also his cousin) fell in love with his beautiful Mozart violin playing.
Elsa adds:
He also plays the piano [as did his mother]. Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories. 
He goes to his study, comes back, strikes a few chords on
the piano, jots something down, returns to
his study (Elsa Einstein on Einstein)
Albert Einstein's son, Hans Albert Einstein on of his father:

Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music. That would usually resolve all his difficulties.

 Neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone at Harvard Medical School was quoted in Time magazine for his experiments demonstrating that piano playing and mere mental practice of piano playing can reorganise the structure of the brain, with a strong development of the motor cortex. Improved reading ability and auditory memory were also linked benefits to music lessons according to a study at Northwestern University. I had a conversation with an education consultant at my daughter's primary school, he was impressed that my daughter had achieved grade 4 piano at age 6 (about half the age of the average). The consultant told me that music lessons had improved results in science and maths exams. I can only surmise this is due to the pattern recognition (spatial recognition), use of creativity, focus and discipline that music develops; add on the hand-eye coordination the piano adds, and that's a powerful combination of skills! No wonder, Walter Bishop turns to the piano in times of immense problem solving. Music also can relax you and lower your stress levels, allowing you to perform better in any task! Keep playing, and learning everyone!

 Character Peter Bishop playing Gershwin's Someone to Watch Over Me.

Further reading:

Einstein and His Love for Music, Physics Today, January 2005

Albert Einstein’s Great Passion for Music, Shankar Mahadev Academy, 2012

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Pope Piano - retirement and the piano

What's a Pope to do in retirement? Perhaps the answer: Pope Bennedict XVI is a pianist.
 Mozart is his favourite composer. In the book interview - Salt of the Earth (1997), Pope Beenedict says of Mozart:
 You might say that there Mozart thoroughly penetrated our souls, and his music still touches me very deeply, because it is so luminous and yet at the same time so deep. His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence. 
He's also fond of other Germanic composers - the greats: Beethoven and Bach.  Here's video of the pope as a younger Cardinal playing Bach.

Here's the former pope performing Schubert's impromptu. 

To find out more about the former pope read Benedict And Beethoven: The Outgoing Pope's Musical Life and also Pope Benedict XVI, Mozart and the Quest of Beauty

Cardinal Ratzinger playing the piano

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Overseas Malaysian Winter Piano Academy (OMWPA)

UK based Malaysian Concert Pianist Bobby Chen tells us about the  The Overseas Malaysian Winter Piano Academy (OMWPA).

 The Overseas Malaysian Winter Piano Academy (OMWPA) 2010 was first held from the 13th to 23rd December 2010. It took place at the Yehudi Menuhin School, in Surrey, UK, a £41,106/year music boarding music school, housing fewer than 70 piano and string students in any one year. The very best piano students were selected at the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and flown over by Air Asia X. All 23 students performed on a Fazioli Grand Piano worth 90,000 Pounds, for the Gala Concert at the Menuhin Hall.

 Since attending the Course, the students have since gone on to some good things: - 2 girls are now studying piano in Vienna, one at the Praynor Konservatorium - 1 girl is studying piano at La Sierra University in California, another girl is studying piano at Wooster College in Ohio, 1 boy again with piano at the University of Florida - 2 girls won their respective Regional Rounds, to represent Malaysia and Brunei at the 1st South-East Asia Steinway Regional Finals in Singapore 2012 - 2 boys won placings at the 13th Hong Kong (Asia Pacific) Piano Final Competition 2012 - 1 boy has been accepted to Eton College in 2014 - 1 boy has just been offered a place at the Royal College of Music, this month The 2nd Overseas Malaysian Winter Piano Academy (OMWPA) 2012, was held from the 15th to 24th December 2012, again at the Yehudi Menuhin School. 34 students were selected. They ended the Course, with a performance on the same Fazioli Grand Piano, worth 90,000 Pounds.

Lessons: - one-to-one piano lessons - chamber music lessons - improvisation lessons - conducting lessons - sight-reading & memorization lessons - composition lessons

Lectures: -
The Mystery of the Jazz Piano’ - ‘The Recording Process’ - ‘The Legacy of Arrau’ - ‘The Building of a Fazioli’

 Recitals: - Murray McLachlan plays Center, Beethoven & Chopin - Douglas Finch plays Beethoven, Finch, Chopin & Improvisation - Anthony Hewitt plays Beethoven, Goss, Scriabin

The Tutors:
Dominic Alldis, Honorary Associate & Professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and current Steinway Artist

 Andrew Ball, former Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, former Head of Keyboard & Current Professor of Piano & Fellow of the Royal College of Music

 Graham Caskie, Professor of Piano at Chetham's School of Music & at the Royal Academy of Music (Junior department)

 Michael Dussek, Senior Tutor in Ensemble Piano, Head of Piano Accompaniment & Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music

 Douglas Finch, former Head of Keyboard & Current Professor of Piano and Composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

 Dr. Stephen Goss, former Professor at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Visiting Professor of Guitar at the Royal Academy of Music, and current Professor of Music & Head of Composition at the University of Surrey Anthony Hewitt, International Concert Pianist & Artistic Director of the Ulverston Music Festival 

Mikhail Kazakevich, former Professor of Piano of the Gorky State Conservatoire, former Professor of Piano at the Royal Welsh College of Music, and Co-founder of the National Sheepdrove Piano Competition, and current Professor of Piano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance Terence Lewis, former Piano Buyer for Harrods, and current Managing Director and Co-owner of Jaques Samuel Pianos

 Murray McLachlan, Chair of the UK section of the European Piano Teachers’ Association (EPTA UK), Founder of the Manchester International Concerto competition for young pianists, Founder/Artistic Director of the Chetham’s International Summer school and festival for Pianists, Head of Keyboard of the Chetham’s School of Music & Professor of Piano at the Royal Northern College of Music

 Rebecca Miller, former Resident Conductor of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, former Conducting Fellow of The Houston Symphony, and current Artistic Director of The New Professionals Orchestra & Music Director of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society and Orchestra

Ruth Nye MBE, former Professor of Piano at the Royal Academy of Music, and current Professor of Piano the Yehudi Menuhin School & Professor of Piano & Fellow of the Royal College of Music

Melanie Spanswick, former Professor at Blackheath Conservatoire & the Royal College of Music (Junior department), and current Adjudicator for the British and International Federation of Music Festivals

 Dr. Aleksander Szram, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy & Professor of Piano at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance


Photos from the Course: