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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Do you believe in a God that blesses some composers with massive amounts of talent, or is it all in nature/nurture?

I personally don't follow faith based thinking, but leave it open to the possibility of a god. So, my answer to my own question is, perhaps, but I'm not going to live my life believing so without scientific evidence.
 

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Let's leave God aside at the risk of derailing this thread. Instead, let's look at it from a musicological perspective or a historical perspective. Mozart and Mendelssohn to name two, were obviously extremely gifted. Mozart didn't write Don Giovanni when he was eleven years old. Instead he was writing Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767). We can analyze these two operas to show Don Giovanni is a greater opera than Apollo et Hyacinthus, as the man was developing his own art and shaping the course of opera history in centuries to come by the time Don Giovanni premiered twenty years later in 1787. This was his doing, maybe he prayed a lot to God (as evidenced in his letters) and maybe he felt inspired by God (as evidenced in his letters) and religion to some extent. But we can be fairly certain that it was Mozart's creative powers in tailoring to the singers and performers of his day (many arias in both operas were tailor-written to great singers of his day), and also feeling inspired by da Ponte's great libretto (as evidenced in his letters). So the seeds of "gift" might be genetics, a God given matter, or anything you might think of, but the rest of his journey was mostly his own creativity and we are lucky today to inherit this.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·

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There are biblical accounts of people being given special giftings from God for various tasks, like wisdom for Solomon and construction skills for Aholiab in Exodus 33, so I don't discount God-given abilities.

My personal experience with faith in God is, there were abilities which were not present or were apparently latent until my encounter with God. I am doing things now which I didn't think were possible before and which I wasn't particularly educated in. I have also noticed that I have had giftings appear in certain areas to match a need in my church (one was writing arrangements for a large band, which I wasn't able to do when I tried previously), and when someone who had a true gifting in that area arrived or that function was no longer needed, that gifting lifted and another one rose (now I'm teaching Bible studies in a way that the people actually can understand). Again, that's just my personal experience, and I don't have any other explanation for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
There are biblical accounts of people being given special giftings from God for various tasks, like wisdom for Solomon and construction skills for Aholiab in Exodus 33, so I don't discount God-given abilities.

My personal experience with faith in God is, there were abilities which were not present or were apparently latent until my encounter with God. I am doing things now which I didn't think were possible before and which I wasn't particularly educated in. I have also noticed that I have had giftings appear in certain areas to match a need in my church (one was writing arrangements for a large band, which I wasn't able to do when I tried previously), and when someone who had a true gifting in that area arrived or that function was no longer needed, that gifting lifted and another one rose (now I'm teaching Bible studies in a way that the people actually can understand). Again, that's just my personal experience, and I don't have any other explanation for it.
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your experience.
 

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As with most things, I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. People like Mozart and Mendelssohn had musically experienced caregivers and acquaintances who trained them from a very young age. They may never have blossomed without them. But of course they very likely had heritable traits (such as hearing, pitch recognition, hand eye coordination, attention regulation) that would constitute "given ability."
 

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Music is a language. Toddlers can learn any language (English, Dutch, Spanish, Afrikaans, Klingon) without consciously studying it, simply by being immersed in an environment where the language is used.

I believe it's the same with music. Raised in an environment full of music, with ample access to musical instruments, I believe almost any child will display "prodigious" musical skills at an early age.

Alas, most parents don't consider music a necessary language. Most of us struggle to learn music, the hard way, with intense study in our teen years or later, when brain plasticity has already made language learning much, much harder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
It's interesting, I started piano lessons when I was 3 and studied till I was about 16. I started composing around 5th grade, so I was late to the game there, and it probably shows.

But I did well in competitions while in lessons.

This is in response to the plasticity argument. I think I was trained well enough to succeed at competitions, but my talents in compositions weren't nurtured enough to really do well in this department.
 

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Throughout a population, most aptitudes (composing, writing, quantum physics, hitting a major league fastball . . .) fall on a bell curve, with the absolute best being extreme outliers. Whether these are God given, or natural abilities is a matter of belief until proven otherwise. This was Salieri's central dilemma in "Amadeus."
 

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This is a very interesting topic to me. First, let's be clear: no amount of training, skill, and hard work can guarantee the production of a great composer who churns out masterworks. There is something special, some added quality - is it inborn genius or a god-given gift? You could take the Mormon position that spirit children are chosen for a certain life. Or a Calvinist belief in predestination. A Hindu one that you've reached a higher level? Or maybe an atheistic one that it's just dumb luck. Personally, (boy this could be uncomfortable) I believe that every person on earth was put here for a reason. Some people are destined to be bus drivers, some presidents, some composers, and some great composers. It has always amused and puzzled me how many great composers greatest works are of a religious nature. Mozart Requiem. Bach St. Matthew Passion. Beethoven Missa Solemnis. Verdi Requiem. Schmidt The Book with Seven Seals. Liszt Christus. Elgar Dream of Gerontius. It is fascinating to speculate and of course it can't be proven either way. But as a believer, I do accept the possibility that some composers are touched by the Holy Spirit to give the rest of us something special to enjoy. Of course, Satan encouraged Stockhausen.;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This is a very interesting topic to me. First, let's be clear: no amount of training, skill, and hard work can guarantee the production of a great composer who churns out masterworks. There is something special, some added quality - is it inborn genius or a god-given gift? You could take the Mormon position that spirit children are chosen for a certain life. Or a Calvinist belief in predestination. A Hindu one that you've reached a higher level? Or maybe an atheistic one that it's just dumb luck. Personally, (boy this could be uncomfortable) I believe that every person on earth was put here for a reason. Some people are destined to be bus drivers, some presidents, some composers, and some great composers. It has always amused and puzzled me how many great composers greatest works are of a religious nature. Mozart Requiem. Bach St. Matthew Passion. Beethoven Missa Solemnis. Verdi Requiem. Schmidt The Book with Seven Seals. Liszt Christus. Elgar Dream of Gerontius. It is fascinating to speculate and of course it can't be proven either way. But as a believer, I do accept the possibility that some composers are touched by the Holy Spirit to give the rest of us something special to enjoy. Of course, Satan encouraged Stockhausen.;)
It interests and fascinates me as well, :).
 

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Personally, (boy this could be uncomfortable) I believe that every person on earth was put here for a reason. Some people are destined to be bus drivers, some presidents, some composers, and some great composers.
Rare, and lucky, are the few who reach their full potential in life. Most bus drivers have a great novel in them, or a great symphony, and had they had more opportunities growing up they might have achieved those goals.

But the world needs bus drivers. A society full of Mozarts wouldn't have much of a mass transit system. There are reasons most people don't reach their potential; society is isn't geared to provide workers it doesn't need.

Whether a "great" composer is made or born is an interesting question. Certainly both nature and nurture play a part in all achievement. Consider China where child prodigies are given training from an early age, in sports and the arts, and consequently China has produced a lot of the top performers in fields like this. If such non-bus-driver skills were promoted everywhere we'd have a lot more Mozarts.
 

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... Raised in an environment full of music, with ample access to musical instruments, I believe almost any child will display "prodigious" musical skills at an early age.
Wolfgang was an exception though and a few others like him. Johann Sebastian Bach's sons were gifted composers but not quite the stature of Mozart and one could hardly have wished for a better music teacher than Johann Sebastian when he taught his sons.
 
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