There is an assumption, even among those whose qualifications and
distinguished place in our educational order of great things should
lead us to expect a pearl or two of wisdom, that the success of an
artist, and ultimately the acknowledged greatness of an artist, is
largely dependent upon and derived from the quality of rigorous
training and the powerful influence of fine teachers. But training
is not education, although the terms are very often accidentally -- or
even deliberately -- confused, mistaken or inadvertently interchanged.
Musical training is, of course, what goes on in our conservatories,
and at its most fruitful it produces instrumental technicians of an
In these times of superb recording quality,
the successful training of a young player is measured against
technological goals; sound production and interpretive mannerisms are
monitored by market demands and profitablility; a young artist has
to be packaged and sold in the celebrity bazaar. Training is what
is done to an apple tree to make it grow horizontally. Training is
given to supermarket staff and heavy goods vehicle drivers, to
barristers and army cadets. Training is about learning to do
something exactly as society expects it should be done.
But education is about broadening horizons and enabling the emerging
artist to be free from social prejudices, to travel beyond the petty
limitations of markets and profitablity -- and even that of the
conditioned public expectation. Training produces artists with a
talent for doing something better than others, just as training a
poodle to perform more challenging tricks than other dogs can have
it described as talented. But talent derived from training has
to be linked with something more than just tricks, and this is what
education really is.
The education of someone musically gifted can
open up new realms of possibilities, a breadth of interlinked and
lateral thinking and experience that begins to turn talent to genius.
The training process will not induce genius, for it will only ever
be a by-product, but it can seriously inhibit the emergence of those
special qualities that the merely talented may, out of a lack of
enlightenment, completely fail to recognise as genius. And if
the teacher of the training process cannot recogize the quality,
it is unlikely that the market providers, the manufacturers of
remarkable talent sales, will recognize it.
Busoni said that
genius was an excess of intuition. Can intuition then be taught?
Or induced? Or is it something we are so fearful of that we
must use training to by-pass it?
Copyright © 30 September 2003 Patric Standford,