That "Child Prodigy Rant" post: followup and a plug for my book
Yesterday's blog post in which I ranted on about child prodigies has gone viral, with tens of thousands of hits in a matter of hours. If you're looking for it right now, just scroll down to the previous post and get caught up.
My head is spinning! And not like the little girl in The Exorcist, either - nope: in a good way.
I am truly grateful to all of you who not only took the time to read my thoughts but also posted comments and shared the site with your friends as well. I now have first-hand experience with the Fearsome Power Of The Internet. Whew!
Since Sunday's topic appears to have struck a chord with so many, here are some further thoughts, clarifications, and responses to some of the published reader comments. I'll end by letting you know that I've got a book coming out, naturally hoping that if you enjoy my writing and my humor, you might wish to order a copy. But back to prodigies:
For those who find it difficult to grasp the inherent stress imposed upon children when they are thrust upon a national stage (be it via live performance, television or a recording contract): allow me to refer you to Elaine Aron's magnificent book The Highly Sensitive Child. Clearly, children with precocious musical gifts are by definition highly sensitive. This book will bring you up to speed on the emotional and physiological differences between these children and others which the world would classify as "normal".
My blog post seems to have struck a nerve. Either in published comments or in messages on Facebook (feel free to friend me, by the way!), many of you expressed gratitude for my having articulated what you've always felt on the subject of child prodigies. Well, that's just me all over--with my pinky finger on the pulse of the nation... (har har har)
HOWEVER: a distinct minority raised mild objections. One reader, noting my claim that mature musical expression in prodigies is nothing more than mimicry of adult models, invoked the name of Music History's No. 1 prodigy of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I was asked, rhetorically (as if there could be no viable answer), who Mozart was imitating when he wrote his remarkable series of childhood symphonies, operas and keyboard works. Well actually, that's an easy one to answer, available from any standard Mozart biography: he was imitating the style of Johann Christian Bach. It is widely known that the galant style of J.C. Bach made a huge impression on the boy Mozart. A fine summary of their relationship is summarized in Adina Portowitz's article on the Bach-Mozart connection.
And in any case, the works of young Mozart do not reflect the emotional depth and maturity of his later masterworks; they are tidy little examples of technical proficiency and a good ear for graceful invention. That's all.
And, as other readers pointed out, Mozart's exploitation as a touring childhood virtuoso ultimately resulted in an adult with only intermittent professional success and a personal life filled with chaos, illness and general dysfunction.
Listen, my thousands of new friends, and listen well: I have nothing against talented children! I used to be one! Talented children should make music every day! My hope is that those kids whose talent is of prodigious dimensions, far above the norm, are protected--repeat--PROTECTED by those who are responsible for their well-being. It occurs to me that the most fortunate prodigies may be those born into wealthy homes, without the need or desire to turn young musicians into cash cows. When fame and money come first, tragedy and misery follow.
AND NOW: PLEASE KEEP READING!
I have a message for all of you who are new to this little blog through Facebook postings and other means:
If you liked that post, please know that I've got a book coming out in a matter of days which just might be up your alley as well.
The title is The Opera Zoo: Singers, Composers and Other Primates. It's a collection of now-deleted blog posts from the last couple of years in which I touch on a wide range of opera-related subjects, all with that somewhat irreverent humor that seems to be part of my DNA.
The publisher is Kendall Hunt Publishing and I expect to see the book available by the end of January if not before. NOTE: you will not find my book in your local Barnes & Noble or other bookstore. Listen, I'm not John Grisham, and a book of humorous-slash-insightful essays about the opera world is the textbook definition of a "niche genre". I'm Captain Niche. The Niche-Meister.
The way to get your hands on it is to contact my editor, a cool guy named Curtis Ross via email and order direct from the publisher; just click on his name. We've already nearly sold out the initial printing, but I think they'll be okay with printing more, don't you?
Too many essays and topics in The Opera Zoo to list, but examples include a day in the life of an apprentice opera singer on tour (OY!); a scene from a Mozart opera re-written as the teleplay for an episode of the sitcom Frasier; libretto parodies of Rigoletto, Carmen, Die Walkuere and Madama Butterfly, and lots more. The book concludes with a journal I kept while a guest artist at an international opera festival in Rome Italy a couple of years ago in which I record my impressions of the city, the food, the people, the food, life at an opera festival, the food, the gelato, the food....
I like food...
So please consider ponying up for my new book! And keep reading my blog! And... um... exercise daily, eat more vegetables and call your mother. (I'm full of good ideas...)
And thanks for all your comments and appreciation for yesterday's post!
My new book The Opera Zoo: Singers, Composers and Other Primates is now available from Kendall Hunt Publishing. Order online at www.kendallhunt.com/operazoo or by phone from the Customer Service line at 1-800-344-9034 ext.3020.