Jesse S. Cook III (jcook@AWOD.COM)
Thu, 22 Aug 1996 09:16:35 -0400

Dear Ron,

I'm reading an article in the latest issue of *The New Yorker* (August 26 &
September 2, 1996) entitled "Questions of Genius" by Andrew Solomon (pp
112-123), and I come across something that really startled me:

"At eleven months, he sang an entire Bach fugue that his sister [ten years
older] had been practicing. He soon began to sing everything he heard...

"When he was two years and two months old, [he] sat down at the [piano] on
which his mother taught and picked out with one finger some of the tunes he
had been singing. The next day, he did the same again, and on the third day
he played with both hands, using all his fingers...

"At three, [he] began improvising original music...By the age of six, [he]
had been taken on by [a well known teacher]...

"What most gifted students might take five lessons to learn, [he] learned in
one. He...was soon sight-reading everything put in front of him. Virtually
anything he played once he had by heart, although he never made, he says, a
conscious effort to memorize anything."

What startled me was the thought that there had to be an innate "mechanism"
to produce this behavior (unless you believe in miracles, of course). And,
at the same time, there had to be a social context that was conducive to
producing such behavior.

Furthermore, except for the timing, the description of this behavior seemed
to me to be analogous to the behavior of a child in acquiring language.
(Too bad the author didn't describe how, and when, this child acquired

Hasn't it ever struck you how many, if not all, musical geniuses, not to
mention virtuosos, have been born into musical families? Could there be a
connection between language acquisition and music acquisition? Could they
be produced by the same innate "mechanism"?

Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
Post Office Box 40984 or
Charleston, SC 29485 USA

"Our attitude toward others is not determined by who *they* are;
it is determined by who *we* are."