No Greatness in ‘For Greatness We Bring’

As is quite common here on my blog, inspiration for this post came from a posting on social media. This one was about a mother, who asked on TikTok if her 10-year old daughter’s first music composition can be really played. She showed the three-line piece on the screen (see the picture)… and the rest is history. 

When reading about this and digging a bit deeper, I couldn’t resist to react and write my opinion about – I would call it craziness. 

As a parent I can understand that we try to support our children and help them learn and achieve as much as they can. But not all our well-meant efforts can turn fruitful all the time. In my opinion, this is one such case. 

I will paraphrase here what I heard, using my preferred food example. This is what I heard:

“My 10-years old brought home a bag of potatoes. Are those any good? Could somebody cook something from them? Is she gonna be a chef? 

For two years she has been learning how to boil water for tea. She also learns how to boil eggs and spread butter on bread for sandwiches for her friends. She loves food. Her grandmother used to be a cook and her aunt makes her living cooking as well.”

And TikTok went crazy. Professional musicians grabbed the piece, now called ‘For Greatness We Bring’ , and attempted to play it in various settings, from a solo violin to a whole string orchestra. 

They all claim that those three lines of black dots scribbled in pencil on a small piece of paper are a stroke of genius!!? That there is a buddying composer worth our attention. 

No! It is not!

This is nothing more than a not very successful exercise in writing  music notes. It would be a bit more successful, if the young student would realize, that in the Western music, for more than five hundred years, we have been using five-lines stave for notation. Not six!

But these are beginner’s mistakes and everyone makes them. If she continues to study music, with dedication and a lot of hard work, she may become a real music composer. Maybe in some ten years? That is, if we believe the much-cited study by Anders Ericsson and colleagues, about the ‘10,000-hour rule’ for greatness, popularized my Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers

The other thing is her ‘overachiever’ mother. I still don’t understand what has she tried to prove when publishing her video with daughter’s “composition” on Tik Tok. If there is music running in the family, she would know, that an experienced music professional can arrange and perform an acceptably sounding music from almost anything. Among others, they have arranged music using birds sitting on electric wires – as music notes! (Here is the link

What this proves, in my opinion is, that music professionals know their craft and when they use it, those results are… acceptable. 

Not yet a child prodigy like Mozart, who started composing at the age of four, Chopin at seven … there is a long way to go for this young would-be-composer lady. I hope she doesn’t get a wrong message from the online “success” of her “music piece”. That could really be deceiving. I hope she is really gifted and will get a chance to prove it – to herself in the first place.  

Because it could be like with that bag of potatoes. Some people don’t dare even to touch it, other ‘master’ to boil them successfully, but there is a long way to learn how to prepare a really tasteful Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes. 

And if you wondered, how could a potato song sound like – below you can listen and find out.

Title photo by Paulo Pinto

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