There is a young blind man who can play the piano like Mozart but cannot count to five or do up his own shoelaces. Can anyone explain the mystery of savant musician Derek Paraviccini? Derek, aged 25 at the time of this documentary, is autistic and totally blind with an IQ of a 4 year old, he sucks his thumb and lives in a home for the blind. But when he sits at a piano he is transformed into a musician that few could equal. His memory contains many thousands of tunes which he can play faultlessly and in any key, a skill which defies even the finest professional musicians. Nothing is beyond Derek’s musical range. Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, obscure Russian composers, modern Jazz, Pop and the Blues — they all seem to come naturally to Derek. Uncannily he can play something as he hears it for the very first time —with only a split second delay, so it appears he is playing along with a tune he knows well. Derek Paravicini was one of twins born at 25 weeks, in 1979. Back then, there was little that could be done for such early premature babies. The oxygen treatment given to Derek in the incubator unit was life-saving, but there was a major side-effect of the treatment – blindness. Derek’s blindness, called rentrolental fibroplasia, was caused when oxygen pushed on the blood vessels and caused them to grow too quickly and resulted in brain damage. So could Derek’s extraordinary musical talent be the result of brain damage caused during his resuscitation at birth or has he inherited his genius. This film explores his musical ability and that of other savant musicians to try and discover where their musical genius comes from.
How is it that Beethoven, who is celebrated as one of the most significant composers of all time, wrote many of his most beloved songs while going deaf? The answer lies in the math behind his music. Natalya St. Clair employs the “Moonlight Sonata” to illustrate the way Beethoven was able to convey emotion and creativity using the certainty of mathematics. Lesson by Natalya St. Clair, animation by Qa’ed Mai.
John Marttila says: Yes, math & music are absolutely linked, but no, Beethoven was absolutely not deaf nor relying on mathematical understanding to create the moonlight sonata (which was composed well before he was deaf, FYI). By the time he actually was deaf, Beethoven had several decades of musical experience from which to draw upon which allowed him to “hear” in his head such works as his 9th Symphony. It’s the musical equivalent of writing a script for actors; an inexperienced writer may need to hear what works and what does not, but an experienced writer can hear what will work in their head well before the script is ever read. Now, show me someone who can compose great music despite being deaf from birth and then we may have an interesting discussion about how the compositional decisions were made, truly without hearing.
Also consider this observation from RedTriangle53: This is not valid for Beethoven and Beethoven only.Helmholtz discovered his theory of consonance and dissonance (1862) by stacking up his “resonators” and figuring out that a dissonant interval has simply more multiple frequencies that are clashing together than a consonant interval. Later, Fourier discovered that every complex tone can be divided down into an infinite number of sine tones/harmonics hence opening the road to the fascinating world of psychoacoustics and later developed into the fascinating chapter of physical modelling. Everything is multidisciplinary these days. Even quantum physics has something to do with music (a simple spectral analysis of a far away planet can reveal its atmosphere contents to us) or a simple spectral analysis of a tone goes deeper into the Uncertainly principle of Heisenberg ( we cannot know the time and frequency of an event precisely…this is how the universe works)…..String theory? that is another story and the journey will be amazing for sure in the coming decades!
We are getting closer to the modern piano here as damper technology keeps improving. Still playing on 66 keys, the Moonlight Opus 14 No 1 is early in Beethoven’s career; has last work will be Opus 123, Ode to Joy. Interesting to note that Beethoven was more musically advanced at 18 than Mozart at the same age. Mozart took longer to become Mozart than Beethoven took to become Beethoven.
Mozart did not play on the 88 key piano we have today. The 88 key piano was created by Beethoven when he started writing pieces for the 88 key piano that had yet to be created by the piano manufacturers of his day. Beethoven was such a rock star that the aristocracy pressured the manufacturers into changing the design of the piano so that they could hear the pieces that Beethoven had written. Mozart was born in 1756, 24 years before Beethoven was born and so Mozart played on the 66 key Fortepiano which you can see in this video. The keys are thinner and closer together and therefor are more difficult to play. I remember playing on Mozart’s 66 key piano in Salzburg way back in 1978 when I visited his house. Luckily I was also able to visit Beethoven’s home in Bonn in 1982. I definitely recommend a visit if you can get to Europe.
People who fall into the high functioning portion of the spectrum often live lives just like anyone else who’s not on the spectrum. They are said to be higher functioning cognitively than others on the spectrum. SYMPTOMS: Just like anyone on the Autism Spectrum high functioning people can still struggle with communication, making eye contact, and socially interact overall. Since interacting with others can be so difficult, those who are high functioning often report feeling very anxious prior to a social gathering, and being wiped out afterward because it takes SO much energy to engage with others. Anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder & depression are the most common comorbidities with HFA, and research shows that OCD and HFA commonly occur together because they both are affected by any abnormalities in a person’s serotonin production. Based on that information we could conclude that all comorbidities can be caused and affected by serotonin changes. I also believe that because people with HFA are more aware of their differences from others they could feel anxious about interacting with people or even depressed about their struggle to connect. Sometimes having insight and awareness into our own conditions can be hard to handle, and could lead to other mental health issues. People with HFA may struggle to understand jokes, or sarcasm from their peers. Therefore they can appear “mature for their age” but they are really just uncomfortable in social situations. They can have delayed initial speech, but later develop functional communication. They can have obsessive actions regarding appearance, cleanliness, fears and social situations, and also shortened attention spans.
My students are fascinated to hear that Beethoven demanded that the piano have 88 keys. He ways not happy with the limited range of the keyboard and he started writing pieces with a keyboard range that did not yet exist. So industry had to build the new expanded pianos in order to hear his music. This video documents the journey from the clavichord to what we know as the modern day piano.