Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Julliard (PBS American Masters)


This documentary film Julliard(2005?) in the PBS American Masters series (120 min) dissects the experience of students at Julliard conservatory in New York City. The competition to get in is fierce for relatively few spaces.

The PBS website for this film is here.

The school's own website is this.

Film actor Kevin Spacey and conductor James Levine do a lot of the commentary in the film. Val Kilmer also appears. (The school also teaches drama as well as music.) All of the experience is covered: the intimacy of the lessons (a session teaching some of the Back Well Tempered Clavier is shown), the orchestra (a selection from the Beethoven First Symphony and then Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe is performed). At the end of the film, the closing measure's of Dvorak's String Quartet in G were performed.

The audition process is short (like fifteen minutes) and it is described as a test of whether the students can "make something their own that is not their own." The committee is shown meeting determing which candidates to select. Various topics, such as composition, music theory, and ear training are discussed. Composition (the previous post) depends on the musical ear, and it seems that this talent is almost hard-wired, or developed in the brain very early and pruned into efficiency during the teen years.

One point not covered is that orchestral players in some sections actually experience hearing loss in making music for others.

The WB series Everwood explored the application of a teenage prodigy Ephram (Gregory Smith), his progress, and then his unfortunate failure to appear at the audition because of a sad twist in his personal life. Ephram's father is a brain surgeon, and from a genetic point of view, a gift for piano and ear for music is probably related to the gifts that would make one a surgeon. (The daughter in the family, Delia, probably would become a doctor herself.)

I once knew and actually took organ lessons from a conservatory student at Peabody in Baltimore.

(The picture is from the RCA Building and NBC, where I worked as a programmer-analyst 1974-1977. I don't have a picture of the Lincoln Center area right now.)

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