Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mental Might

Give me a laundry list and I'll set it to music.

Giocchino Rossini
Most people, if they are not opera lovers, don't know anything about Rossini except for two things, the famous Figaro aria (Figaro, Figaro) and the William Tell Overture, (thanks to the Lone Ranger), but then only the last part of it.

That Rossini was a genius there is no doubt. He wrote 36 operas, both comic and tragic, beginning at about the age of 12. As a young man he went to hear a performance of an opera by one of the established composers. A day or two after, he went to see the composer with the voice and piano score of the composer's opera which Rossini had written out from memory. He said that if he had another week he could give him the score with all the orchestrations.

That was an amazing feat of memory. But it's not that unusual. In the 17th Centry a man named Grigori Allegri wrote many religious works for the Vatican. One of them composed for Holy Week, Miserere Mei, was considered by the Pope, Urban VIII so beautiful he decreed it should never leave the Vatican and should never be published. But in 1770 Mozart went to the Vatican, heard the piece, went home and copied it out from memory. It eventually found it's way to England where it was printed and so now we have the pleasure of hearing it.

There are people who can go to a lecture and then go and copy it out from memory word for word. There are chess masters who can recall every move of a chess game they played yeas ago, and painters who can reproduce a painting they once saw.

That kind of memory totally astonishes me. I will recognize a piece of music if I've heard it once and a film, once I've seen it. But I could never reproduce anything as faithfully as those masters do. I wouldn't even attempt it.

I can remember roles I played years ago, but that's because I went through them a great many times, not once.

The fact that some people are capable of that kind of retention and recall is a sign that most of us are capable of more than we do, at least as far as mentality is concerned. That's a truism. No one would doubt it. But for most of us those who can exercise such extreme mental abilities seemingly without much effort is a challenge. Are we up to it?

(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
20 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond


pacifica62 said...

Am I up to it?" Hardly. Perhaps more so many years ago, but these days it can be a challenge to remember my name, address and phone number without having to think about it. There is genius in the world but I would not be one of those people.

Gerry said...

The fact that I can get up every day and write what amounts to a pretty lengthy essay has astounded some people but annoyed more. In college I recall writing a 25 page letter to my sister Ann in a single setting that was typewritten single space on both sides of the paper! But I would force myself to read these letters over and would be ready to take a horsewhip to myself for getting to the point in such a round about way. When I received my letters back years later I burned them on the grounds that no one would have the patience to read these round abouts. But there was a reason for my coming to do this, I would have in mind a point I wanted to make that was on such controversial or taboo subjects I would write around and around to wear the person down and disarm them so they would eventually accept the point I was trying to make. I lived in a world where no one could really say what they thought.
I knew from all my reading there were geniuses capable of much more astounding mental feats than I was, so I could not delude myself.

Big Mark 243 said...

That is a question that I ask myself daily. And the answer comes back... I am going to find out!

Anywho... I think it goes to show how there are so many different combinations that have to occur in a life to set them on the path where they can maxiumize their function. But end the end, I think it still matter more that we are focused in our attempts to find our talents than it is that circumstance brings them to the surface.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Alas, that level of mental acuity takes practice, and I just do not have the current capacity for that.

Judith Ellis said...

I LOVE Rossini! Reading your post I thought of this scripture: "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." (Ephesians 4:7) I think we are given grace, the ability to accomplish certain things such a memory etc., according to our purpose. For me to try to remember a whole score is futile, while keeping myself sharp is important.

Rose~* said...

Seems that my memory is fading with time, but my daughters are enjoying the tales that I tell them about their lives "in the good old days", when they were young and innocent. I have been forgetting where I leave my glasses lately, and it irks me to say the least, since I then cannot see where I left them!