Soloist careers

January 17, 2008 at 07:56 AM · I did a little unscientific survey. I googled several famous violinists and found the web page for their management agency. These web pages list all the violinists represented by the agency. I found one big agency that had 20 violinists under management but I only really knew about a few of them. I presume that many are in career building stage and if they don't get traction they will be replaced.

I found a few others with 8 to 15 violinists. Same story. Then I thought about recording careers. How many currently active violinists have recorded more than 5 cds?

I suspect that not very many have. I wonder if there are even 30 big careers out there. It seems that becoming head of government for a democracy is statistically more likely than having a long term solo career as a violinist.

This isn't to suggest that there are not other options. University professor, chamber musician, concertmaster etc. all have significant solo performing opportunities even if one plays less than 100 concerts a year.

So what is you guess on the number of big careers? What are your criteria for a big career?

Replies (57)

January 17, 2008 at 01:32 PM · Here is the list from IMG artists:

Joshua Bell

Nicola Benedetti

Sarah Chang

Pamela Frank

Ilya Gringolts

Hilary Hahn

Daniel Hope

Henning Kraggerud

Rachel Lee

Itzhak Perlman

Mikhail Simonyan

Arabella Steinbacher

Caitlin Tully

Nikolaj Znaider

This must be an A list management agency. I recognize all but 3-4 of the names but I have heard (records or concerts less than half.

Here is Intermusica

Renaud Capuçon

Brett Dean

James Ehnes

Leonidas Kavakos

Andrew Manze

Midori

Eugene Ugorski.

I have heard of three of these artists.

There are yet others. I am interested in what you think the "count" is.

January 17, 2008 at 02:04 PM · I am sorry to say that it is probably not the violinist that are unknown but rather you that have not heard of them. The reason might be that you are mainly in the US?

On the IMG artists list I have heard of all and have recordings of all but three.

On the Intermusica list I have as well heard of all but lacks recordings by 2. One of them is Brett Dean, and he is not a violinist :)

January 17, 2008 at 03:04 PM · Matthias you are correct I am sure. But you are a connoisseur. What about the average audience? I am sure these are all very fine players but there is a difference in being a fine player and being a widely known player. Perhaps all these careers are well established but just unknown to me. Even so they have management and that is a huge step ina career. Just how many artists do you suppose are under management in the major arts markets in the world?

January 17, 2008 at 04:26 PM · It depends on what you define as "major".

There are several violinist that I would put in a widely known violin player category, but perhaps you would not, since they only tour the US once every 5th (or whatever) year. I am sure that many from the Africas, Australia, Asia or elswhere would say the same thing.

But there surely must be over a hundred violinist, that both musically and techniqally are in the top spots in the world, with more than 100-150 solo concerts a year, no matter how much they are known in each part of the world.

I bet that all of them with few exceptions are represented with a management.

Was is Renaud Capuçon one of the violinist that you hadn't heard of? A quick search on Amazon.com found more that 20 cd's with him, and he is still 29 years old :)

January 17, 2008 at 06:21 PM · The current Musical America International Directory lists about 250 violinists that are represented. And there are many players that handle their own affairs and bookings, and are not listed with an agency.

January 17, 2008 at 08:17 PM · Mattias, there aren't 100+ people with 100-150 solo engagements a year, I doubt that number is even close.

January 17, 2008 at 09:19 PM · Pieter, since I personally know more than 30 who does, and I don't even know the most famous ones I wouldn't be surpriced if there where :)

January 17, 2008 at 10:35 PM · Mattias,

If you know 30 people with more than 100 paying solo (not chamber) concerts a year, then they are more famous than you think. There's quite a few of the most famous violinists who don't do that many anymore. Check the numbers.

You can be highly successful playing "only" 50, or even less.

January 17, 2008 at 11:48 PM · Matthias, I have seen the name Renaud Capucon but recall no performances. Keep in mind what I know or don't know doesn't determine a career. I think a career is defined more objectively by

1. engagements

2. recordings

3. income

4. representation

5. sustainability (i.e. multiple years of similar levels of activity)

Its entirely feasible that Mr. Capucon has a fabulous career that I know nothing of. My topic is a question not an answer. I don't know how many careers there are. I would like some "objective" assessment. I think the collective guesses of v.com would bring more light on the subject than I can.

January 18, 2008 at 04:32 PM · Renaud Capucon is an outstanding violinist and has performed in the US. He performed the Brahms double concerto with his brother Gautier in Washington, DC with the National Symphony last year or in 2006.

January 18, 2008 at 05:01 PM · Great conversation topic, Corwin - thanks for starting this thread. Hope it gets lots more replies, as I too am interested in knowing more.

January 19, 2008 at 11:17 PM · Hmmm.... I'm thinking that probably Pieter is right. I mean, how many halls/orchestras are there, even in the world? How many solo violin performances per year in the world? If Matthias is right, then there are around 10,000-15,000 solo violin performances in the world per year, not including anybody with less than 100 performances per year (100 in that tier, times 100-150 performance each). Let's assume that in the next tier down, violinists have only 5 solo performance per year. Let's also assume there are more of that level of violinist, say, 1000 of them. So, total number of solo violin performances in the world would be around 15,000 to 20,000, including only the first and second tier by number of performances.

So, could that possibly be the case? Could there really be 15-20 THOUSAND paid solo violin performances per year in the world? Well, here in the US, there are at least 100 towns large enough to call cities. While there might not be the same number of concerts in Fargo per year as in NYC, still, it's safe to assume that there are at least ten solo violin concerts in cities 0-90. The top ten cities probably have something more like at least 50 per year. So already we have 1400 solo violin performances per year just in the US, done just by that top two tiers.

Europe has about 500 cities with populations larger than 150,000. Let's say that 90 percent of those cities also only have ten solo violin concerts per year. Then that's another 4500 concerts. Let's say the remaining big cities have no more than 50 concerts per year. Then that's another 2500 concerts per year. US and Europe = 8000 solo violin concerts per year.

Using similar assumptions, we get 5400 concerts out of South America. Let's assume another 1000 concerts in Central America. We're already at 14,400 concerts per year, not including Asia at all!

So, on second thought, maybe Pieter is wrong... seems like the world could support 100 people giving 100-150 solo violin performances per year. Of course, I'm just playing around. I'd love to know the real answers- 1. How many paid solo violin performances are there per year in the world, not counting low level stuff. 2. How many people are there in the world with more than 100 solo performances per year?

Cheers

Howard

January 20, 2008 at 12:47 AM · Howard, Impressive quantitative reasoning! 20,000 concerts a year? If we assume there are 100 people in the audience of each concert on the average and those people attend 2 concerts a year on the avaerage, concert going population would be about 10,000,000. The total world population is about 6,000,000,000. It comes down to 1 out of 600 attend a violin concert. Sounds plausible to me.

Ihnsouk

January 20, 2008 at 12:38 AM · Howard, I credit your reasoning but I think we're making a few too many assumptions.

I have lived in 3 fairly big market classical music cities in the last 10 years;

Toronto

Montreal

Cleveland

The most violinists I ever saw come to a city in a year was in Montreal where we had Zukerman, Vengerov, Repin, Gringolts, Hahn, Chang, Mullova, and Kavakos. That's 8 violinists. In the four years I was there, that only happened once. The other years the MSO (a top orchestra) brought in usually 3-5.

In Cleveland this year there are about 4 and my friends from CIM say about the same number as long as they've been here.

Now, the West Virginia Regional Community Philarmonic Sinfonietta would be lucky to book even 2 violinist, and they probably couldn't afford more than one bigger name per year.

The only city where you're going to see a lot of big names performing with the biggest orchestras, or recitals at the name brand venues would be places like London (which has a few big time orchestras), Berlin, Vienna, and New York City.

Mattias apparently knows 30 violinists with 3000 paid concerts a year between them, and none of them are that famous, as he says. Now having discussed this with people who are getting quite a number of well paying solo gigs with not the biggest market orchestras, and being at an age where violinists start to discuss the topic of careers with their friends, I think the concensus, at least with the people I know, is that the number of people doing 100 concerts isn't as common as you'd think.

I could be wrong, but people who are in demand enough to be playing that many engagements (just solo) are usually supporting a record with a name label.

Many young violinists after some big competition wins will get a lot of engagements for the next year or two after the win, largely because bigger competitions come with a number of enagements. Indy gives you like 40 I think, and that of course gives you a lot of opporunities. Unfortunately, there are quite a few kids who aren't able to sustain those numbers. It's expensive to engage soloists because you have to be paying them enough for travel expenses, not to mention a decent chunk of rehersal time (although I'm sure a lot of players aren't that lucky). With a regular concert you only have in house salaries to deal with (and there are many orchestras having trouble making payroll). To bring in a soloist, not even a big name one, you're looking at a number, at the very least of a few thousand extra.

I would have a hard time believing that there are that many professional, financially profitable violin solo concerts a year (that aren't things like From the Top or other cutesy events). Also, when you look at the artists orchestras are engaging, you really start to see the same names over and over again.

January 20, 2008 at 01:04 AM · Hi Pieter,

Well yeah, a mutual friend of ours just said the same thing about my estimate of the number of recitals in the bigger markets. I guess it's a good thing I didn't go into economic forecasting as a profession...

Don't you wonder if anybody or any association keeps track of music statistics like that?

Howard

January 20, 2008 at 03:23 AM · I finally found my old ASOL report on my hard drive from 2005-2006, and for the 322 US orchestras reporting, there were only 9 violinists with 21 or more orchestra gigs - lower than I would have thought. No one with as many as thirty! Wow.

Start learning those excerpts, kids.

January 20, 2008 at 05:49 AM · Bill, If someone plays a three night series does it count as one gig or three performances? I can see a violinist playing 100 performances a year but not 100 gigs (i.e. different series)

January 20, 2008 at 06:04 AM · Sorry, it doesn't make that clear. It uses the word "performances", though.

January 20, 2008 at 06:44 AM · There are definately people doing 100 concerts. James Ehnes, Frank Peter Zimmerman, Sarah Chang, Repin, Vengerov, Hillary Hahn, and probably Josh Bell. Many of their stops have 2-3 performances.

January 20, 2008 at 06:51 AM · Pieter, I am trying hard to stay out of this conversation, but I just want to add a few things.

I take one exemple of a handsome violinist.

4 festivals pr year with 8-10 concerts/week,

recitals in 20 cities with 3 concert in each,

7 concertos with orchestra played 3 times each.

That sums up to about 120 engagements, JUST in scandinavia. And this violinist has never played outside scandinavia.

January 20, 2008 at 07:21 AM · He sounds busy. In any case, it isn't hard to find out how many concerts a person has just by looking on the internet. I think the numbers are a bit closer to what was posted above, suggesting that there's a fairly small group of people getting the bigger number of concerts.

January 20, 2008 at 09:09 AM · Mattias - that's a really AMAZING schedule that you posted, but that's usually the case.

With most orchestras giving two or three performances of a subscription concert, it is safe to say that a soloist will play one concerto three times in one city.

January 20, 2008 at 11:11 AM · Were there more people that could make a living being a violin soloist 50 years ago then now?

What about 20 years ago?

It must have been easier to get a record deal in those days at least

January 20, 2008 at 01:07 PM · That is a very good question. While pondering this I looked at James Ehnes' website and schedule. Hoping that I'm not going to get into trouble here: he has, between September 2007 and November 2008, almost 80 dates on his calendar - the repertoire for those dates including fourteen concerti (all the Mozarts, Barber, Walton, Elgar, Sibelius, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Korngold), Bernstein Serenade, Ravel Tzigane, Bruch Scottish Fantasy and - I think - seven recitals. These concerts are in the US, Canada, Spain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland.

His discography includes twenty recordings.

Humbling, yes.

Daniel Hope has TEN addresses for agents listed on his website - this ten includes IMG.

Midori's calendar includes close to thirty performances across the globe, in Japan, Europe and the United States.

It is safe to say that there are many people who have very extensive performing careers. My question is one of endurance. How does one keep fourteen concerti ready to play over the course of a year?

January 20, 2008 at 01:08 PM · does 100 concerts in Scandinavia mean a big career. Wouldn't a big career mean that one is traveling around the world? I think that the 100 concerts is great, but I think big career DOES mean that you travel internationally, that you have to fight the travel demands, the jetlag, language issues, laundry etc.

January 20, 2008 at 02:29 PM · the elusive definition of a "big career" is understandable if we can come to agreement on "filthy rich" or "drop-dead gorgeous" or...:)

January 20, 2008 at 03:27 PM · Ward, my example was not of a violinst with a "big carrer", but rather that is not impossible nor unusual to play 120 concerts in a year (or 30 weeks like the handsome young violinist in my example).

January 20, 2008 at 06:03 PM · There is a study that estimates that 2 to 4% of the US population buy classical CD's or/and attend classical concerts. That's about 5 to 10 million people. Assuming people who buy CD's also go to concerts and assuming on the average they go to two concerts a year, we have 10 to 20 millions in the audience a year. What is the average size of the audience, 100, 1000? If it's 1000, we have 10,000 to 20,000 concerts a year. How many of them will feature violin soloists? 10%? One to two thousands. That requires about ten to twenty violin soloists who give about 100 solo performances in the US a year. If the average size of the audience is closer to 100, it would requireone or two hundred violin soloists. Either way not many considering how many violinists are produced each year. If soloists stay active for 20 years, we would need only a handful new soloists a year, half of a one.

Ihnsouk

January 20, 2008 at 04:36 PM · "There is a study that estimates that 2 to 4% of the US population buy classical CD's or/and attend classical concerts."

IFPI have got the exact numbers

check out www.ifpi.org

January 20, 2008 at 06:39 PM · There is a study that estimates that 2 to 4% of the US population buy classical CD's or/and attend classical concerts. That's about 5 to 10 million people.

Do each of the 2-4% of the people who buy CDs or attend classical concerts go once/year? I'm not saying there's a gigantic market out there, but maybe a little bigger than 5-10 million people as a cumulative concert audience.

January 20, 2008 at 06:43 PM · one may want to look at those numbers more carefully because the purchases (cds, dvds or tickets) are not necessarily evenly distributed among the artists. thus, relevance of those numbers to an individual artist varies.

i do not have specific numbers on the classical artists, but if you look at the hollywood pay scale of actors, it will give you some idea. 25 mil per pic for a few vs umemployment for quite a few...

January 20, 2008 at 07:47 PM · Ward, Since in my mind a big career is one that supports a violinist at a professional (doctor or lawyer) income or better, I wouldn't discount a career that is exclusive to Scandinavia if it achieves a measure of financial independence. Of course career also implies that it lasts long enough and is lucrative enough that it forms the basis for retirement.

January 20, 2008 at 08:34 PM · Samuel,

James Ehnes is definately one of the people who has 100 concerts, along with Hillary Hahn. Last year Midori's assistant told me she did 80 concerts along with her philanthropy and teaching. She gave me two 2 hour lessons, which she does for all of her students on a weekly basis. When I was there (at 7pm), she was coaching chamber until 11 o'clock and then next morning (like 8am) when I was the first student, she'd been warming up in her studio since 6am. That's definately busy.

Inshouk, those numbers are so presumptious that it would be very difficult to give them any creedence.

Matthias, there must be an incredible market in the Scandinavian countries because I don't think there's even 1 person in the USA and Canada that does 100 or 120 concerts only in one small area. I envy your part of the world.

January 20, 2008 at 08:56 PM · Pieter - I live in a small town with 140 000 citizens we have three semi amateur symphony orchestras and within a radie of 60 kilometers we have more then 10, and one professional. Among the artist that have appeared here the last few years are Repin, Zimmerman, Chang (twice), Lakatos (twice), Gomyo (twice), Mullova, Daniel Röhn, Andrew Manze (twice), Uto Ughi and..and...

Yes, we in scandinavia are lucky :)

January 20, 2008 at 09:26 PM · The no. of amateur orchestras isn't completely out of line for city population in the U.S., especially if you count youth orchestras, but the performer names are. It might be that things are so close together in Europe that it's no biggie to just run out.

January 20, 2008 at 09:31 PM · Glad to see Gomyo on your list, she's fantastic.

January 20, 2008 at 09:41 PM · Mattias,

That's what I was saying. In Canada we have a great economy, almost 40 million people. There's great orchestras and a few cities have world class culture scenes, but there's no way a soloist could play that many concerts within Canada alone.

I think it's incredible that certain artists can play a lot of concertos/recitals primarily in the UK, or just Germany and Austria, or in Scandinavia like you just said. You get to play with top orchestras all the time and your travelling can all be done comfortably on a train.

January 20, 2008 at 09:43 PM · Very valid point about "mileage", Jim. There was an article in Bloomberg Magazine some time in 2006, in which Norman Lebrecht spoke about Esa-Pekka Salonen's appointment as music director of the Philharmonia:

"Concerts that he performs with the Philharmonia in London can be repeated on successive nights in Berlin, Vienna and Paris, not to mention Helsinki, where he maintains a family home, and the important Easter and summer festivals at Salzburg and Lucerne."

Exodus?"

The cost of touring a U.S. orchestra, combined with union restrictions and post-9/11 fears, keep these ensembles mostly at home, to the mounting frustration of European maestros. Five top American orchestras -- Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit -- lack a music director. While it might be premature to say conductors are deserting the U.S. in droves, one has only to look at the burgeoning London landscape to compare crisis with progressive renewal."

Granted, huge travel is huge travel, but it is easier - and apparently less costly - to get around the cultural capitals in Europe than to "do" New York/Chicago/Boston/Washington DC/San Francisco/Los Angeles/and all points in between (Atlanta/Houston/Dallas/Seattle).

January 20, 2008 at 11:31 PM · Terry - My understanding is that 2-4% includes everyone who ever bought a single classical CD or ever attended classical concerts. I heard that figure qouted independently more than once. In my rough reasoning, I assumed that they attend 2 concerts per year on the average. I am sure it is easy to get more accurate with min and max, etc. Instead of attending two concerts one could assume that they all attend 5 concerts. Instead of 1000 people in the audience on the average we could say 100. That will increase the number of new soloists needed by 25 times or a little over 10 people a year. Still not many.

Pieter - The beauty of quantitative reasoning is that it gives you a good picture without bogged down by details. You may be interested to learn that that's how they decided how big an atom is in the early days. The estimate for the radius of atom found this way was pretty close to what was measured later using sophisticated instruments. If 2-4% is reasonably accuarte, I am afraid there isn't much to get around the fact that not many soloists are needed.

Ihnsouk

January 20, 2008 at 11:17 PM · Ihnsouk, that would be in the ballpark of 1 out of 30 people and feels way high to me. My guess would be closer to 1 out of 1000, or 1 out of 10,000 and only if you include some new age and "semi-classical" in the mix.

I think a "typical" American lives in a town in the "middle of nowhere" with a population of about 10,000 where few if any of the residents will hear a live symphony orchestra in their entire life. That's in no way a put-down to me; I'm just saying.

January 20, 2008 at 11:07 PM · I know, I'm saying that I think your numbers were inflated.

January 20, 2008 at 11:12 PM · Jim - I think 2-4% include people who ever bought a classical CD in their life. Even with that over-estimate, the soloists needed in the market place is very small; maybe one every other year. Would you say that's roughly right? Did we produce about 10 soloists during last 20 years?

Ihnsouk

January 20, 2008 at 11:12 PM · Jim - I think 2-4% include people who ever bought a classical CD in their life. Even with that over-estimate, the soloists needed in the market place is very small; maybe one every other year. Would you say that's roughly right? Did we produce about 10 soloists during last 20 years?

Ihnsouk

January 20, 2008 at 11:42 PM · 3% in their entire life is different. I can tell you though; nobody in my family ever bought a classical CD except me:) And I've got one branch of it traced back to about 1300 :)

Maybe this though - if you divide the number of CDs sold by the population, then you might arrive at something around 3%, but only because some people bought 100 of them and 3000 people bought none. Understand this is only gut feeling from hoboing around this ol' world. Nothing scientific :)

Actually 3% once in their entire life might be do-able. My parents did buy a box LP set or two mail order, which was common back then. A hodge-podge of selections. You see those old box sets sometimes in flea markets and vintage book stores. I can think of other similar things they did. They did strive to expose me to a very wide variety of things. A bit of everything, or as much as they knew of everything. Pretty cool.

January 21, 2008 at 01:15 AM · Hey, did you all know that there's a name for the way in which we're exploring this problem?

Fermi Problem, Estimate.

"In physics, [and music!!] particularly in physics education, a Fermi problem, Fermi question, or Fermi estimate is an estimation problem designed to teach dimensional analysis, approximation, and the importance of clearly identifying one's assumptions. Named for 20th century physicist Enrico Fermi, such problems typically involve making justified guesses about quantities that seem impossible to compute given limited available information."

"Scientists [and musicians!!] often look for Fermi estimates of the answer to a problem before turning to more sophisticated methods to calculate a precise answer"

"Fermi estimates are also useful in approaching problems where the optimal choice of calculation method depends on the expected size of the answer."

Heh...

January 21, 2008 at 01:35 AM · that`s good enough Fer me.

January 21, 2008 at 02:03 AM · No more than 3% of the population calls it that. Also, 3% of the population has bought a CD, although 6% has probably stolen one. Not knowing what it was until they got it home of course.

January 21, 2008 at 02:00 PM · ".... [and musicians!!] often look for Fermi estimates of the answer to a problem before turning to more sophisticated methods to calculate a precise answer."

Howard - Since when do you musicians try to solve a problem much less calculating an answer? A calculating musician makes as much sense as cold boiling water to me.

Jim - I don't know, Thieves may enjoy classical music. They say music speaks to heart. If we equate penniless to heartless, we may be becoming too materialistic.

Ihnsouk

January 21, 2008 at 03:25 PM · I guess the test of any estimate is how it squares with reality as observed. Some estimating methods do no more than provide an upper limit.

I think that if its 10 or 100 careers we would all agree that the probability of a career as a solo performer is vanishingly small.

My next question is "what can we learn from those that attain careers about the critical success factors for a career?" I suspect that will will find a lot of "necessary but not sufficient" conditions for a career. My guess is that we will find the minimum conditions for a career in such an inquiry.

By analogy golf (PGA) has qualifying tournaments for aspiring golfers. If a player qualifies he can play in PGA Tour events (at least the qualifying rounds). But qualifying for the Tour does not predict any success in a golfing career. (i.e. necessary but not sufficient).

What does it take to qualify for a violin solo career? How much repertory? What kind of repertory? How many contests? Performances? What schools and teachers? What venues? Is it necessary to be a prodigy?

January 21, 2008 at 05:09 PM · Ihnsouk,

Actually violinists calculate all the time. We solve problems in multi-diminsional "bow space", calculate shift distances based on a known speed of the hand, we also shift by calculating the angle of the elbow vs. the distance travelled by the hand. We regularly solve complex functions that describe the relationship of various inputs into the bow to outputs in sound... Although this isn't generally done with pencil and paper, I think most violinists are aware of these calculations and even if we are not using numbers per se, there is something strictly analogous to equation solving going on all the time.

By the way, have you ever read a book called "Where Math Comes From" by ... I think Lakoff and somebody else...? In that book, they talk a lot about their theory (which I believe) that math is grounded in metaphors based on physical movement so, for example, we conceptualize addition as movement along a path, or the various flavors of infinity as a continous, never-ending processes. They are trying to prove that math is not "universal" but merely brain and body based phenomenon, i.e., we would have different math if we had different bodies and brains.

So if any of that is true, we violinists ARE doing math, in its most pure form, without the intervening levels of translation and symbolism that we normally use. Of course, anybody who's ever thrown a ball or estimated their chances of making a turn before a truck hits them might claim this too, but the difference is in the way we are trained to calculate- If throwing a ball is "body arithmetic" then the violin is "body calculus" or maybe "body functions".

:)

January 21, 2008 at 04:58 PM · Howard--you just destroyed the violin for me. Now that I know it's all math, I don't understand it one iota anymore!!!

;-)

January 21, 2008 at 05:05 PM · Oh, and by the way, cold boiling water makes perfect sense. Just reduce the atmospheric pressure enough and you can have cold boiling water. At 80,000 feet, you could have a tea party with nice room-temperature tea made with room-temperature boiling water! Of course, you and your guests would die from hypoxia before you could drink it...

January 21, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Math is universal, and obviously brain-based. Universal, because it makes accurate predictions. It's would be easy to think art is a pure form of everything, if art was your world. The key point is that real math allows prediction though.

January 21, 2008 at 05:22 PM · Well, yeah Jim, you'd think that math is something that exists "out there" in the universe, but they make the argument that the way we conceptualize math is based very much in the way our physical bodies and brains work. So they're saying that perhaps different brains would produce a very different but still predictive math. Now, keep in mind I'm not a mathematician, so I"m a bit out of my field to say the least! But their arguments are persuasive and the book was written by a well-known cognitive linguist and a mathematician.

Ok, so here is the gist of the "there's no way to know if math is universal" argument:

"According to Lakoff, even mathematics itself is subjective to the human species and its cultures: thus any question of math's being inherent in physical reality is moot, since there is no way to know whether or not it is. By this, he is saying that there is nothing outside of the thought structures we derive from our embodied minds that we can use to "prove" that mathematics is somehow beyond biology."

January 21, 2008 at 06:02 PM · What exists "out there" in reality is probably the original primal question :) One way to think of math is that math is as universal as physics, since it describes physics. It's based on counting objects, which is a pretty primal universal thing itself, you'd think.

January 21, 2008 at 06:26 PM · Well, regardless of what else is "out there", we do know for sure that there are not many soloist jobs! Speaking of counting, I guess you wouldn't have to be able to count very high to count those jobs...

:)

January 21, 2008 at 08:23 PM · Alternate realities are conceivable. For example, it can be shown that we're much more likely to be living in a simulated reality than not. Simulated from somewhere in "our future," for example. Violin soloist oversupply and even stranger things would just be bugs in the program.

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