"Rasist" post )))
Recently, two major violin competitions were very well reported here with interesting comments and a lot of details. Both happened in two different semi-spheres. And in both Asian surnames dominated. They come from different countries, some time they already have "western" names but the majority of surnames is Asian.
Do Asian have a "violin" genes?
It is not enough to have a perfect pitch, work a lot, have a good teacher. To be at that level of competitions, one should LOVE violin. Do Asian love it more (more often), than other nations?
I never though from this point of view, before looking through the list of participants. And i never could understand where from my son has his desire for violin. His "love" does not come from family, for sure. It is a pure in-born love from the first time he had been exposed to the violin music.
But now, I know: My son, who just loves violin and use youtube video with violin performances and master classes instead of cartoons, has a Korean farther. So my son just has the "Asian violin" gene ))))
I am joking )))
Not racist, but cultural. 50-100 years ago it was the East European Jews that seemed to have a genetic advantage. It has a lot to do with the family- the parents persuading the students to put in those extra hours of daily practice that make the difference between expert and ordinary. What I consider curious is how many Asians are enamored with the Western classical music-supposedly an alien culture for them.
Every time this topic comes around, it starts a shitstorm...
Asia counts for 60% of the world population. (4.4 billion Asians vs 1.3 billion European + Americans) I think it's a numbers game, not a genetic or cultural one. More people= more violinists = more Asian violinists entering competitions.
Yes, genes matter zero. "Human biodiversity," as spoused by many white nationalist agenda-driven individuals and pseudo-scientists is nothing but a farce to perpetuate ignorance and ethnic divisions, based on fear of the "lesser" minorities and an unknown future for "their kind". One could likely have similar musically great results with one of the many coined "not as smart" ethnicities if they and their families grew in a similar environment.
To the original poster: the correct spelling is ‘racist.’
I read something about this re the maths myth in a book on cognitive dissonance once. You need to take into account that different countries and continents can have very different work ethics.
I think pretty clearly it has a lot to do with early exposure. My (white) father loved music and played the violin, so I grew up loving classical music and wanted to play. I wasn't blessed with great natural talent, but had I been, my father exposing me to it would have allowed talent to flourish. Other kids might have great natural talent but without parental exposure, how can it manifest? My own nieces grew up in a home with no music and are not musical. Fewer people do seem to expose their kids to music--and that is made worse by cell phones, as a lot if people listen to whatever they DO listen to on ear buds so the kids can't hear it.
If we favour Nuture over Nature we will avoid making unfounded assumptions which are likely to unconsciously affect out pedagogy.
At least in the US, I think Asian-American kids are much more likely to start at very early ages.
Charles, all human languages are tonal. English also uses tonality to express meaning. Your's is the kind of assumption Adrian is talking about.
And again, it's not that the parents see their children as potential child prodigies -- it's more that the parents want their kids to have a
Obviously a lot of Asian parents are insistent on their kids working hard. For better or worse, it makes great violinists.
Julie wrote, "I think it's a numbers game, not a genetic or cultural one. More people= more violinists = more Asian violinists entering competitions."
There is one proven genetic characteristic that unambiguously favors people of East Asian descent: hand shape. On average, people of East Asian descent have the longest fingers of any human population, which favors playing string instruments as well as piano. (But this also makes the small number of Asian-American violists especially striking.)
Well, congrats, this descended into uninformed racist stereotype pretty quickly. Yay?
Andrew, can you cite your source about Asians having the ideal hand shape for violin and longest fingers of any population? I have Chinese ancestry and can do a three octave stretch on the violin. Some of my wonderful colleagues of Asian heritage don’t have very large fingers but they do just fine. I don’t think finger size really matters.
In my experience, it's been the Europeans who ve had quite long fingers, especially in the Netherlands!
I was interested in Nate's comments about the violinists of the Auer school. Without question theirs was a wave of greatness, and I believe these things come in waves. One or two spectacular practitioners of a particular skill can inspire an entire population and nucleate a wave that can last generations, especially if there are supporting cultural, economic, or political factors. Chess in Russia, for example. The Auer school had a decided advantage, though: By being the wave at the onset of recording technology their sound became a household standard. I'll bet Heifetz's vibrato really sizzled on the Victrola.
I made no claims about "ideal hand shape" but simply assume longer fingers are helpful for playing string instruments.
Re hand shape, finger length: peer reviewed articles or nothing.
The chart is a compilation of data from peer reviewed articles and government reports.
We cannot, in the words of another poster "simply assume" anything. Jews of Eastern European descent are no more talented musically than the rest of the population. Further, they don't have a cultural edge because they went to synagogue. Milstein himself dismissed this as racist when asked in an interview. Publicists and agents knew that that 'type' was what their audience wanted and they developed and sold those violinists that fit.
in my opinion, aside from spatial and temporal contiguity which forms the basis of continuous traditions (and i think that this is not the case since so called western classical music is relatively new in east asian countries and communities)the reason would be in the junction between the cultural-social and the economic within a postcolonial world. And for the european jewish communities, within the contradictory setting of a jewish intellectual enlightenment within a belligerent antisemitic europe.
It is a scientific fact based on language Julie, not a gross bias uneducated generalization based on race.
Well, then I guess those 12 hours of linguistics class I took as both an undergraduate and graduate student were a complete waste of time and don't stand up to your Google Phd.
I remember research from a few years ago that compared the amount of time the average American student stuck with a math problem before giving up to that of Asian students.
I think what makes the gene pool of successful violin players around the world would make for a fascinating basis for a social study. I think it varied over time (someone mentioned the dominance of jews in world's renowned past and present soloists), and geography. One can't fail to notice a higher than average percentage of attractive figures amongst successful players for instance, or the high percentage of Asians etc. I would love to read such study.
Scott, it is not "Asians" who try harder, it is immigrants--because they have to.
I agree with Nate's post and I think the idea of a cantorial influence on the great Russian masters is fascinating. I am not Jewish and was amazed to hear a cantor recently at a bat mitvah reciting prayers - I thought it sounded just like a run on a violin! Nothing racist about such an observation and it's silly to think there aren't cultural norms influencing groups of people. Did growing up hearing gospel music in church influence Aretha Franklin?
Personally I don't see racism in a respectful discussion of the demographic or geographic distribution of good violinists.
Julie, maybe there are different definitions of what a tonal language is, but for me the only language where inflection of the word can completely change its meaning is Chinese. Merriam Webster dictionary defines a tone language as 'a language (such as Chinese or Zulu) in which variations in tone distinguish words or phrases of different meaning that otherwise would sound alike.'
Yep, the word 'tonal' has different meanings, as does the word 'aspiration'.
I think lots of Asian languages are tonal: Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese to name a few. They are, however, non-inflectional in that words don't change their forms to reflect tenses.
Asians are good at arts and crafts?
You should compare how many Asian students are involved in violin playing and how many westerners do so nowadays.
@Irene I can say the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans are rich in craftsmanship, and ‘good’ Asian violinists seem to only overwhelmingly come from these three Asian countries.
"One truth is Asians develop muscle control ability earlier (I've been told so)"
I have another question to raise. I can distinguish two Asian groups: Jews and Chinese, effortlessly, but I can't distinguish Jews from average French, Italian and Greek, they look like close to each other. Most Jewish violinists look overwhelmingly like modern Europeans. So are Jews shared the same Asian gene with Chinese people?
"Scott, it is not "Asians" who try harder, it is immigrants--because they have to."
I see the OP lives in whitest white Norway, like I do.
Seems like no one has read the book ‘Outliers’ by Malcom Galdwell here. A reference in this subject.
I have been a regular poster on this site for a long time and I very much enjoy the expert advice, opinions, and explanations you all provide. I do not post on subjects I have only a dilettante's understanding of because I don't want to dilute the quality of the posts by people who know more than me. I have a cat, and can describe her features and behavior to my vet, but that doesn't mean I have the specialized knowledge that a veterinarian has. I do not go onto cat message boards and diagnose cat diseases or explain cat behavior based articles I read in Cat Fancy Magazine. I worked hard in school to acquire the knowledge I have, and will not accept the false equivalency between that knowledge and lay opinion.
I still don't see why a tonal language would lead to better musicianship, why rice production in China would lead to more industrious musicians , why handling chopsticks or whatever other tool-at a young age would give one an advantage in developing superior finger dexterity on the violin fingerboard, why jewish cantorial chanting tends more to the violinistic than the greek orthodox. It just seems like we're painting reality in any whimsical way we want to here. Anyway, we're all allowed to have an opinion...
The large majority of professional violinists in orchestras in the US and Europe are non-Asian, as are the most famous soloists. They are very much successful, and yet they are evaluated as individuals and their physical traits are not being generalized across all people of their European ethnicities.
Agreed. There is nothing complementary about being objectified, having your person, your family and your culture being defined willy nilly to serve personal imagination.
I think the overwhelmingly low height of gymnastic athletes (not just in the US) is just one example proving people with certain physical traits tend to excel in certain physical activities, which in turn supports the argument for the Asian advantage in violin playing.
I find this topic interesting. Some things I don't agree with, some things others don't agree with, but some thought provoking points from different angles. I would respond to some more of those points but I think Carlos said it best when he predicted a sh#tstorm.
Yes, it happens every time :-)
We need ignore poster(s) function, please.
Look, it's pretty simple. As I said earlier, if you have parents who expose you to classical music and who get you started early and encourage you to keep at it, you will be more likely to succeed with it (assuming some degree of natural talent). That is pretty obvious. Some cultures tend to do that more than other cultures. Cultures that ignore classical music and raise their kids to be dilletantes are less likely to have lots of musicians.
I must agree with the thought that it's no fun to categorize people by ethnicity, putting them in ridiculous boxes. Individuals transcend generalizations. I don't fit into my own ethnic stereotypes myself, and oppose people doing it to me AND others.
Rice cultivation is dominant in Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, South Asia and southern China, in northern China, covered by one half Chinese population, people cultivate wheat as it is in Europe and West Asia.
Guillaume, this correlates with the fact that most good Asian violinsts are either of Japanese, Korean or Chinese descent.
I wonder why rice cultivation Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and India have no good Asian violinists.
For all the stereotypes of Asians being "conformist" or collectivist, my experience in Asian-American culture is the opposite: there's a huge emphasis on individual accomplishment.
"Spies are everywhere in a communist country"
Tammuz, "But at least they haven't nuked cities or invaded others"?...
I was born into an East Asian country, and migrated to a Western society. From my experience, I agree that Asian societies, at least the ones I have had contact with, are conformist (should we use the word 'disciplined' instead?). I also believe that Timothy said it without the intention to offend.
Bob Hoebart, you've rendered the qualification racist devoid of meaning in your post. We also clearly have different perspectives on history vs US propaganda, but this is another topic. I was responding to Timothy Smith's addition of yet another stereotype to the list and how he contradicts himself in his 'reasoning', much of which is done to suit ones prejudices.
Says the person who defends the people who defined themselves as imperialists ;) It's easy to hate. It's hard to do it logically....Oh and the the only prejudice here seems to be yours for those of America. Jealousy is a nasty creature. :)
I remember my father telling my first piano teacher, there was no-one else musical in the family, and her saying to my father "maybe one of your ancestors was a mediaeval minstrel or something." But my father was hiding his light under a bushel. I remember him soulfully playing the chromatic harmonica in the Sixties (until the instrument turned to rust, fell apart and was binned), and he was in a harmonica quartet in the Fifties. But he did tell us for the first time about 5 years ago that he was in the Salvation Army as a teen, and he tried the cornet but gave it up because it was too difficult.
Matt Lawrence "A great body of literature on geo-cultural studies also tends to support the claim that, compared to Western societies, Asian ones are more conformist than rebellious, collectivist than individualist, hierarchical than egalitarian, risk-averse than risk-seeking, and conservative than liberal."
That an abundance of young Asian violinists in competitions and media channels is an interesting observation that does not deserve such escalation, in a completely non-political forum.
I think that is uncalled for Matt. I presented my point of view without resort to ad hominem or personal attacks. Nothing I said is to do with your person or that of Timothy or Bob's. You're confusing direct disagreement with something else. It has nothing to do with anonymity or whatnot. As for escalation, I think the escalation started when a joke (OP's) was picked by others as a serious belief in ethnocentric and cultural generalisations.
Well, having done jazz masterclasses in many countries around the world, I do notice certain traits in general. These traits have nothging to do with race but with upbringing/culture.
The topic of this thread is inherently "political." The title? A thread where people have been freely throwing around racial stereotypes is political.
I am not tall nor petite, but have crazy slim, relatively "skeleton-like", long fingers. All my technique and fingerings have to be adapted to my hand, which makes some things easier, but as mentioned above, my vibrato will never sound as "fleshy" as that of the majority of modern players, even when I play at its most intense. My 4th finger vibrato must be played at an angle to emulate more finger mass. I love my hands, but they were not "made for the violin" (or piano, for that matter-the term "piano hands" is kind of goofy, IMHO.)
I’m at the Kreisler Competition right now, and have listened to most contestants in the first round so far.
Doubt it's "unbiased and objective", as even competition judges have such biases.
The Kreisler competition might not attract a similar caliber of "Westerners" (Europeans) as it does "Japanese" violinists. Being in Europe, it's possible it's getting a wider pool of European musicians but a more selective pool of Japanese players.
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