Really? …Not a single “rad” or “awesome” or “wow?!” C’mon peeps!
June, we saw a whole documentary on this guy. Jason and I kept having to pause it and discuss because it was so amazing. The premise of the show was that all of our brains have this capacity. The doctor/narrator was attempting to tap into how he does this so the rest of us may reach similar heights. His drawings were CRAZY. If a building had 148 widows, his drawing after three minutes of observation would also have 148 windows.
There was also a musician that was CRAZY good – yet he would confuse concepts such as wet/dry, empty/full and other pre-school developmental ideas. Here is what fascinated me about the musician: I’ve heard allegations that savant musicians do not feel passion themselves, but are imitating the interpretations they hear in recordings. But, this guy drove that theory into the ground. Among other things, he would improvise jazz at CRAZY speeds and abilities. He would not repeat others’ solos, he would respond to them, interact with other musicians, build upon their phrases, etc. There is no question he was improvising from HIZ OWN SELF. FASCINATING!!!!
I’m curious about how the mind and brain work together. I think of the brain as the hardware, physical synapses and impulses, and the mind as the metaphysical “I”, the self-awareness and thinking part of the person. The mind uses the brain to store and process, but it is the mind that holds the capacities, the freedom, the identity.
I wonder how much of the physical wiring of the brain limits the capacity of the mind to operate, if people like this have minds just like ours, but their brains are wired in ways that allow certain parts of the mind to function more effectively. I wonder what our minds would be capable of if they’re weren’t limited by the hardware of the brain.
I think of this in cases of people with mental disabilities too – it’s often astounding to see windows into their mind, and how effectively it works even limited by the broken chassis of their brain. It’s a good reminder that their minds are capable, robust things even when they aren’t able to make full use of them.
Mike said: “I wonder what our minds would be capable of if they’re weren’t limited by the hardware of the brain.” This was the question of the documentary! I’ll see if I can find a link…
This also makes me wonder about the savants throughout history that were institutionalized, or were just never handed a pencil or piano or whatever could have been their tool of brilliance. To me, it shows that everyone is worth educating.
Well, everyone but trombonists. They’re totally a lost cause.
I feel baited into this conversation now. My education taught me how to play the ride of the valkries at a volume that is really unpleasant. That is worth teaching to all trombonists and I think clearly disproves your point, Mike.
The show was called The Foolish Wise Ones, since that’s what “idiot savant” means. Part of Stephen Wiltshire’s story is that his dad died in a motorcycle crash when he was three years old. I hope I am telling this correctly – his mom was a struggling single mom with two kids, and it was a wealthier woman, unrelated, who saw his potential and took him to some European cities and on his first helicopter ride to stimulate his mind. So the story has many layers.
He was studied by Oliver Sachs, the doctor from “Awakenings” that was portrayed by Robin Williams, a story that asked similar questions regarding the mind and brain relationship.
Look what you caused, June… Rad, Awesome, AND Wow!
The blind pianist’s name is Derek Paravicini, if you are curious enough to google or YouTube him.
oh my stickin’ heck (hi June :)) Just finding 5 minutes now to watch this. That was truly incredible.
It’s interesting Sharolyn in your retelling of the savants you saw, both has a loss of one of their senses (at least for a while). The jazz musician was blind, and Stephen here said he didn’t speak a word until he was 5 years old. I’m often amazed at how much I “miss” even with all of my senses in tact.
Gretchen, me, too! Isn’t it weird to think that loosing 100% of one sense would make you 1000% better regarding a different one?
I hope you guys aren’t sick of me rambling about this, but here’s one more story regarding the pianist. In one scene, to demonstrate his perfect pitch, they started with one note and he would repeat it, then two, then three, etc.
Then his piano teacher said, “The problem with this is that Derek and I only have 10 fingers, so we are limiting what he hears to 10 notes.” Then they put him in front of an orchestra that could play 11, 12, 13… in a wide spectrum of octaves… and he would repeat their chord in a fraction of a second every time.
-So much to be impressed by with these young men… so little to understand! What a marvel.
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