Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Question of Talent

I read a bio of Edith Piaf recently. The book itself was only so-so, but it led to me going Youtube to watch some of Piaf's clips. Which led me to this, from a movie Piaf made in 1941 (in German-occupied Paris, actually):

The best part is the way the people in the nightclub just stare at her, absolutely mesmerized.
If you ever look at the Youtube comments for Piaf, people say over and over, the voice, the voice, the voice...

Which leads me to think about talent. A couple months ago we had a speaker at work who mentioned a recent book called Talent is Overrated. The idea behind the book is that there's no such thing, really, as exceptional talent or genius. What distinguishes the person who succeeds in a given field is what the author calls "deliberate practice." This is hard work plus feedback, and the resulting modification of good/bad habits, etc. (And a lot of other stuff...I guess you have to read the book, which I didn't, just heard a precis from the speaker.) Over time, according to the author, this is what produces success.

Well, I'm a professional skeptic, particularly of speakers and self-help books, but the idea does make sense. Hard work is a given. Feedback is crucial, particularly for a writer. Belief is crucial.

But then I think about a voice like Edith Piaf's... And she just had that voice. She didn't have to develop it. (And where did it come from? Her mother was a minor nightclub singer, her father an acrobat. Her grandmother ran a flea circus.)

I suppose it's one of the nature/nuture debates that will never be resolved. In the meantime I'm going to go download "L'Accordianiste."

1 comment:

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

From watching the clip, she seems to be singing from deep in her soul, with full abandon. That's what raises one artist above another. That, and having a team of supporters and promotion staff.