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Hilda Huang on Bach and video games; Gina Trapani on multitasking

Posted Aug 13 2010 12:47pm

Creative expression involves many skills and cognitive abilities, which may be enhanced by activities such as video games. And creative performance can enhance skills outside of art.

Hilda Huang, 14, is acclaimed for her piano performances of Bach. She made her debut at Carnegie Hall at age 11. This is from a recent interview:

Question: You once said that playing Bach is like playing Nintendo. How so?

Hilda Huang: “When I was really young, I loved playing video games and I kind of noticed that when you play video games, you have to be really, really focused.

“So if you’re playing maybe ‘Mario Cart’ on the Nintendo 64, so you’re driving along and of course there’s a koopa waiting to hit you. But if you blink or you say, ‘Oh I need to get something to eat or I need some chips,’ so you put your controller down, and, wham, the koopa smashes in to you, so you die and lose a life.

“And of course, in video games, you have plenty of lives, so it’s okay. But in Bach, when you’re performing, you don’t have that kind of a privilege. So you have to stay really focused through the whole thing and you can’t stop.”

Question: How is playing Bach different from other composers?

Hilda Huang: “I think one, I have a lot of friends who also play instruments and mainly their reason for not liking Bach is because it’s so hard, but I like to encourage them to explore more of it because it’s hard, so that they can discover something new within each piece and hopefully they can use that and take it and apply it to other composers. So that’s also helpful.

“I think it’s a good way for people to learn how to multitask, because you have to deal with so many different voices at once and they all have to be really clean. It’s also just really fun to play and it helps you improve your technique.

“There’s so many running lines, I mean you have to practice them at first, of course, but after a while when you get the hang of it, it’s really fun to just see your hands moving all the way over the keyboard.

From Big Think Interview With Hilda Huang [text and video].

Does Multitasking Work?

In her FastCompany / Work Smart post Stop Multitasking and Start Doing One Thing Really Well , Gina Trapani explains, “Doing two things at once, like singing while you take a shower, is not the same as instant messaging while writing a research report.

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can multitask jobs that need your full attention. You’re not really having a conversation while you write; you’re shifting your attention back and forth between the two activities quickly.

“You’re juggling. When you juggle tasks, your work suffers AND takes longer–because switching tasks costs.”

As I wrote in my earlier post Multitasking – or optimal performance , our complex lives seem to demand multitasking to keep up. But can we be trying to balance too many plates in the air, doing too much at once to really express our creative talents, or to effectively achieve?

As Trapani and some research studies note, except for really simple tasks, we aren’t wired for it.

Huang’s comments on video games reminded me of the wide range of discussion and concern about what gaming – and other online information consumption – may be doing to our brains, both negatively – potentially affecting our attention spans, increasing ADHD etc. – and positively.

[On a related topic: the AddictionInfo site has many news reports on Internet addiction .]

Growing up being adept at using online and computer tools may be enhancing the kind of brain wiring and thinking that supports creativity.

This video is A 2.5 Year-Old Has A First Encounter with An iPad

Hilda Huang, Gina Trapani, multitasking and creative mind, developing creativity, psychology of creativity, creative expression and neuroscience, brain and creativity


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