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Post Number: 99
|Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2005 - 06:17 pm: |
Cynique, The library's 5 copies of Blink were not available so I spent a long cup of coffee with it at Borders and read the first 80 pages, the last chapter, and a little in between. Here are my impressions and final thoughts on this book. It's aimed at corporate America and designed for seminars that teach employees to think outside the box. I'm already way outside the box, in fact, compared to this guy, I'm on the sidewalk. But you already know all this stuff.
The first chapter is about art, the last chapter is about music. In between, he talks about making snap judgements about people based on race and gender. For instance, there's a test which asks whether you identify words like "office" and "family" as male or female (he might have added "ballet dancer" and "fire fighter"). It also judges the time one takes to respond. I think we've all been socialized in a similar way in these areas.
The first chapter is about the authenticty of a piece of sculpture. Not its cultural authenticity (which is way outside anything Malcolm Gladwell has ever experienced or thought about), but its historical authenticity, in other words, whether it is an authentic work of art or a forgery. For example, the Getty Museum was offered a Kouros sculpture, allegedly from c. 600 BC, for $10 million. They bought it, although it turned out to be a forgery. Because they wanted it so much, they believed their scientific experts, although it later turned out that an art expert like curator Thomas Hoving of the Metropolitan Museum of Art sized it up pretty quickly as a suspect piece of art. So in my opinion that's not intuition, it's an educated suspicion.
The last chapter is about classical music and uses the example of a woman trombonist, I believe, named Abbie Conant who auditioned for the Royal Opera of Turin in 1980. She auditioned behind a screen and although she flubbed one note, was chosen immediately and enthusiastically by the judges. However, once they found out she was a woman, she was hired, but spent 13 years in litigation trying to keep her job.
Finally, he gives the example of a french hornist named Julie Landsman who auditioned, also behind a screen, for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra in the mid-60s. She also was chosen, and when the screen was lifted, the judges were surprised to discover that they already knew her because she had previously been hired a substitute in the orchestra. Gladwell calls this a "Blink" moment, that is, when the curtain came up, "they saw her for who she truly was."
The purpose of the examples of the women instrumental musicians in the final chapter is supposed to have a practical application for corporate America, which is that "we get better music" by making a "snap" judgement on the basis of ability rather than a deliberation based on other factors. Gladwell states, "And how did we get better music? Not by rethinking the entire classical music enterprise or building new concert halls or pumping in millions of new dollars, but by paying attention to the tiniest detail, the first two seconds of the audition."
Here's my opinion, for what it's worth. These anecdotal examples may be sufficient to inspire Gladwell's corporate clients, however, in the real world, I think they probably have very little bearing on gender discrimination and racial inequality in classical music. In fact, I'm almost sure of it. What I mean is that in order to reach the level of proficiency required of someone who seriously expects to be considered for an orchestra appointment, a woman instrumentalist has already had to compete against men on the high school and college level where, I'm assuming, decisions are not made behind a screen. It's a very competitive field and I know a few woman classical musicians who have dropped out of music altogether while attending prestigious university music programs.
It's even harder for African American instrumentalists, but ironically, not for vocalists, according to Rosayln M. Story (author of "And So I Sing"), a violinist with the Dallas Opera and Ft. Worth Symphony. She explains that vocalists mature much later and it may even be to their advantage to receive operatic training relatively late, whereas, instrumentalists are required, in order to compete, to be extremely proficient by a very young age. So, according to her, there are socioeconimic reasons why only a small percentage of symphonic musicians and instrumental soloists are African Americans, compared to concert and opera performers.
It's hard to understand how someone can make $1 million a year with this kind of simplistic motivational spiel.