Sunday, April 26, 2009

the Beatles' apprenticeship

Fareed Zakaria (CNN) had Malcolm Gladwell on today. Gladwell, in case you don't know, is the author of Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point. He was on to talk about his newest book, Outliers. This is a study of what makes for success in a variety of disciplines. He tells an interesting anecdote about the Beatles: in 1959, they went to Hamburg, Germany for two years to play in a strip club for eight hours a day, seven days a week. Gladwell maintains that this period of intensive practice was, in fact, an apprenticeship that allowed them to develop virtuousic skill, mastery of different genres and boundless experience collaborating with each other. He says that this is what gave them their edge.

He goes on to argue that talent is not some inborn, native ability, but simply the desire to practice, to make enormous sacrifices and compromises to be able to do what one loves. He says that it was the Beatles' genius to see the Hamburg gig as an opportunity, and not as an invitation to indentured servitude.

Few people recognize this as the truth about acting. What we associate with actors is the glamour and the slick presentation of the movies, but most actors never see even a moment of fame, and the ones that do find that it isn't what it's cracked up to be. What doesn't get seen is the endless hours of blood, sweat and tears that go into doing anything well. My class gives people a taste of that: an enormous amount is asked of the students in the way of time and preparation. I do my best to communicate the happiness of this challenge, this burden. "We must do what is difficult because it is difficult", wrote Rainer Maria Rilke. It is a message that not everyone is ready to hear, much less to embrace. But it's the ones that can lap up that vinegar like it's honey and ask for more that will come to know the true rewards of a creative life.

The Gladwell piece:

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