Cometmaker

What is 'talent'?

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I have read the word talent in many contexts on and off the Forum. For Forum members, does it refer to something other than an innate quality when you use the word 'talented'? Does the term 'talent management' make sense? Do you use the word 'talented' as an adjective to describe any aspect of yourself? Can you give examples of cases when you would never use the word 'talented' as a descriptor?

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I have read the word talent in many contexts on and off the Forum. For Forum members, does it refer to something other than an innate quality when you use the word 'talented'? Does the term 'talent management' make sense? Do you use the word 'talented' as an adjective to describe any aspect of yourself? Can you give examples of cases when you would never use the word 'talented' as a descriptor?
I take there to be at least two distinct senses in which the word is used:

1) An innate ability to acquire and display a skill or skills

2) A skill in ones repertoire, regardless of the ease or difficulty with which it was acquired.

I think it is in the 2nd sense that it is used in 'Talent Management.' In Hollywood, that term would just refer to the acquisition, provision, and representation of individuals with a given skill or set of skills, such as an actor, singer, sword swallower, or some other such specialist.

Since talent is 'phenotypic', since, in most cases, for an artist, people see the eventual product, not the months or years it took to acquire the necessary skills, 'talent' is really almost a synonym for 'ability'.

For acting or singing teachers, and parents, those involved with the actual development of those skills, I think the term refers more to the 1st definition -- that the individual has some special ability to acquire those given skills. And I would expect that you, Jasimine, as an artist, may well have seen such seeming ease of acquisition of certain skills in others or yourself.

I recently visited friends whose 6-year-old daughter was prevailed upon to give a little piano 'concert.' It was the usual student book arrangement of some pre-Tin Pan Alley song, but I immediately noticed that her sense of the rhythym and phrasing of the music was that of an excellent musician, not a rote-memorizing neophyte. She has listened to a lot of music and a lot of performers (her father is an excellent mime, actor, singer; her mother a former dancer), so she's been exposed, but the awareness of phrasing as an important part of the performance of those notes on the page is not common, certainly not at that age. I've heard her sing and she communicates with passion the words she's singing, rather than just banging out the notes. There are true prodigies, who are playing concerti at that age, but those are far rarer. I'd say talent in this case is the early understanding of the form and the [relatively] easy acquisition of necessary skills. It may be focus, or practice, but some aspect of the art form comes easy to the 'talented' individual. I was a talented musician: I could listen to and watch an instrument being played and pick it up and play a tune with reasonable technique and tone in a matter of minutes as a kid. I was forbidden to play the bugle in the Boy Scouts because trumpet was my brother's instrument and I picked up reveille and taps etc. in a few hours of screwing around. My brother was not 'talented' by this measure: He spent hours and hours and hours in my parents' walk-in closet practicing scales and arpeggios and sight-reading while I learned guitar and piano by ear. He learned arranging by painstakingly taking down entire jazz band scores (Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman) instrument by instrument, note by note. Many years later, who's the better musician? I'd say he is, by a wide margin, in terms of his fully-developed abilities in composition, arranging, and playing. Today, if someone were to hear him play, they might easily call him 'talented'. Who cares what's behind that 'talent'? You as an artist paint beautifully. How do I know if you just started off with an early ability to easily sketch from life, or if it was a process of blood, sweat, and tears for many years (or, more likely, both). Michelangelo and Da Vinci have been used in the past to describe the two types, Da Vinci seemingly able to do anything he felt like, although he often left it unfinished, from boredom(?) or loss of commission, or having chosen the wrong medium (uncastable Horse statue, fading oil paint, etc.). Michelangelo worked his butt off and, well, arguably, achieved even greater things. But, even then, how many artists have ever had the 'talent' that Michelangelo had for carving living, breathing beings out of marble? In that case, talent is just ability.

Talent is a word used loosely, but I think you can break it down into those categories of usage and make sense of it.

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