BT's Youngest Expert, Pianist Hilda Huang: Playing Bach Is Like Playing Nintendo

Playing fugues by Johann Sebastian Bach on the piano is not unlike playing "Mario Cart" on the Nintendo 64, says Hilda Huang, who at 14 years old is Big Think's youngest expert to be interviewed. With both video games and the piano, she says, "you

have to be really, really focused. ...  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."

In her Big Think interview, Huang says playing Bach can teach you a lot about multitasking, because

his music requires the person playing it "to deal with so many different voices at once and they all have

to be really clean. ... 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."

Huang became the first American ever to win the International Bach Competition in Germany earlier this year with a fugue from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. She says she really loves Bach's music because of its complexity. "When you

look at it from a distance, it's so simple and pure and elegant that

you would never suspect that it's such an architectural masterpiece."

Huang also talked about the iPhone app that she is hoping to create, which could give the user one Bach piece per day (with ancillary information) for as long as three years without repetition. And while she professes a love for the great pianist Glenn Gould, she says she's following her teacher's admonition not to copy him.

Ethnic chauvinism: Why the whole world shouldn’t look like America

We are constantly trying to force the world to look like us — we need to move on.

  • When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many Americans jumped for joy. At the time, some believed there weren't going to be any more political disagreements anywhere in the world. They thought American democracy had won the "war of ideas."
  • American exceptionalism has sought to create a world order that's really a mirror image of ourselves — a liberal world order founded on the DNA of American thinking. To many abroad this looks like ethnic chauvinism.
  • We need to move on from this way of thinking, and consider that sometimes "problem-solving," in global affairs, means the world makes us look like how it wants to be.
Keep reading Show less

Physicists find new state of matter that can supercharge technology

Scientists make an important discovery for the future of computing.

Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
  • The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
  • Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.
Keep reading Show less

First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less