How Bach Teaches You to Multitask

Question: What is your style of playing Bach?

\r\nHilda Huang: I mean, when I play Bach, I try to make the dances a\r\n dance and make them all really lively and light and think about how \r\nthey would have been played in the Baroque era. Of course now that we \r\nhave the piano, compared to the harpsichord or the clavichord, there's a\r\n completely different sound, so I wouldn't try to imitate the \r\nharpsichord. But we still want to keep some of the essence of the \r\nharpsichord in it, so I like to play with some of the timings in it \r\nbecause on harpsichord there's no dynamics. So all you can do is with \r\ntiming and with touch and articulation. So I like to bring some of those\r\n aspects onto the piano and but keep it in the Baroque style while \r\nhaving a piano sound.
\r\nQuestion: How is playing Bach different from other composers?

\r\nHilda Huang: I think one, I have a lot of friends who also play \r\ninstruments and mainly their reason for not liking Bach is because it's \r\nso hard, but I like to encourage them to explore more of it because it's\r\n hard, so that they can discover something new within each piece and \r\nhopefully they can use that and take it and apply it to other composers.\r\n So that's also helpful.
\r\nI think it's a good way for people to learn how to multitask, because \r\nyou have to deal with so many different voices at once and they all have\r\n to be really clean. It's also just really fun to play and it helps you \r\nimprove your technique. There's so many running lines, I mean you have \r\nto practice them at first, of course, but after a while when you get the\r\n hang of it, it's really fun to just see your hands moving all the way \r\nover the keyboard.
\r\nQuestion: How long does it take to prepare a new piece?

\r\nHilda Huang:
I usually work on pieces for at least a year. I listen \r\nto them when I first start playing them and I listen for which ones I \r\nlike. So, I'll pick them up, find the music and just start working on \r\nthem by myself. And usually it takes me about a year or so to get some \r\ngood practicing in to get some good understanding about the piece. And \r\nthen after that—of course, during that time, I work with my teacher—but \r\nafter that, we'll start preparing it to use maybe for performances or \r\nother things like that.

Recorded on June 7, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

Keeping track of all the different voices in a Bach piece is a fun way to improve your technique, says the 14-year-old champion pianist—but it can also affect your brain.

Why “shooting the messenger” is a real condition, explain scientists

Harvard psychologists discover why we dislike the people who deliver bad news.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study looked at why people tend to "shoot the messenger".
  • It's a fact that people don't like those who deliver them bad news.
  • The effect stems from our inherent need to make sense of bad or unpredictable situations.
Keep reading Show less

Philosopher Alan Watts on the meaning of life

He reminds us that meaning is wherever we choose to look.

Photo: Pictorial Parade/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Alan Watts suggests there is no ultimate meaning of life, but that "the quality of our state of mind" defines meaning for us.
  • This is in contradiction to the notion that an inner essence is waiting to be discovered.
  • Paying attention to everyday, mundane objects can become highly significant, filling life with meaning.
Keep reading Show less

How to detect life on Mars

If life exists on Mars, there's a good chance it's related to us, say researchers.

Surprising Science

When MIT research scientist Christopher Carr visited a green sand beach in Hawaii at the age of 9, he probably didn't think that he'd use the little olivine crystals beneath his feet to one day search for extraterrestrial life.

Keep reading Show less