Renaissance Florence, Enlightenment Edinburgh, Mozart‘s Vienna: why have certain places at certain times created such monumental leaps in thought and innovation? This is the question at the heart of travel writer Eric Weiner‘s latest book, The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley.
“This is a book about process, about how creative genius happens and what are the circumstances,” Weiner explains. “I believe in the power of place and the power of culture to shape our lives in unexpected ways.”
Traveling the globe, Weiner looked at the locations and cultures that fostered history’s greatest minds. Through his research he pieced together a list of ingredients he believes played a vital role in creating these “genius clusters,” including money, diversity, competition, and disorder.
“A little bit of chaos is good,” says Weiner. “The pot has to be stirred. If you are fully invested in the status quo—either as a person or a place—you are unlikely to create genius because you are too comfortable.”
So can a government build a city that will generate the geniuses of tomorrow? Weiner thinks not. “I wish I could sit here and tell you that there was a formula and if you applied that formula you could create the next Silicon Valley,” he says. “There is no formula.”
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Camera by Austin Bragg and Joshua Swain. Hosted and edited by Meredith Bragg.
Listen to an excerpt from Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima: Tokyo Symphony Orchestra / Naoto Otomo, courtesy DENON
BBC News reports: A deaf composer who has been dubbed “Japan’s Beethoven” has admitted hiring someone else to write his music for nearly two decades.
Mamoru Samuragochi shot to fame in the mid-1990s and is most famous for his Hiroshima Symphony No 1, dedicated to those killed in the 1945 atomic blast.
The 50-year-old has now confessed he has not composed his own music since 1996.
The real composer of the musician’s “hits” has not been formally named.
Rich Lowry writes: In a season of joy, it is worth dwelling on and marveling at the world’s anthem of joy, arguably the best piece of music ever written, which hasn’t lost its power to astound after nearly 200 years and, as long as there is such a thing as civilization, never will.
It is, of course, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Everyone knows the unforgettable melody of its “Ode to Joy,” the fourth movement that sets a poem by Friedrich Schiller. Performances of the symphony always feel like an event. When the Berlin Wall fell, it was natural that Leonard Bernstein turned to the Ninth at the celebration.
The man who gave us this hymn of affirmation and possibility could be nasty and arrogant. But he was a towering musical genius who left to posterity incalculable gifts. Music historian Paul Lang says of Beethoven that “there is still no department of music that does not owe him its very soul.” The great composer would have expected as much.
In all of his letters, Mozart never referred to himself as an artist. Beethoven considered himself an artist with a capital “A.” He evangelized for the importance of music in general and himself in particular.
Listening to his work, it is hard not to conclude that he got his place in the firmament exactly right. Beethoven began composing the Ninth in 1818, when he was already deaf, but had thought about setting Schiller’s poem to music as far back as the early 1790s. The symphony premiered in Vienna in 1824. The story goes that Beethoven was on stage beating the time and, with his back to the audience, couldn’t hear the applause. A singer turned him around so he could see the rapturous reaction.