Sunday, May 29, 2005

Orchestra Syndrome

Seldom acknowledged is a terrible problem facing every orchestra musician, especially string players. Over decades they play probably billions of notes. If they got even a penny for each of them, they would all be filthy rich. But this all comes with a price what I call the orchestra musician syndrome. The quality of playing drops when the quantity increases. Out of necessity the players have to cheat, both with intonation and accuracy of notes. Let’s face it: much of the repertoire is far harder to play than any piece written for solo. The composers didn’t even expect the musicians to accurately reproduce what they wrote on paper. At least in the case of Richard Strauss, he publicly said so. This reality has very little to do with learning a few measures of standard excerpts when playing an audition. Why not give the applicants the next two or three week’s worth of actual repertoire, and tell them to prepare it as they would in a real work situation? At least hand out one of the ‘Ring’ operas, if the job involves playing in the pit. A good idea would be to have a randomly selected member of the orchestra section play the same stuff incognito, and have the new hopefuls be compared to this standard. Forget about perfection and concentrate on what a person’s actual contribution would be like.

So, in time the playing, in most cases, becomes more and more sloppy. It is impossible to pay attention to intonation and quality of sound when one cannot hear his/her own playing in the mass of sound surrounding them. Wind and brass players are in far better position: they, at least in case of principals, are solo instruments at all times, and also have only a tiny fraction of the notes to worry about, compared to, let’s say, a violinist. An average concert program has close to an hour and forty-five minutes of music in it and it has to be prepared in barely over eight hours of rehearsing. A soloist or a string quartet would easily spend over a hundred hours on a program with similar length of music.

My teachers always warned me about this: if I ever joined an orchestra, it would affect my playing in a negative way. Of course being young I didn’t take them seriously enough. But now I can see this happening with young students, who are far too busy with their youth and school orchestras. With demanding academic expectations and lots of homework, there is only a limited amount of time for other activities, such as music. I never understood why many conductors of student orchestras would choose such impossibly difficult repertoire for the youngsters to play. From early on, much of the playing the youngsters do is substandard, out of necessity. A student might sit in an orchestra 8-9 hours per week, having to fake much of the time, and then he/she is supposed to completely reverse the attitude at home, and practice the important music seriously and with utmost care. In some cases I have had to ask students to get out of at least part of the orchestra playing, and the improvement in their development has been almost immediate. But being involved in a youth orchestra has become an important social must for many young musicians (and their families). Equally important seems to be the pecking order, where they are placed within their sections. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against music in schools and youth orchestras, quite the contrary. I just wish the people in charge would think of what would benefit the students best, not just what would be fun for them to conduct.

Starting at 13, I took part in the first national youth orchestra in Finland, during a summer festival. The young musicians, mainly 16-18 in age, came from all over and most were excellent for their age. I was the youngest, but played as concertmaster from day one. Our conductor, who was in charge of the National Opera at the time, was wise, and we only played repertoire all of us could handle 100%: Mozart, Mendelssohn and such. The orchestra sounded excellent, probably better than many professional groups.

If a professional orchestra wants to keep their musicians playing well, they should rethink the way these artists are treated. Perhaps everyone would need time off much more frequently, and have solo or small ensemble opportunities often enough to force the individual to pay more careful attention to the quality of their playing. What if everyone would have to play a short recital every three to five years to have their contract renewed? Treat an orchestra more like a sports team, or serious competitive business, not as if it were the post office! Financially this, of course, wouldn’t make sense to any management, but an art institution shouldn’t be another Enron.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Performing in front of any audience usually makes one nervous. As a rule of thumb, the more sensitive a person is, the more his/her nerves can affect the performance.

Some people thrive on the rush of adrenaline, and they do better in these situations than normally. Others can be absolutely petrified by fear or they panic on the stage. Interestingly, the physical manifestations can be very different. Someone speaking may stutter or have an uncontrollably tight voice. An instrumentalist often worries most about memorizing a piece. The adrenaline can increase the fear factor in this area: the individual loses control and everything seems to fall apart. Physical symptoms may include overall shaking, or this happens unilaterally. Among string players, there are those whose bow shakes, especially on long slow notes, or others whose vibrato becomes far faster than they intended. Sounding hysterical in a slow passage is many players’ worst nightmare.

In order to combat the fear, musicians and other performers have often turned to alcohol, which in moderation can have a relaxing effect. But with larger amounts one loses control, just like driving a car. John Barbirolli was said to be only able to conduct well when drunk and was rather helpless when sober. I’ve known a number of alcoholic conductors. Perhaps that profession isn’t critical with accuracy as one isn’t heard. During the decades when hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, were widely available, artists were some of their most eager advocates. I’ve known many instrumental soloists who can only play after smoking a joint or two and are able make beautiful music in this altered state.

Today’s prescription drugs offer help in many areas. For those why are simply very anxious, Valium®, Xanax® or another benzodiazepine may do the trick. Most of us, however, turn to beta-blockers, which compete with adrenaline at the beta-adrenergic receptors, and are often able to block the physical manifestations of sudden nervousness.

Years ago, I was lucky to have been friends with an eye surgeon, who had previously specialized in pharmacology and was one of the first people to do research on propranolol (Inderal®) in this country. He taught me how differently this drug acts on the body, depending on the dosage. When taken for high blood pressure, up to 640 mg per day is necessary, and in treating schizophrenia, the dosage can be even many times higher; but in order to control shakiness, only a fraction is needed. Actually, a higher dosage will affect one’s fine motor skills and interfere with blood flow to fingers. This doctor took 10-20 mg before performing eye surgery: that was enough to counter the shakiness but it wasn’t too much to affect his performance; both important factors when he had to perform such extremely delicate operations. Personally, although I don’t believe in having to take drugs, I was greatly helped by just 5 mg during the many years I had to be on prednisone for a connective tissue problem.

It is quite easy to hear when a string player has taken propranolol, especially if he/she isn’t used to doing so regularly. This is most evident during auditions. Vibrato becomes slower and wider than normal and pitch accuracy suffers. I would advise that nobody take a beta blocker without first getting used to it, and knowing what its effects are going to be. There are, of course, numerous other drugs in this class, but from personal experience, most of them are better in lowering one’s blood pressure, and perhaps slowing one’s heart rate down, than preventing shakiness. But with the help of a willing doctor one can experiment, if this is the route one needs to take. Of course, in my opinion, it would be best if one could do without drugs.

With students the above remedies are out of question. We cannot fill preteens or teens with anti-anxiety agents or other drugs, or make them drink, which is against the law. Having had terrible stage fright as a youngster, I know how unpleasant playing in public can be. However, practice helps, and the more the student gets to play, the easier it will become. If memorizing is the main problem, let the student leave the music in front of him/her as security. After enough times, it need not be there any longer. Meditation and relaxation techniques do help. In this society though, it is hard to picture a young person, whose life is a constant pressure cooker, to find the time and understand the need for this. I was taught to picture people in the audience as heads of cabbage. This sounds like a wonderful idea; unfortunately this wisdom is easier said than done.

Monday, May 23, 2005

"Critical condition" by Scott Timberg L.A. Times 5/22/05 Posted by Hello
Calligraphy by Elvis Swift/For The Times

A must read!,0,4263605.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels

May require registration but is free of charge.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sunday's thoughts

Today marked the 90th birthday of a Seattle musical icon, Vilem Sokol. My wife and I were happy to take part in the Mass at St. James Cathedral that honored him. No less than seven daughters of his were playing in the orchestra, each one an accomplished musician. I hope this surprise made the birthday boy happy. Without Mr. Sokol the Seattle Youth Symphony would have never developed into the important, large institution it is today, and a lot of violinists would not have had their all-important early training. When the time comes for him to leave this world, I’m sure there is an orchestra of little cherubs waiting for him in Heaven.

As I have expressed before, I am no great fan of organized religion. I don’t like to be told how to worship our Creator; my religion is something personal in my heart. However, there are a lot of people out there who feel differently, and prefer to have the thinking done for them; the sheep need their shepherd. This congregation has added an element that makes it easy to feel close to the Almighty: first rate, beautiful music as an integral part of the service. Music is one language that unites all people and fabulous singing combined with splendid organ playing makes it possible to escape this world’s worries and troubles, and to have a truly spiritual experience.

While getting ready in the morning I discovered that all of my white dress shirts have become too big for me. I have lost over 30 lbs (15 kg) in weight, and my neck has shrunk as a result. My method was a simple one: I lost my appetite, and the pounds disappeared. I’m still working on the name for this diet, so that I can market it one day. This one is guaranteed to work on anyone.

One thought led to another and I remembered a concert tour to Warsaw, Poland, in the early 1970s, as a member of a small faculty group from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, which included our dear friend Ralf Gothoni, the present Music Director of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra. Poland was still very much a hard-line communist country at that time, and a consumer didn’t have much choice. Our guests took us to a famous duck restaurant in the rebuilt Old City. One didn’t have any say as to what part of the duck ended up on the plate: with my luck I got the neck. Not much meat around that gullet, I tell you.

It was an interesting trip and among other things I learned that the wife of the assistant dean of my school had six toes on each foot. No, this knowledge didn’t come through personal discovery; her singer husband was rather proud of her being different. Then one night there was loud knocking on the hotel room’s door at around 2 in the morning. I got up to see what the reason was, and there stood the desk clerk from the lobby with a voluptuous woman dressed in a fur. I tried to tell him that he must have made a mistake, but he spoke only Polish and persistently tried to push the smiling lady into the room. Finally my ex-wife woke up and came to find out what all the commotion was about, and the visitors quickly disappeared. No, this is no Polish joke.

Friday, May 20, 2005

What money cannot buy

Many Eastern philosophies teach that in order to be a holy person, one has to give up all his material possessions. Just remember Buddha or Gandhi. Even in the Western culture, the late pope had nothing in his name when he passed away. Mother Theresa did not live luxury, quite the opposite.

Here materialism rules. However, having money doesn’t mean one is a great person. Often the contrary is true. Rich people tend to be rather pompous and shallow, even unaware of the real world around them. And very few of them have earned their fortune by working hard.

So, money cannot buy happiness. It cannot buy loving, well balanced and healthy children, either. Yes, it can buy a nice dog, but most of us would choose great kids over oodles of poodles. Wealth can start a career, even in music, but it cannot buy talent, which at some point becomes a necessity. Publicity can be bought, but if an instrumentalist plays like a student, no amount of money can fix that.

Intelligence and wisdom cannot be purchased; neither can a clear conscience. The Roman Catholic Church tried to sell forgiveness at some point, but in a long run it failed. A person with a fat wallet can, no doubt, get better legal help than a poor person. It still cannot, in general, make you innocent or guilty. Exceptions do exist, as justice can be sometimes for sale, unfortunately.

Money can buy expensive hearing aids, but it cannot restore one’s lost natural ability to hear. Even the most extraordinary violin will sound like a flute sooner or later, due to the loss of overtones. A rich visually impaired person cannot enjoy the paintings in a museum, even if he/she has donated the works there.

And money cannot buy a lasting, loving relationship. On the contrary, wealthy people tend to divorce often. I personally knew a Croesus who had had eleven wives. On the other hand, less financially affluent couples can have a wonderful and rewarding relationship, lasting a lifetime.

Rich individuals like to give often the impression of being great philanthropists, and in truth, are very important for this country’s education and arts. But how much more meaningful is a modest donation from someone who gives from his/her heart, knowing that this will have to mean a sacrifice somewhere else. These people are our true heroes.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ten Commandments

A great deal of controversy has been in the media regarding displaying the Ten Commandments in court houses and schools. Great many people would like to forget the principles of our Constitution, including the separation of church and state, and create a new fundamentalist America. That is exactly what even more of our 1.3 billion Muslim counterparts are keen on doing in their part of the world. The Age of Reason seems to be gone forever.

The Ten Commandments cover a lot of ground, telling us not to kill or steal. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife… or his ox or his ass…” Curiously absent is lying. The only reference to it is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This seems more like a legal issue, not condemning lying per se.

We have become a society of liars. We are more willing to accept lies than the truth that might be upsetting to some of us. Nowhere is it as obvious as in politics. People turned to Fox News during the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, just because their coverage seemed to make this country the most victorious, and constantly reminded us how justified the war was, due to the imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction. Just remember the last presidential election. People who never have even met Kerry testified on television ads that his war injuries amounted to nothing. During the Vietnam War (sorry, Conflict), our military forces claimed to have killed more enemy combatants than the population on North Vietnam was. What a miracle that those dead people were then able to defeat us. During the Cold War years I sometimes listened to a propaganda station transmitting from Portugal. They played the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth on the timpani, then a deep male voice would announce slowly: “The West can, and will, win”. All propaganda is based on lies. Why we are so ready to be so gullible remains a mystery to me.

An honest politician is an oxymoron as a term, and we are willing to accept that as a fact. Promises are easy to make but hard to keep. And isn’t everyone running for an office more interested in making his/her opponent look bad, no matter how, instead of trying to convince voters that the candidate deserves their vote on his/her merits and ideas alone? What about the rest of us? How many cheat on their income taxes? What about colleagues who give expensive music lessons and insist on being paid in cash, not to leave a trail? It is easy to manufacture phony meeting notes or other documents. Enriched uranium from Niger, anyone? Honesty doesn’t seem to be a desirable character any longer.

Having come from a family where the greatest sin to my strong-willed mother was lying, I have accepted the same philosophy and passed in on to my children. Sure there are times when telling the truth might not be wise under the circumstances, but one can in that situation be quiet, instead of coming up with something untruthful. Often silence is golden.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


It is interesting how the most respected professions in different parts of the world usually are not well paid, or even glamorous in any way. The only exception is being a medical doctor. Nursing profession often gets the top honors, followed by teachers. In many European countries (as well as in Japan) being a taxi driver gets high marks, but I doubt it would make the list here. Musicians are curiously absent from most polls.

Even more interesting are the professions that get the least respect. In many British Commonwealth countries politicians are on the bottom, especially Members of the Parliament. In New Zealand the news about prostitutes falling below MPs for the first time made the headlines. The fact that used car dealers are near the bottom shouldn’t surprise anyone. However, there are many high-paying professions that are rated very low, such as CEOs and lawyers. With a few exceptions one could almost say that the more money a person makes, the less honored field he is in. In our society we seem to respect the money itself, but not the way it is earned.

Having a 17-year-old daughter, entering her junior year in college this fall, who has expressed real interest in law, I’m concerned about her choice. Judges usually fare better in the respect issue, but in this system of ours they most often are former attorneys. I wish we had a system, like in many other civilized countries, where judges are trained to be just that from early on, and are not chosen in an election.

Too many people hear ‘lawyer’ sounding like ‘liar’, and often they are not so wrong. How many members of this profession actively try to see that justice is done? I think that personal financial gain comes much before in most cases.

That said, I must admit that the attorney, who has represented me during the last year, has been a wonderful exception. He has been a real Mensch and tried to put up with my eccentricities to his best ability. It is as if he entered the field by accident. Although he knew practically nothing of the world of classical music, he learned fast. In spite of my painful legal bills, I’m glad our paths crossed.

Back to my daughter: I hope she can use her education in law in a way that makes a difference in this world. I wouldn’t want her to end up in the bottom of the list but somewhere near the top. I think she will, as she is very likable, bright and doesn’t have an ounce of a leech or a pit bull in her personality.

Well, she could always become a professional musician, as she is able to play the cello beautifully. I’m just kidding; that would happen only over my dead body.


Tuning and intonation is an interesting topic. Half a century ago the American norm for an A was considerably higher than today. In Europe and especially in Germany it was the opposite. Then over the decades something happened and the roles were reversed. Perhaps it had something to do with the quality of automobiles. Studebaker, Chrysler and Cadillac were the rulers then; now you have Mercedes, BMW, Audi and even VW (which manufactures today’s Bentley, a real 'People's Car'). Pitch goes up with the better cars and comes down with the lower quality! It is difficult to go and perform in Europe. Sure, a string instrument can be tuned up but at least someone with perfect pitch will have to spend some time adjusting. I don’t know how wind and brass players do the transformation; perhaps they have to use different instruments.

So, we are officially at A=440 on this continent. Some of us are at least. Since 1960’s well known string teachers at Juilliard were busy telling their students: “Dearie, you have to tune sharp to be heard.” I guess this was intended for soloists, but many took this to mean they should tune above the official A at all times. Then enters the violin soloist whose instrument is tuned easily a quarter tone sharp. Accompaniments are one of the few moments when an orchestra string player can actually hear oneself and, as a result, tries to match the pitch of the soloist. The rest of the orchestra obviously cannot follow, and often overall intonation during violin concertos is absolutely terrible.

The ear is a funny thing. Indeed, a slightly sharp note is much better tolerated than a flat one. By tuning sharp, if the soloist happens to play flat, it will still sound acceptable because the pitch might actually have fallen to the correct level. Since these soloists often get rave reviews from ignorant critics, praising their intonation, just about every other violinist wants to emulate them.

Hearing music played absolutely in tune can be almost intoxicating. Ear training should be far more extensive and every music student should learn to understand the complicated ratios all intervals have. How many average musicians know that every whole and half step in the Western scale we use is slightly different? Perhaps it is a hard concept for a pianist or other fixed pitch instrument player to comprehend, but a revelation to string players, and yes, even singers. Teach the math behind music, it is fascinating.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Prom time

My daughter Anna (right) with her friend since kindergarten, Hannah Peragine, ready for their senior prom Posted by Hello

Circus acts

My generation of performing artists was taught to stand still while playing. Any unnecessary movement was considered a no-no. You were there for the music, not for a freak show. Everyone should look at old videos, now readily available, of the great masters of the past. Heifets and Milstein were like statues, pianists looked noble, with the exception of Gould, whose constant movements might have been caused by Asperger’s, which he is rumored to have had. Years later, Ann-Sophie Mutter plays the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Karajan. Even her lips don’t move; the performance is a masterful example of self control.

This hardly is the case with most younger soloists of today. Playing has become an act, something more suited for television; or a pop concert rather than a classical one. Not only are the outfits revealing, to say the least, on young ladies; they have to give an image of being a sex symbol. Or when was the last time you saw a younger man just wearing traditional tails? Clothes aside, the gimmicks have become more important than the music itself. One gets seasick watching a young instrumentalist from a close distance. I remember accompanying a young violinist and all of a sudden she had managed to stomp her way to the other side of the podium. I didn’t know the stage could function as a race track. Some other lady tried to entertain her audience by wiping her underarms in the middle of her solo. It worked at least with a local critic who dedicated a chapter for this incredibly wonderful behavior. Did this really turn her into a great artist or make up for the notes she missed? What about a pianist who chooses to sit a few inches from the floor and play like he’s riding a certain type of a motorcycle? Do pianists perhaps have their own Hells’ Angels chapter? How many pianists today just sit there and make beautiful music? In most cases they attack the keyboard like they are taking part in Saturday’s night’s RAW, leaping off the chair and banging on the keys as if to punish and want to break them and the strings of the piano.

There are exceptions: Hilary Hahn looks noble with her violin and plays the same way. Perhaps that is part of the reason I have so much respect for her and rate her playing so high. She also looks like a lady, not like a pop star or someone ready to work the streets. There are fortunately some others, too, probably trained by teachers, who themselves were brought up in the old tradition, where music was music, and circus meant what the name indicates.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Collectors are a funny breed, sort of human packrats. Their interests can vary from beer bottles to fine art. Often this becomes an obsession, and serves no practical purpose. Just think of your typical wine cellar owner; is he/she really going to enjoy all those more or less expensive bottles by drinking their contents, or is the quantity and value on the collection the main factor?

Instrument collectors are an interesting subspecies. There are some who buy stolen string instruments, especially in the Far East, knowing that they will never be able to share their loot in public. The same is true with paintings. Where have all those stolen masterpieces ended up? Somewhere someone must be admiring a painting in secrecy that couldn’t be displayed even in the privacy of one’s home. A well known violin collector was recently sentenced to jail for fraud. There might be others whose business practices are not exactly exemplary. Where, for instance, is late Erica Morini’s beautiful violin that was removed from the case by one of her trusted people, while she was in the hospital?

On the positive note, I want to remember a wonderful patron of the arts and a great connoisseur of violins and bows, Richard Colburn. His foundation has helped so many young string players with instrument loans. Just about everyone in the Heifetz class was playing on a violin from him. My first wife and I had a beautiful Strad from his collection for a couple of years (insured value in 1969 $12,000!). I managed to back a car over a double J├Ąger case which had both this instrument and a fabulous Vuillaume in it; the cover for the case was demolished, but nothing else was ruined and the instruments were perfectly in tune after the incident.

After moving back to Los Angeles in 1977, we would visit Mr. Colburn quite frequently, most often for some chamber music. He didn’t insist that anyone use instruments from his collection, but was usually pleased if we asked to. I remember a time when he couldn’t get his instrument safe open and I had to unlock it for him, with the combination he gave to me. He played the viola himself and every so often would yell “man overboard!” when he got lost. Everyone had a lot of fun, and he would serve dinner in the little dining area by the kitchen, always very simple but tasty food. His house was beautiful, close to the Sunset Strip area and was situated on a large hillside lot. As he was also a patron for the L.A. Chamber Orchestra, we would sometimes hold parties for all the musicians, board members and friends.

One of the things close to Richard Colburn’s heart was music education and he started a pre-college level music school, at first in connection with USC and later becoming its own entity. Today it occupies a building near the Walt Disney Hall, has a college division and is quickly becoming sort of the Curtis Institute of the West Coast. Inside the building is Heifetz’ studio, from the master’s former house in Beverly Hills. How nice that someone took the trouble to preserve that precious structure from demolition.

I was saddened to hear about Mr. Colburn’s passing away less than a year ago. We need more people like him. I feel truly honored to have known this most interesting man. He would never have misused his influence.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Master from the past

One of the most interesting people of my youth was a old violin maker Jukka Bergman who lived in Helsinki. At some point he had been a promising violinist and was a student in Leopold Auer's master class in St. Petersburg, a very short distance from Finland. When Auer left Russia for the United States during the revolution, Mr. Bergman was supposed to go along but then decided to return to his native country, which had just become independent in 1917.

Since he knew all the Auer students, he obviously became their favorite repairman in Helsinki, whenever they would come there to concertize. His reputation spread quickly and everyone notable in the was field would come to visit him. He had so many stories to tell, and he taught me much knowledge and wisdom forgotten by violinists long time ago. Who today would know that every violinist used to rub the back of their instrument with a silk scarf until the violin was hot? This explains the strange pattern of missing varnish on most old instruments. Playing on a 'cold' instrument was a no-no. One must also remember that heat was not taken for granted those days, and a violin had to survive a lot more extreme conditions than today. Everybody would loosen their strings as soon as the playing was over, and the instrument thus got to rest. You really cannot do this today with Dominants or other artificial core strings, but those did not exist then. -- In the Heifetz class we had to use pure gut A and D strings, just like the maestro.

Mr. Bergman remembered once having tea with Heifetz in St. Petersburg. When the time for paying the check came, Heifetz started looking elsewhere and my Finnish friend had to pick up the tab. -- He told me that Auer used to teach anyone willing to pay. A student would just knock on the door and when the housekeeper opened the door, the student would ask if professor Auer was home and available for a lesson. She would then ask: "Do you have the money?", take the rubles and put them on the mantlepiece so that the famous professor would see them at all times. The lessons never went a minute over an hour.

My old friend was not really a dealer but took his repair work very seriously. I managed to buy a bow or two from him, plus some strings, but I don't think he was into making a profit. He loved cigars and I remember one time when he had one of Finland's leading industrialists over (also a great fan of the violin and a frequent audience member of my recitals), and they made me and my young first wife try their Cuban cigars. She inhaled, instead of puffing, and passed out. They laughed so hard.

I learned among other things that Ricci wasn't happy with the volume of his lower strings and had his bridge turned slighty in an angle, to make the G string longer. How he could play his Paganini Caprices and other showpieces in tune remained a mystery to both of us. I also learned about Stern's problem with perspiration. The varnish on his fiddle was badly damaged because of this. Mr. Bergman was very upset about the way old great violins were being retouched with alcohol based varnish, so that they would look shiny and brand new. He said it was like closing them in a glass cage and affected their sound.

Jukka Bergman was my link to the past and being with him was like traveling through history. We all should have experienced something like that. I feel very priviledged. He knew violins (and violin playing) inside out, and I was a good listener and student. It is completely different to learn something from a living master than from a book.