In the Key of Genius: Derek Paravicini and Adam Ockelford at TEDxWarwick 2013

In the Key of Genius: Derek Paravicini and Adam Ockelford at TEDxWarwick 2013

Translator: Tijana Mihajlović
Reviewer: Denise RQ (Piano music starts) (Piano music ends) (Applause) (Cheers) Adam Ockelford: Right.
Thanks very much, Derek. It’s wonderful to be here in Warwick. I promise there won’t be
too much of me talking, and a lot of Derek playing, but I thought it would just be nice to recap on how Derek got
to where he is today. It’s amazing now,
because he’s so much bigger than me, but when Derek was born, he could have fitted
on the palm of your hand. He was born 3,5 months premature, and really, it was a fantastic fight
for him to survive. He hadn’t have a lot of oxygen, and that affected your eyes, Derek, and also the way you understand language,
and the way you understand the world. But that was the end of the bad news, because when Derek
came home from hospital, his family decided
to employ the redoubtable nanny who was going to look after you, Derek,
really for the rest of your childhood. And nanny’s great insight,
really, was to think, “Here’s a child who can’t see.
Music must be the thing for Derek.” And sure enough, she sang,
or as Derek called it, warbled to him for his first few years of life. I think it was that excitement
with hearing her voice, hour after hour every day, that made him think maybe, you know,
in his brain something was stirring, some sort of musical gift. Here’s a little picture
of Derek going up now, when you were with your nanny. Nanny’s great other insight was to think, “Perhaps we should get Derek
something to play,” and sure enough, she dragged
this little keyboard out of the loft, never thinking really
that anything much would come of it. But Derek, your tiny hand
must have gone out to that thing and actually bashed it, bashed it so hard they thought
it was going to break. But out of all the bashing,
after a few months, emerged the most fantastic music, and I think there was just
a miracle moment, really, Derek, when you realized that all the sounds
you hear in the world out there is something that you can copy
on the keyboard. That was the great eureka moment. Now, not being able to see meant,
of course, that you taught yourself. Derek Paravicini: I taught myself to play. AO: You did teach yourself to play,
and as a consequence, playing the piano for you, Derek,
was a lot of knuckles and karate chops, and even a bit of nose going on in there. Here’s what nanny did also do
was to press the record button on one of those little,
early tape recorders that they had, and this is a wonderful tape
of Derek playing when you were 4 years old,
having taught yourself. DP: “Cockles and Mussels.” AO: It wasn’t actually
“Cockles and Mussels.” This one is “English Country Garden.” DP: “English Country Garden.” (Music: “English Country Garden”) AO: There you are. That was a bit… (Applause) I think that’s just fantastic. There’s this little child who can’t see, can’t really understand much
about the world, has no one in the family
who plays an instrument, and yet he taught himself to play that. As you can see from the picture, there was quite a lot of body action
going on while you were playing, Derek. Now, along – Derek and I met
when he was four and a half years old, and at first, Derek,
I thought you were mad, to be honest, because when you played the piano, you seemed to want to play
every single note on the keyboard, and also you had this little habit
of hitting me out of the way. So as soon as I tried
to get near the piano, I was firmly shoved off. Having said to your dad, Nic,
that I would try to teach you, I was then slightly confused
as to how I might go about that if I wasn’t allowed near the piano. But after a while, I thought, well,
the only way is to just pick you up, shove Derek over
to the other side of the room, and in the 10 seconds
that I got before Derek came back, I could just play something
very quickly for him to learn. In the end, Derek, I think you agreed that we could actually have some fun
playing the piano together. As you can see, there’s me in my early,
pre-marriage days with a brown beard, and little Derek concentrating there. I just realized this is going
to be recorded, isn’t it? Right. Okay. (Laughter) By the age of 10, Derek really
had taken the world by storm. This is a photo of you, Derek, playing at the Barbican
with the Royal Philharmonic Pops. Basically it was just
an exciting journey, really. In those days, Derek,
you didn’t speak very much, and so there was always
a moment of tension as to whether you’d actually understood
what it was we were going to play and whether you’d play
the right piece in the right key, and all that kind of thing. But the orchestra were wowed as well, and the press of the world were fascinated by your ability
to play these fantastic pieces. Now the question is,
how do you do it, Derek? Hopefully we can show the audience now
how it is you do what you do. I think that one of the first things that happened
when you were very little, Derek, was that by the time you were two, your musical ear had already outstripped
that of most adults. So, whenever you heard any note at all
– if I just play a random note – (Piano notes) you knew instantly what it was, and you’d got the ability as well
to find that note on the piano. That’s called perfect pitch, and some people have perfect pitch for a few white notes
in the middle of the piano. (Piano notes) You can see how – you get
a sense of playing with Derek. (Applause) But Derek, your ear
is so much more than that. If I just put the microphone
down for a bit, I’m going to play a cluster of notes. Those of you who can see
will know how many notes, but Derek, of course, can’t. Not only can you say how many notes, it’s being able to play them
all at the same time. Here we are. (Chords) Forget the terminology, Derek. Fantastic. It’s that ability, that ability
to hear simultaneous sounds, not only just single sounds, but when a whole orchestra is playing,
Derek, you can hear every note, and instantly, through all those
hours and hours of practice, reproduce those on the keyboard, that makes you, I think,
is the basis of all your ability. Now then. It’s no use having that kind
of raw ability without the technique, and luckily, Derek, you decided that,
once we did start learning, you’d let me help you
learn all the scale fingerings. So for example using your thumb
under with C major. (Piano notes) Et cetera. Yeah. In the end, you got so quick, that things like “Flight of the Bumblebee”
were no problem, were they? DP: No. AO: Right. So here, by the age of 11,
Derek was playing things like this. DP: This. (Music: “Flight of the Bumblebee”) (Music ends) AO: Yeah. Alright, Derek,
let’s have a bow. Well done. (Applause) The truly amazing thing was,
with all those scales, Derek, you could not only play “Flight of the Bumblebee”
in the usual key but any note I play, Derek can play it on. So if I just choose
a note at random, like that one. (Piano notes) Can you play “Flight of the Bumblebee”
on that note? DP: “Flight of the Bumblebee”
on that note. (Music: “Flight of the Bumblebee”) AO: Or another one? How about in G minor? DP: G minor. AO: Here we go. (Music: “Flight of the Bumblebee”) AO: Fantastic. Well done, Derek. So you see, in your brain, Derek,
is this amazing musical computer that can instantly
recalibrate, recalculate, all the pieces in the world
that are out there. Most pianists would have
a heart attack if you said, “Sorry, do you mind playing
‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ in B minor instead of A minor?”
as we went on. In fact, the first time, Derek,
you played that with an orchestra, you’d learned the version
that you’d learned, and then the orchestra, in fact,
did have a different version, so while we were waiting in the 2 hours
before the rehearsal and the concert, Derek listened to the different version
and learned it quickly and then was able to play it
with the orchestra. Fantastic chap. The other wonderful thing
about you is memory. DP: Memory. AO: Your memory is truly amazing,
and every concert we do, we ask the audience
to participate, of course, by suggesting a piece
Derek might like to play. People say,”That’s terribly brave because what happens
if Derek doesn’t know it?” I say, “No, it’s not brave at all, because if you ask for something
that Derek doesn’t know, you’re invited to come and sing it first,
and then he’ll pick it up.” (Laughter) So just be thoughtful before you suggest
something too outlandish. But seriously, would anyone like
to choose a piece? DP: Choose a piece. Choose, choose,
would you like to choose? AO: Because it’s quite dark.
You’ll just have to shout out. DP: Would you like to hear me play? (Audience: “Theme of Paganini.”) AO: Paganini.
DP: “The Theme of Paganini”. (Laughter) (Music: “Theme of Paganini”) (Music ends) (Applause) AO: Well done. DP: Thank you. Derek’s going to L.A. soon, and it’s a milestone, because it means that Derek and I
will have spent over 100 hours on long-haul flights together, which is quite interesting,
isn’t it Derek? DP: Very interesting, Adam, yes.
Long-haul flights. Yes. AO: You may think 13 hours
is a long time to keep talking, but Derek does it effortlessly.
Now then. (Laughter) But in America, they’ve coined this term,
“the human iPod” for Derek, which I think is just missing
the point, really, because Derek, you’re so much more
than an iPod. You’re a fantastic, creative musician, and I think that was nowhere
clearer to see, really, than when we went to Slovenia, and someone – in a longer concert
we tend to get people joining in, and this person very, very nervously came
onto the stage. DP: He played “Chopsticks”.
AO: And played “Chopsticks”. DP: “Chopsticks”. AO: A bit like this. DP: Like this. Yes. (Piano notes) AO: I should really get Derek’s manager
to come and play it. He’s sitting there. DP: He played “Chopsticks” like this. AO: Just teasing, right? Here we go. (Music: “Chopsticks”) DP: Let Derek play it. AO: What did you do with it, Derek? DP: I got to improvise with it, Adam. AO: This is Derek the musician. (Music: “Chopsticks” improvisation) (Music) (Clapping) (Appluase) Keep up with Derek. AO: Boom-boom. (Music) (Applause) I think the TED people will kill me, but perhaps there’s time for one encore. DP: For one encore. AO: One encore, yes. So this is one of Derek’s heroes. It’s the great Art Tatum – DP: Art Tatum. AO: – who also was a pianist
who couldn’t see, and also, I think, like Derek,
thought that all the world was a piano. Whenever Art Tatum plays something, it sounds like there’s 3 pianos
in the room. Here is Derek’s take
on Art Tatum’s take on “Tiger Rag”. DP: “Tiger Rag”. (Music: “Tiger Rag”) (Music ends) (Applause)

100 thoughts to “In the Key of Genius: Derek Paravicini and Adam Ockelford at TEDxWarwick 2013”

  1. He's a genius because he has spent countless hours, days and years practicing piano and playing piano. It took him a long time to master the ability to quickly find specific "sections" on the keyboard, since it is only touch and feel which tell him which octave set he needs to reach. If your finger lands as little as 3/16ths of an inch to the right or left of your target note, you will play a wrong note or worse, two dissonant notes. Derek has developed fantastic muscle memory in his fingers, arms and body in order to do this. His ears are only there to verify the correctness of the work his fingers, hands, arms and upper body are doing.

  2. Many pianists practice and play in total darkness, in order to sharpen their touch skill and muscle memory ability. They also play in the dark to remove their visual input which soaks up over 93% of the brain's sensory incoming signals. This allows a player to hear more deeply his/her actual piano tone, and piano sound. It also allows the pianist to get an accurate idea of how well he/she is phrasing and how well the music is being interpreted and expressed. Derek lives in this dark world, so he is not distracted by the competition of visual input to the chagrin of his listening and touching skills. He is a very accomplished pianist, and a very accurate one.

  3. Many people believe that blind people are more naturally gifted at playing music. Not true. They play in spite of their blindness, not because of it. Blind players simply have to concentrate far more on their sense of touch, feel,and muscle memory working with their listening skills, in order to play like sighted people. However a little unknown secret….many sighted musicians play with eyes closed as a normal practice. Notice horn and wind instrumentalists naturally close their eyes when playing solos if no sheet music is present. Other musicians also close their eyes a lot when playing, such as drummers, guitarists, bassists, brass players, and of course singers. If they have memorized the music, they don't need sheet music, and they rely on their hearing and touch to get them trough, with only a few glances at times to orient themselves. Just like kissing….when the natural tendency to close eyes when lips meet, musicians often close eyes to eliminate distractions, but more often because it just happens on its own.

  4. The teacher is classy. No hype. Just Derek.

    And to all the comments about lack of emotion: not all music has to be about great, romantic feelings, does it? Maybe it should just sometimes be allowed to be about fascinating design, irresistibly energetic rhythms and the math of great harmony. If he swayed with a contorted face and let delighted smiles and exclamations of joy escape his lips as he played, you wouldn't have missed it at all. But Derek's music is his own thing. It doesn't have to be about emotions like you feel them. I do know what you mean though, his music doesn't at all have the nuancing of a singing Chopin line. But I never felt Chopin get into my bones and make me jump quite like this, either. I am grateful for such a variety of pianistic voices in the world! Let them "showcase" him, as long as he's happy! His teacher is a decent assistant, no P. T. Barnum in him.

  5. The teacher makes me slightly uncomfortable and I don't get why. As if I am worried that he might be taking advantage of the prodigy in some way..

  6. he has great tone and key but he lacks the main ingredient. its all about creation which he does not have , write a simple song such as imagine by John Lennon and you can be forever , copy machines don't make history. good but no thanks !

  7. Wonderful! There are no words to do justice to this. Such an uplifting twenty minutes. Thank you, Derek. And Adam. And Nanny too.

  8. Derek, may I ask for a 30 seconds instrumental that I can use as a ringtone for my cellphone please? Of course I would like to pay for it.

  9. His major advantage is that he is blind, and not able to read the horrible sheet music.
    I felt the teacher was going to give him a peanut ofter each piece he played.

  10. Unbelievably brilliant! What an absolutely amazing performance! It just kept getting better and better! How many times does THAT happen in a performance? Almost never. Thank you for sharing His amazing brilliance! As a keyboard person, he absolutely blew me away! Just brilliant! Thank you for sharing this amazing spirit and performance! My jaw was gapping the whole time in amazement. Thank you again for sharing this, and may God bless you and keep you.

  11. Why does he continually infer " Derek " as if he speaking to him.
    Is this intuitive connotation so as connect to Derek while he is in the room ?
    It appears …that its is consistent supportive dialog to fortify Derek's attention and responsiveness in this situation .

  12. I like how Adam Ockelford almost always refers to Derek in the first person, he rarely says "he is…", he says "you are…" seems to be quite a caring individual

  13. The most amazing tbing I take from Derek's story is not Derek himself but rather Adam. Adam could have very well left Derek after he became famous and made gobs of money as this genius teacher. But no, he stayed on, threw all these years he has remained. He is probably one if Derek's closest friends and Derek relies on him. Adam sees this and loves Derek. What an example of selfless sacrifice!

  14. For those who want to know the title of the first piece, it’s based on Art Tatum’s version of “Honeysuckle Rose” composed by Fats Waller

  15. In general, the human organism is an amazing thing. Derek in particular stands out amongst the many. His skills are phenomenal. If we can ever learn to understand the human brain I hope we don't upset his. Play on dear sir

  16. I play this video, among others, for my classes in Introduction to Special Education when we cover the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). To be able to see and hear true genius that results from the developmental brain disorder, as yet not fully understood, is far more effective than any lecture can provide. Thank you Derek and Dr. Adam Ockelford.

  17. This Guy plays like a machine!! I’ll give him that. Absolute precision but I guess for me it’s not about how fast or precise someone plays but how the music makes me feel. Perhaps his disability makes it tough for him to express his emotional involvement to the music he is playing but I want to feel that the musician is playing from his/her heart and not just his hands. Watch someone like Tokio Myers and you’ll see what I mean!!!

  18. Most concert pianists would find his playing rather poor. Most concert pianists can do everything he did here by the time they are finishing their ba. I have seen this done by so many people, I can do it myself albeit perhaps not as well as I focus on composition. I think genius is work reserved for something you can’t explain. This is all rather easy material to play.

  19. Apart from Derek's jaw-dropping pianistic ability, the connection between these two men is a fine example of trust. Adam Ockelford's dedication to this relationship is inspirational . Thank you for the experience.

  20. What a treasure this is, I don't know who I admire more, Derek or his incredible teacher. What he is doing here is simply mind bending but the best part of this for me was seeing the wonderful relationship these two amazing men have grown together

  21. Some comments are that he plays without feeling, and of course this is correct. There is no emotion. But you must understand that emotion comes for a part of the brain that Derek doesn’t have. He really is just a musical machine. That’s all he can do. He can hardly feed himself let alone have emotion in his music. Nonetheless he demonstrates how amazing the human mind can be. He is an amazing person!

  22. Holy mackerel, tuna, and shallow water bass!!! One of the most amazing savant talents on the globe. If your attention span is really narrow, tune in at 19:30 Lord Lord. If you've ever had a single solitary piano lesson, you can easily comprehend the miracle at work here, not to mention that the player is blind, autistic, and can't put his own socks on without someone helping him. All of that missing brain power, every molecule of it, went into the piano. And humanity is the beneficiary of the miracle.

  23. OMG, his Flight Of The Bumblebee rendition is the perfect combo of Rimsky-Korsikov's and Jack Fina's Bumble Boogie.!!!!

  24. Perfect pitch sure as heck helps. What's unfortunate is that most parents don't realize that they can usually give their kid that ability if they start them out listening to a wide variety of complex music as soon as they leave the womb. By the age of two, the potential is pretty much gone forever. It also helps to tell kids the names of notes as they hear them, but not crucial. How do you think kids learn their colors? Repetition by naming and visual cues. Same goes with hearing, although the time window is much narrower.

  25. Sad to see him; how he has to take instruction to bow! I felt he is like a caged lion! Did he composed any tracks of his own?

  26. Удивительный человек, я за него рад что есть такие люди)))))

  27. That a four year old could play that proves we don't know much about how anything works, much less the mind. This is a gift from God to show us He exists and He is beyond our comprehension.

  28. Put him behind an organ.. start small so he can find where all the buttons,foot petals and pulls are.. probably take him two times at reaching for everything then put him in a organ building.. he would kill it and i think with him hearing all the different sounds that can be made and how him hitting thekeys makes such a bigger sound he’d love it…

  29. Grateful to the persons and fates (esp. Nanny!) for supporting him and his music so thoroughly, and for Derek being willing to do a Ted Talk. As for how he really does it, this video goes no further than we do when we try to explain or diagram birdsongs, whale sounds, flowers, bees…they exist, and we try and explain them away with our inadequate descriptions and assessments that address them retroactively and piecemeal. His talent was found and first nurtured by a warbling grey haired lady. That's the first genius; nurturance, love and care. Faith in the human spirit from one human to another. Also, Derek Paravicini is definitely better looking than Quentin Tarentino, who is also (like myself) possibly on Autism spectrum.

  30. Cool how nature works, sometimes when things go wrong you can get a glimpse into the mechanism of consciousness, and it begins to appear that intelligence may reside outside the brain and that grey matter is just a receiver or tuner! X

  31. C Major scale only using a thumb and karate chop motion? Still not right after 10,000 hours practice.. yet it sounds smoother than mine with the right fingers

  32. It's probably not a popular opinion, but if someone encouraged him early on to try and compose serious pieces of music rather than boogie woogie and Cockney knees up type music he could have found considerable success.

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