Hardly a month goes by without the discovery of a new musical prodigy of Mozartian gifts. Do they deserve credit for their talent – or are they just coasting on lucky genes?
Are great musicians just born talented?
Kind of. In 2008, the Journal of Medical Genetics published a study by medical geneticist Irma Järvelä from the University of Helsinki, which tested 224 people related to professional or keen amateur musicians. The subjects were asked to differentiate between different note pitches and durations.
According to the results, musical aptitude is nearly 50 per cent hereditary. Certainly, legends surrounding musical prodigies have long fostered the popular belief that talent is genetic. The most famous musical prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, showed musical talent from the tender age of three, began composing at the age of five, and to this day retains his status as one of the greatest classical composers.
But Mozart had his talent fostered from an early age. Wasn’t it all just nurture rather than nature?
Probably not. A 2001 study of more than 500 twins conducted at St Thomas’s Hospital in London found that 80 per cent of pitch deafness was related to genes rather than environmental factors. The upshot...