10,000 Hours of Mozart

There’s a theory — first put forward by Malcolm Gladwell — that it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve superstar status. Seth Godin (among others) disputes that. After all, as he points out in Seth Godin’s Blog, there are plenty of musicians toiling away day after day who never reach more than mediocrity.

I was thinking about this in conjunction with the newly discovered works by Mozart. While I don’t doubt their historical importance. But I wonder if they would be considered as remarkable if they weren’t written by Mozart.

Mozart certainly didn’t need 10,000 hours to become a musical superstar. His natural talent held him in good stead throughout his youth.

But of all the works that he wrote, which ones are considered his best? His first piano concerto written at the age of eleven, or the ones he wrote as an adult? His first symphony composed before he reached puberty, or the “Jupiter” Symphony” written at a mature 35 years of age?

Raw talent is a huge advantage, but maybe there’s something to this 10,000 hours theory after all. Because it seems to me that only after 10,000 hours (and more) of Mozart honing his craft did he produce the music lives on to this day.

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