Monday, December 7, 2009

Thomas 'Blind Tom' Wiggins, Musical Savant, in 'The Musical Brain'

[Blind Tom, The Black Pianist-Composer: Continually Enslaved; Geneva Handy Southall; Scarecrow Press (2002)]

Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (1849-1908) was an African American pianist and composer. He was a blind and autistic slave who nevertheless was a musical genius. His profile at is based primarily on the book Blind Tom, The Black Pianist-Composer: Continually Enslaved, by the late Professor Geneva Handy Southall, who devoted her academic career to Wiggins. Professor Dominique-René de Lerma has compiled a complete Works List which is featured on the Thomas Wiggins page at the website. He also wrote the Introduction for Blind Tom, The Black Pianist-Composer: “Reading through this important volume will evoke pain, grief, and outrage. In that respect we find a ready parallel to Sam Dennison's Scandalize My Name (Garland Publishing, 1982). But these stories must be told. The message is not only music or biography, it is not even only American history. Sentient readers will know how far the implications can reach.”
“The Musical Brain - Part 2 - When Things Go Wrong
In the second part of his exploration of the musical brain, Chris Davies looks at some of the more complex issues which arise when things go wrong.”

Blind Tom
One particularly famous musical savant is Blind Tom Wiggins, an African-American savant pianist born in 1849. Although he had an excellent musical memory and learned probably more than 7,000 pieces of music, his vocabulary was severely stunted, at around 100 words. A regular part of his performances was ‘the challenge’, where he would reproduce brand new compositions in front of an audience by ear, to prove that his outstanding memory was not a trick.”

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