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hands.................


lineman
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I just got home a little over an hour ago, driving in from Dallas where we took my daughter to have an operation at Baylor University Med. Center. It's good to be home!

While we were at Baylor, and having time to walk around a bit, we came across a really neat exhibit. a Dr. Adrian Flatt, a surgeon there at Baylor, has for several years taken casts of famous people's hands.

Among those hands are Issac Sterns and some famous conductors. Issac's hands in a way surprised me, they were short and a little stubby, not bad, just not the delicate hands you would expect from such marvelous music.

Winston Churchills, Jan Paderewski, Nolan Ryans, Alan Shepard's, Paul Newmans, Andre the Giant, and so many others to name a few. It thrilled me to look at the hands of so many famous people.

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quote:

Originally posted by lineman:

Among those hands are Issac Sterns and some famous conductors. Issac's hands in a way surprised me, they were short and a little stubby, not bad, just not the delicate hands you would expect from such marvelous music.

Actually, stubby fingers make for the best vibrato, at least the sound that I like best which is a warm, fat sound. Unfortunately for me, the tips of my fingers are quite small.

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i've noticed amongst the players i know and play with, that stubbier hands produce better vibrato, and that thinner ones dont mean better technique. my hands are not stubby, but they are somewhat perlman-esque. my teacher is tiny (5' 1/4") and has thin fingers, but is also extremely talented, her vibrato and playing in my opinion are matched by very few, including most recording professionals.

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What a wonderful exhibit. I'll check out tha display next time I'm at Baylor, a class act all the way. I'm in the Los Angeles area and have the Chinese Theater, which has famous shoe prints. I've always looked at the shoe prints and wondered what people were stepped on along the way. Your descripton of Stern's hands fits the rest of him as well. I wish your daughter a speedy recovery.

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quote:

Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

Those who'll be seeing me at the Maestronet Reunion (Agatha? lineman?) will see firsthand how bizarre my hands are (see my "Physical Freaks" post).

I doubt that I'll be at your reunion - I'd have to fly half way around the world. Good luck with it anyway.

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I thought you all might find this interesting in case you haven't seen this before.

Plaster cast of Nicolo Paganini's right hand. No cast of his left hand is known to exist. There is a considerable body of literature, some of it from Paginini's own day, on the unusual conformation of his hands.

NPhands.jpg

Some specialists conjecture that he had a disease of the connective tissue called Marfan's Syndrome, which enabled him to take stretches that a normal left hand could not encompass. But Drs. Richard D. Smith and John W. Worthington, in the March 13, 1967 issue of "The Journal of the American Medical Association", cited an artical in "The Strad" in which measurements taken from a cast of Paganini's hands indicated that they were of normal size.....Anatomists who examined Paganini's left hand were startled to see that he could bend his thumb backwards until it touched the little finger...Drs. Smith & Worthington concluded that he had a disease of the connective tissue, but that it was not Marfan's Syndrome. "All the hyperextensiblility of the joints point to the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom....It seems that his extraordinary reach wast legitimate and was made possible by abnormal connective tissue."

Ehlers-Danlos was the least of it. No musician who ever lived carried around with him the collection of physical woes that afflicted Paganini. He had measles at four and was critically ill. He had scarlet fever at five and pneumonia to fourteen. As a young man he developed a chronic colitis and a persistant cough that stayed with him his entire life. In 1832 he had a pulmonary hemorrhage in Paris. He suffered from sensitive skin and excessive persperation, and always had to wear flannel underwear. He had insomnia. He had bad eyes and was forced to wear blue glasses. He had hemorrhoids, rectal stenosis, and rheumatism. He had an abcess in his jaw. He contracted syphilis, and the mercury doses then used caused his skin to take on a peculiar color. It also caused recurrant stomach trouble. Thanks to the syphilis, combined with an infected jaw, he lost all of his teeth. He had trouble with his prostrate and needed regular catheterization. That led to bladder infection. In the last years of his life he lost his voice because of tuberculosis of the larynx. He also had tuberculosis of the jaw. He went to every quack in Europe and swallowed every kind of medicine, looking for the magic cure, and some of the medicines made him even sicker. He was especially busy purging himself and some of the laxatives nearly killed him.

Taken from The Virtuosi by Harold C. Schonberg, Vintage Books, 1988

[This message has been edited by Oldbear (edited 02-18-2001).]

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At the hand display at Baylor, there is a series of videos with Dr. Flatt explaining his method for obtaining his hand casts. What I thought was interesting is that Dr. Flatt said the first thing he looked at on a person he first met, was their hands,he said he could tell alot about people simply by looking at their hands.

I look at peoples eyes, I guess each to their own, but I can tell alot about people by looking in their eyes.

Meadowlark Lemon of the Globetrotter fame, his hands were there, and he had the longest fingers of anyone I've ever seen. Andre the Giant had the biggest hands. In the video it said Andre had to use a pencil to dial a phone as his fingers were so huge.

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What could Dr. Flatt tell about people by looking at their hands? Was he specific in identifying specific features that led him to reach conclusions about people in question?

This sounds interesting.

I've met numerous people who refer to their hands as artist's hands--they've said things such as how they should have learned to play piano. Heaven knows I have anything but "piano" hands--and have worked my whole life determined to play. If I have to leave out a note in a stretch that's beyond me, so be it. It's just a sacrificed note.

But I'm a determined little cuss, if nothing else.

I suspect that had I played violin, however, as a child, that endeavor would have more than satisfied most of my musical determination. Even though only of average talent in starting my current exploration of strings, the process is more mentally engaging to me than that of piano. The arrangement of the strings seems to be more logical than that of piano keys. (Or maybe the logic of piano key arrangement is just beyond me!)

Thanks for the information about the doctor's identifying features if you can remember any.

Best regards,

Theresa

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 02-19-2001).]

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The first thing that I look at on a person are their hands (if I get the chance). Depending on different calluses and textures of the skin you can tell many different things. A callus on the top of the middle finger and flesh of the thumb for instance will tell me that they write in some capacity (although I see this less and less frequently as everyone starts to use the computer). What's even cooler is that depending on where and in which direction ink stains travel I can often tell whether they write in English or in an Eastern language. Different types of manual labor create different looking hands. Cooks often have scars on their hands (from sharp knives), dishwashers have peculiar textured skin, waiters have a certain way of displaying their hands... of course, I always looked for callused left fingertips (followed by a glance up to the left side of the neck)... it's fascinating how much a person's hands reveal...

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Lymond,

I agree, you can tell alot about people from their hands. I had an uncle that chain smoked the old Camel brand cigarettes, and on his right hand, the first 3 fingers had a burnt orange, yellowish stain from years of nicotine.

On my right hand, the 3rd finger I have a callous from playing years of golf. An older lineman, Dean, just recently retired, was in an electrical accident years ago, and lost a couple of fingers and several toes, looking at his hands was a constant reminder of the dangers of being a lineman. Dean would pull aside every new employee of the co-op and show him his hands and the charred pair of boots he was wearing, and lecture the new employee about being careful. His missing fingers are a constant reminder.

Theresa, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about finger shape compared to mental attitude. The old myth of having to have long slender fingers to be a great musician is in my opinion not true. But having a mental attitude such as yours, will take you far, and accomplish much.

Looking at a person's hands will tell you much about what a person does, but looking in someone's eyes tells me what a person is.

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I have long, very thin fingers (I could do an octave on the piano when I was about 11). There is a drawback: I was always told as a beginner that my fingers were supposed to touch on half steps, but my fingers were so skinny, my half steps were always off.

I second illuminatus's question: how do we know that it is the cast of Paganini?

[This message has been edited by MicaelaB (edited 02-21-2001).]

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Mine measures 7 and 3/4"--and that is with pushing my hand down as flat as I can.

I cannot play well the stretch of a tenth on piano, which really limits my ability to include all notes written. I've learned to fill in with notes if the chord or arpeggiated section sounds too empty. However, 9ths are no problem.

I wonder how my hand size limits certain violin skills? I don't worry about this because, from my experience in piano, what you can't do, you just don't and you compensate with something that sounds musical.

Interesting thread,

Theresa

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I think small hands are a plus in violin playing, particularly when playing things like Bach and Paganini.

There are quite a few small folks who stretch easily to fit Paganini (e.g. Sarah Chang, Jan Kubelik, Midori, myself), and the smallness of the fingers means easier access to halfsteps and such.

I also thought it was very interesting that though Ruggiero Ricci is not even 5 feet tall (I'm 5'4"), he has bigger hands than I do!

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quote:

Originally posted by Theresa:

Mine measures 7 and 3/4"--and that is with pushing my hand down as flat as I can.

I cannot play well the stretch of a tenth on piano, which really limits my ability to include all notes written. I've learned to fill in with notes if the chord or arpeggiated section sounds too empty. However, 9ths are no problem.

I can relate to that, Theresa - my hand barely measures 7 inches at full stretch, which means I can only just span an octave on the piano. However like you, I've learned to adapt.

As for violin playing, I find some fourth finger stretches quite hard (my little finger is quite a lot shorter than my other fingers), but other than that, I don't notice any particular problems. In some ways, I think having small hands and slim fingers can work to your advantage. My old teacher used to say that he envied me - he had huge, thick fingers, and found it quite difficult to play in the higher positions where the fingers must be placed very close together.

Louise

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