Jun

19

A chess playing friend of mine who is also a poet told me recently that while playing chess, new fragments of poetry flow through her mind.

This rang a bell for me, and I experimented today with setting up an internet chess game on one monitor, and adjacent to it a music manuscript window. I found that while the chess was going on, I was able to take dictation in a similar way on to the music file. (This was very bad for the level of chess moves, but they were there merely to oil a mechanism.)

I have no idea how common it is to have this combination of interests (as a search on Composer and Chess brings up chess problem composers). The well known precedent was Philidor whose music is outstanding. Mendelssohn was also keen on chess. But I am unaware of others. Musician chessplayers are of course numerous.

The novel I am reading right now, The Eight by Katherine Neville, has Philidor among the dramatis personae. I have not read enough yet to be able to recommend it. There are one or two technical errors about chess, but it has made me start wondering again about the origin of the game. It is newly reprinted from the eighties as she has just had a sequel published (The Fire).

GM Nigel Davies replies:

It will dismay many to learn that chess and other board games are descended from religious rituals in which delineated space represents the battle ground between our attempts to have good triumph over the dark side. The conflict between forces under our control and those of chaos (the pieces at the other side attempting to wreck our plans) reflects the battle people face in creating order (sanity) within their own minds.

With music you have what is essentially the same battle in the attempt to create harmony in sound which separates it from the chaos of noise. Of course here you don't have the issue of an agent that is actively trying to destroy your attempts but the process is very similar in many respects (abstraction, harmony/pattern etc).

Markets have some similarities in that there one is trying to find moments of order within the chaos of price movement. Here it's even harder because even the definition of what constitutes harmony is constantly changing.


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4 Comments so far

  1. Adam on June 19, 2009 11:19 pm

    There is something profound and hidden here in the way the mind works. I suspect it has something to do with pattern recognition and manipulation, but I think there is also an ability, essential in trading, music and chess, to grasp the whole picture from the parts.

    I spent more than a decade as a professional musician (classical and jazz keyboards (piano, harpsichord, pipe organ) and composer. I was pleased with my level of achievement both artistically and professionally, but at some point my interest in trading took the lead and I left music to trade full time. Through all of this, I have maintained an intense interest in chess… I am fascinated by the game, love to read, love to play, but alas I don’t think I have the temperament to become a really good player.

    I also had a number of music students and saw two big dividing lines in students who were successful and those who weren’t. A love and passion, bordering on obsession was common to all of my students who did well. This is not a common trait in people, but I think it is very common in professional musicians… when I was writing a lot it was not uncommon for me to spend 10 - 12 hours straight composing and think about the problem every second I wasn’t actually working on it. I believe this level of passion leads to a focus that actually promotes plastic changes in the brain structure.

    The second common thread in students who did well is something that can’t be taught. Some people have an intuitive sense of proportion. They can see the pieces and have an ineffable sense of the gestalt… of the whole. I do not think this can be communicated well in words and my greatest failing as a teacher is that I was never able to teach this. People either had it or they didn’t. Without it, they might achieve competence but never greatness.

    I know from my experience that the same skill is important in trading… and it might even separate the successful from the also-rans. I think in chess this is the positional sense of a master. I realize this is not some magical sense–that it does come from repeated exposure to thousands of pieces of information, but I argue that some people do not have the innate ability to synthesize the whole picture and guess at what is hidden.

    I think this is a profound and significant issue raised here — perhaps we are up against the epistemological limit of what can be known about the way our minds work… maybe even touching upon a fundamental element of consciousness? Little is known and much is hidden.

  2. Anonymous on June 20, 2009 8:06 am

    it would seem to me that by playing chess, you are encouraging your two hemispheres of your brain to communicate. The Corpus Callosum is the part of the brain that does this in mammals. http://www.answers.com/topic/corpus-callosum.

    There is amazingly very little that scientists know about the brain. The complexity of it is beyond explanation. Scientists will tell you that we use but a few percent of our brains. An expansion of this by only a few percent can make an incredible difference.

    For example: If a child begins at a very young age to learn languages, they will learn faster and retain it longer than if they decide to learn languages later on in their formative years. Cultures outside the US have embraced this concept. Japan requires children to learn English as soon as they are able to. It is incorporated into the curriculum at a very early time. Learning an outdated language such as latin can be very helpful as hit has synergistic correlations. Studies have shown that children who learn latin do better on formalized tests such as SAT’s. Plus by having them learn latin early on, they will not know that it is out-dated and considered “nerdy” by others. In other words it is easier to sell them on the idea.

    Children who read extensively at young ages develop subtle synapses that will be helpful later on. It sure beats playing Madden 2009 all day.

    Listening to “total brain music” from the great masters such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Rimsky-Korsakov and especially opera can enhance performance on certain tasks. The so-called Mozart effect has received much acclaim as of late. http://www.mozarteffect.com/. My best friend of over 45 years is a neurosurgeon and he operates to the accompaniment of classical music in the background. Other great scientists such as Einstein were fans of classical music. I believe the Chair has commented on the importance of music in the background when he is trading.

    I would be fascinated to hear from the GM and others for other examples of music enhancing performance.

  3. ARLAUSKAS on June 20, 2009 10:17 am

    ATT:……………….VICTOR
    JUNE JUNTO:……..??
    .
    .
    ‘THAT..DUDE…WAS..KINDA`……..FRIGTHENING.’
    .
    WAS HE ONE OF THOSE…REVERSE..PSHYCOLOGY-TYPES…??
    .
    .
    “..I HAD TO RUN OUT LAST-TIME;..HOWEVER UPON RETURNING;……I GUESS HE DID SEEM GOOD AT ‘INCLUDING’; GROUP-PARTICIPATION & COMMENTS.??”
    .
    .
    BUT:
    THAT;..NOISE ABOUT..THE WEB & AUTISM;..SEEMED..VERY.WEIRD.!!??
    …QUACK`QUACK`QUACK`QUACK…..
    “& MANY COMPUTER NERDS ARE KNOWN TO AQUIRE ‘SYMPTOMS’ OF AGORAPHOBIA”…??……WHICH WOULD SEEM OPPOSITE;..TO REMEDY?….Rx…AUTISTIC CHARACATHERISTICS{ANTi-SOCIAL}…????
    .
    .
    AND ANYONE WHO “REALLY” MAKES REFERENCE TO THE ‘DSM’;..AS SOME KIND OF AUTHORITATIVE/EMPIRICAL STANDARD….WOULD SEEM TO ME TO BE OF A DIABOLICAL NATURE…???…..ie:DUPLICITOUS../..’DANGER’
    .
    RICH
    PS:..HAVE ANY EXTRA CASH??
    CONTACT:…………………….ARLAUSKAS01@YAHOO.COM

  4. diego joachin on June 24, 2009 11:57 am

    I would encourage to the administrators of this site to poll how many people trade using music.

    Do you use music when studying the markets or when executing positions?

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