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Former child prodigy Ruth Slenczynska will release a new album at the age of 97 (bbc.com)
129 points by osivertsson 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 54 comments

Other ancient musicians: I have always been impressed by Sir Christopher Lee, who released his final metal album at age 91, and whose Christmas single Jingle Hell was a top-20 hit that year. But, as far as I know, he was not a child prodigy, having recorded his first at age 64. It inspires me that he added that new spice to his life at such a revered age, when so many are set in their ways at that age.


When you said ancient I thought you refered to musicians in ancient Greece or Rome. Ageism is rampant and we ought to stop this nonsense. Anyhow, great example, it is all inspiring to when we get older...life really keeps on going regardless of age

Other ancient musicians?

Suggesting that a contemporary is ancient is a bit too far stretched and disrespectful in my opinion. Ruth Slenczynska is publishing a new album in March, which suggests that she has something to say to us all.

I suspect op meant it in the sense of venerable, not in the sense of antiquated or outdated. Agreed that the word choice may make meaning ambiguous, but the rest of the post was clearly one of respect (even using the word 'revered').

I think it's just hyperbole. I wonder how sensitive 97 year-olds are about their age. If it bugs them, they probably also wouldn't appreciate having it pointed out prominently in headlines and articles about their other accomplishments.

I know > 10 people well into their 80's, none of them give a damn about such stuff, that's more for the people who are on the edge between being old and being young.

> I know > 10 people well into their 80's, none of them give a damn about such stuff, that's more for the people who are on the edge between being old and being young.

I'm middle eastern, and I've largely been tempered to a point of submission about anti-middle-eastern sentiment until someone directly or indirectly cites such ambivalence or submission as a reason to perpetuate that casual disrespect towards people of my background.

And then I get pretty pissed.

Let's not condone casual bigotry just because some members of a population have come to terms with its current inevitability.

I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about in this context. You are quoting my comment so I guess it should be related somehow but for the life of me I can't figure it out.

You have better things to do at 97 than worry about this nonsense. As a source I'm using all the old people I know, who the older they get the less they stress this inconsequential stuff.

I was impressed by genius Pharoah Sanders, releasing the beautiful album "Promises" with Floating Points and The London Symphony Orchestra

81 years young :)


Offtopic: Sanders had several (iirc) releases with Bill Laswell—bassist, producer, multi-genreist, attractor of all kinds of collaborators, and my hero. If someone looks for ‘similar music’ as a jump-off point, Laswell's work is a very rich source of such. Available on Bandcamp in all its 200+ releases glory.



Wow! Thank you so much for this. I'm always on the lookout for new music to listen to and this is absolutely wonderful.

In an attempt to return the favor:


I wish there was a monthly HN "what are you listening to" thread. :)

Write one right now!

Haha, I don't think I'm popular enough here to pull it off.

But here's my contrib nonetheless -> https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vJpN-887jOo

Try either way, maybe you’ll become popular then B)

Go post it, I'll upvote.

Whoa, I wasn't expecting much and wow, really nice! Thanks!

I checked it. OMG. Absolutely stunning piece of work.

Album of 2021 for many.

> A Japanese master of <instrument> continues to practice for hours daily, at a very old age. When asked why he bothers, he answers: “I begin to hear some improvement”.

One old lady that I know is a pianist and also a piano teacher. Her playing, well into her 80's is still amazing, she still practices hours and hours per day and is remarkably spry and mentally sharp. She bikes everywhere and lives in an apartment without an elevator.

You'd almost think that music keeps you young when you see her and people like Mrs. Slenczynska. Of course that's pure survivor bias but at the same time you have to wonder, if you grow old with nothing to do that might affect your health.

Reminds me of another Polish pianist (now past): Mieczysław Horszowski.

Horszowski, also a child prodigy, had his debut in Vienna in in 1902 at the age of 10. [1]

Horszowski's final performance took place in Philadelphia in October 1991 [age 99]. He died in that city a month before his 101st birthday. He gave his final lesson a week before his death. [2]


[1] Liner Notes: Horszowski- Mozart, Chopin, Schumann. Electra/Nonsuch E2 79202

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mieczys%C5%82aw_Horszowski

Watching the YouTube video in the article, I have to ask, does she hold the record for oldest video of a living person? That movie was taken 92 years ago...

> considered to be Rachmaninoff's last living pupil, often wearing a Faberge egg necklace that he gave to her.

Holy shit

Could she be the performer with the longest (musical) career in human history so far, 93 years if she started at 4?

She had a pause between age 15 (which would be 1940) and 1951. So, 82 years, I guess? Damn impressive indeed, although I'm more impressed by how she looks 15 years younger than she actually is. I would not have taken her for a 97 year old woman.

Woman performs music for 93 years, audience is more impressed by her relatively youthful appearance at 97. It’s a tough life’s work.

[Edit: Dear downvoters, I’m not seriously complaining about this. But the GP post used the words “I’m more impressed by…” — and you have to admit, it’s pretty ironic that, in the literal end, people are more impressed by a random genetic trait than the art on which you spent 93 years.]

It's not just a genetic trait. A lot more important will be how you eat and the amount of exercise you get. Also the amount of sun you're exposed to, and whether you overwork yourself (in the past elderly wealthy people looked a lot better and had longer lives than the working class). A lot of factors which have nothing to do with genes, but are the result of your decisions.

And privileges, by the way, if we’re going the route of more complex thinking by citing the other variables involved.

We've all been studying manipulative PUA techniques to get her to go on dates with us, too.

Many musicians have extremely long careers. Yeah it really sucks at the beginning and the training is gruesome. but it feels like it all pays off through access to an infinitely rich landscape that touches the human soul across generations.

I doubt there are many dentists that are still practicing well past retirement age.

I disagree. I find all artistry largely a selfish pursuit. Sure, a small percentage of artists touch others' souls, but mostly it's people trying to realize their poorly conceived vision to the ultimate benefit of no one.

That is quite a pitifully narrow worldview

Why do you think that? I have many friends who have aspired to be artists and musicians. They all do it out of a selfish desire to have others appreciate their work. For every one successful artist, there are tens of thousands of others that simply waste time and resources. If they weren't so enamored with themselves, they could create something that helps people or makes society better in some way. I truly feel that a life unsuccessfully dedicated to art is a life wasted.

I agree it is a very competitive career, mostly a winner take all world, and require a certain audacity and ego to make it through.

I would disagree that, just because a small percentage of them succeed, the artist path is a waste of resources.

The small number of big successes over the history have more than made up for the majority of failures in art.

Perhaps a more hacker news analogy is this: just because most start ups fail does not mean that pursuing start ups are a waste of resources. The competition creates a dialogue for people to tinker and figure out what really resonates with society.

Your viewpoint is at a more broad level than mine. I definitely think arts benefit society, which is in line with what you're saying.

But at a human level, those who unsuccessfully pursue the arts suffer. With their most productive years spent unfruitfully, their late lives seem difficult. Often, they haven't saved anything for retirement and need to toil in menial labor until their bones crumble to dust. Especially later in life, providing for others, especially one's children, becomes increasingly important. I see a lot of my artist friends struggle emotionally because they don't have the means to give their children certain opportunities.

Comparing musicians to startups is interesting. To continue the analogy, if you're not finding product-market-fit, then it might be time to pivot :)

The artist struggle is real. And one can do a simple Reddit search to see how many people regret their choices.

I admire the courage of artists (and startups, restaurants, scientists) going on such risky paths, and they collectively bring a net gain.

But I see your point in that I would hesitate to recommend pursuing art as specific advice for individuals. In this case I disagree with Ruth’s father’s parenting strategy even though Ruth became a successful pianist.

Every artist I know enjoys making art. Time enjoyed is not time wasted.

Have you personally created anything that helps people or makes society better in any way?

I hope so. I’ve created things used by hundreds of millions people, but maybe that’s not a good definition of “better”.

But whether or not I’ve made things better is irrelevant. What’s important is that at least I tried.

Can we see some of the things you've created in your own free time that are used by hundreds of millions of people then?

And of course it is relevant! That's what you say in your parent comment, right?

I prefer to maintain my anonymity. I'm not sure why you're personally attacking me for expressing my opinion. The point of my comment was that the ego of an artist is only self-serving. Obviously not every pursuit can end in success.

Of course you do. I was not attacking you, but just wondering what do you consider to be a superior past time than creating art. The fact that you have to hide behind the mask of anonymity tells me everything though, so thank you.

Feel free to respond to this comment with your LinkedIn. I will DM you there.

Recently I found the (Udo Dirkschneider born 1952) singer of former heavy metal band "Accept" with his current band UDO made a joined album together with the Bundeswehr Musikkorps - the Herman army orchestra. It's one of my favorites now, kudos to the army orchestra for experimenting like this and for Udo to still be active and even on tour at 70.



Gems like this are why I read HackerNews. Ms. Slenczynska really gets going there at the 55 second mark (in the second video on the page, Opus 110). As a middle aged former child prodigy myself with my septuagenerian genius mathematician father, we watched the 25 minute video of her recital together on my MBAir here at the breakfast table...just amazing.

Happy MLK day!

She's been at both ends of the achievement spectrum eh? Preternatural ability just out of toddlerhood, and still doing it well into ripe old age. Her love of playing is special because playing the piano never went away from her. It's been there all her life, it's always there for her and she will never have to grieve its loss.

Wow, her father was a genuine psychopath.

I would blame it in part on a senseless shooting game with fellow humans which cut short his career.

After his daughter was born he probably wanted to live his dreams through her, plus being immigrant, and Polish put extra pressure to perform.

Not an excuse for mental (and physical?) abuse but parents don't have to be psychopaths to do bad things.

I’m not sure if I ever met a successful adult who also happened to be a child prodigy growing up.

My brother is one such. He’s been regarded as the best in the world at his art since early teens, still is, and is quite happy, wife and kids, still highly successful, etc.

It comes down to the parenting, I think. We were a very grounded, normal family despite his early fame.

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