Aural Triggers for a Language of Performance?

In the last two years I have become interested in the insights music can offer to the development of a language about performance in sport. In the last week I found three examples of music and sound offering insights.

On 20 November Graham Abbott presented a ‘Keys to Music’ program about Motzart’s C major Symphony, K551 (“Jupiter”). I was fascinated to learn that Graham regards this piece as “one of the most sensational achievements of all Western music”.

In his blog post about the program, Graham observes that:

The “Jupiter” is a staggering masterpiece, and in the last movement in particular we see Mozart out-Baching Bach, out-Haydning Haydn, and even out-Mozarting himself. Why did he push the symphony in such a direction, simultaneously cerebral, sparkling, intense, entertaining and academic? What audience could he have possibly hoped would appreciate such a thing?

This is a link to the podcast of the program. The podcast is a detailed examination of the symphony. The skill and knowledge Graham has is a great example for anyone wishing to observe and analyse performance in sport.

A second program this week offered insights into sound and listening. Margaret Throsby interviewed sound recordist Chris Watson. This is a link to the podcast of the program.


Chris explained in detail the work of a sound recordist. The podcast has some great insights into the art of listening and a discussion about how to capture the essence of a sound. Chris’s website is an excellent example of how sound can be used to engage a viewer. I liked his discussion of the use of birdsong as a calming influence (more information here).

Towards the end of the week ABC Television interviewed Sir Simon Rattle at the conclusion of the Berlin Philharmonic’s first tour of Australia. The transcript of his interview is available. I liked the first two points Sir Simon made about the Orchestra:

They simply love to play. Every concert they play like it’s their last concert on Earth.

I’m biased; they’re my family. They’re the most extraordinary orchestra I know of. It’s a kind of energy you could power a small nuclear plant with.

The interview discussed the mentor program the Orchestra offered to Australian school children through the work of Cathy Milliken (Brisbane born director of the Orchestra’s education program). I was fascinated by quality of the Berlin Philharmonic’s work and thought that what they do is an exemplar for any sporting organisation seeking to inspire and support performance.

What a great week for thinking about performance and exploring the aural triggers for learning.

Photo Credit


Coaching, Composition, Ecology and Big Pictures

Last week I was involved in a lot of discussions about coaching and coach development. For years I have been thinking about the vision that links people after reading an Arthur Koestler paper in the late 1980s entitled The Vision that Links the Poet, Artist and Scientist.


This week I have been thinking about the links between coaching and composition following a Graham Abbott program about Mozart. In 1788 he composed his last three symphonies, 39 (in E flat), 40 (in G minor)  and 41 (in C). In his analysis of these three symphonies Graham Abbott suggests that one refers back to the whole of Mozart’s work, one emphasises Mozart’s present occupations and one holds within it the next century of classical music. I was wondering if that is what great coaches do too in their coaching. Do they have three concurrent rhythms running through their work: the biography that positioned them to coach in the here and now and that allows them to envisage performance that can be?


By coincidence the Hubble Telescope was in the news last week. I wondered if coach education and development might set some Hubble type aspirations:

  • NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe.
  • With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life. The telescope’s new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments.
  • Hubble also is now significantly more well-equipped to probe and further characterize the behavior of dark energy, a mysterious and little-understood repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

If this kind of vision is what coaching is about then I think coaching is about first principles too. I wondered if the insights coaches have match those of a soil scientist like Christine Jones and an innovative farmer like Cam McKellar who appeared on Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program. If you have an opportunity to listen to the podcast then it will sound very familiar to coaches interested in grassroots development!


I am hopeful that the visions held by composers, astronomers and farmers can enrich our thinking about coaching.

Photo Sources (The Commons)

The St Raphael Team

An Orchestral Practice

Hubble Image

Planting Tomatoes