The Musical Genius (Autism)
There is a young blind man who can play the piano like Mozart but cannot count to five or do up his own shoelaces. Can anyone explain the mystery of savant musician Derek Paraviccini?
Derek, aged 25 at the time of this documentary, is autistic and totally blind with an IQ of a 4 year old, he sucks his thumb and lives in a home for the blind. But when he sits at a piano he is transformed into a musician that few could equal. His memory contains many thousands of tunes which he can play faultlessly and in any key, a skill which defies even the finest professional musicians. Nothing is beyond Derek’s musical range. Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, obscure Russian composers, modern Jazz, Pop and the Blues — they all seem to come naturally to Derek. Uncannily he can play something as he hears it for the very first time —with only a split second delay, so it appears he is playing along with a tune he knows well. Derek Paravicini was one of twins born at 25 weeks, in 1979. Back then, there was little that could be done for such early premature babies. The oxygen treatment given to Derek in the incubator unit was life-saving, but there was a major side-effect of the treatment – blindness. Derek’s blindness, called rentrolental fibroplasia, was caused when oxygen pushed on the blood vessels and caused them to grow too quickly and resulted in brain damage. So could Derek’s extraordinary musical talent be the result of brain damage caused during his resuscitation at birth or has he inherited his genius. This film explores his musical ability and that of other savant musicians to try and discover where their musical genius comes from.