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Height and pitch



The following is a short fragment from Fabre d’Olivet's (1768 – 1825) account of the then much disputed healing of a deaf-mute, Rodolphe Grivel, as documented in a letter to his publisher Ferrier in April 1811.

Rodolphe wrote in his diary: "Mr Fabre plays the violin. He told me that the heavy strings give low sounds and the thin strings high sounds. I always find that the low sounds are the most agreeable to my ears." 
Fabre d’Olivet reports that Rodolphe had difficulty, at first, in understanding the distinction of high and low sounds as demonstrated on the violin: "[Rodolphe] was unable to conceive that we should call low the sounds that seemed to him loud and which he heard wonderfully; and high, on the contrary, the sounds that he hardly heard because of their tenuity. If I had left him to his own ideas upon this point, it is certain that he ... would have called descending what we now call ascending."

From:
Fabre d’Olivet (1811/1927). The Healing of Rodolphe Grivel: Congenital Deaf-Mute, Done into English by Nayaěn Louise Redfield. New York & London: G.P.Putnam's Sons.

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Sotirios Bakagiannis
Unit for the Study of Musical Skill and Development
Keele University
Staffs ST5 5BG
U.K.