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the number of fixed categories in absolute pitch

Robert Zatorre wrote:

> I always liked the idea, described by Ward among many others, that the
> cognitively interesting aspect of the AP phenomenon was the ability to
> a large number (up to 60 or so) of fixed categories along the pitch
> continuum. This is very different from what usually happens with other
> perceptual continua, such as loudness, intensity, weight, or hue, where
> limit is typically on the order of 7-10 categories (Miller's magic

The number of "fixed categories" is only large, if you test APers over
several octaves. Within an octave the number of categories (in "western"
countries) only is 12. And we should not forget that the AP ability only
concerns the categories within the octave range. Beyond the octave range,
APers make as many octave confusion errors as non-AP musicians.

There are, however, large variations within the group of APers. Some can
identify many pitches between two adjacent categories, like C and C#. They
can answer something like "C plus ca 10 Cent" or "C plus ca 30 Cent". So,
some APers actually have well over 100 categories in the octave range. [But
this is not what Ward had in mind. He was referring to semitones.]


Martin Braun
Neuroscience of Music
S-671 95 Klässbol
web site: http://w1.570.telia.com/~u57011259/index.htm