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Re: AW: absolute pitch & animals

Title: Re: AW: absolute pitch & animals
At 10:30 AM -0400 4/30/04, Robert Zatorre wrote:

In fact, musicians without AP can sometimes achieve what may be called pseudo-AP in that they develop a long-term memory for a single reference note (e.g., many orchestra musicians can reliably identify A 440 because they've heard it so often). This may be similar to what the bats are able to do.

When I played in a band at school, a bunch of us had fun for a while trying to see who could sing, hum or whistle the tuning note most closely each morning before the band director played it. We all got very good at it (none of us were APers). In discussing how we did it, one possible cue we considered was motor rather than perceptual - for that one note, we learned the vocal tract conformation (for singing), or the lip tension (for whistling).

Once we had the tuning note memorized, we could mimic AP by using the tuning note as a reference, subvocally (without actually producing it).

I'm able to sing overlearned popular songs in the correct key spontaneously (within a semi-tone: I've checked). They just sound "wrong" otherwise. I believe this is a studied phenomenon, but I can't find the reference, I think it's from the 80s. Subjects were invited to sing a verse from each of two self-chosen popular songs, and the productions were compared to the recorded versions. Something like 40% of the scorable productions were within one note of being in the correct key.

Susan Hall
Dalhousie University