----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2004 3:14
Subject: infants and pitch
Annemarie Seither-Preisler wrote:
The findings by
Saffran appear to be very revealing in this respect, showing that young
infants at the age of 8 months, unlike adults, primarily rely on absolute
R. & Griepentrog, G. J. Absolute pitch in infant auditory learning:
evidence for developmental reorganization. Dev Psychol 37, 74-85
R. Musical Learning and Language Development. Ann NY Acad Sci 999, 397-401
In summary, these
results suggest that absolute pitch is a primary perceptual mode that is
heavily superseded by relative pitch (probably in the course of language
acquisition). Early musical training or learning a tonal language like
Thai or Japanese may help to prevent this edging out-process, with the
consequence that certain subjects retain the ability to perceive absolute
pitch throughout life. Verbal categorizations of notes may be helpful in
this respect, but it would be misleading to take them for the main
A paper by Sandra Trehub suggests that infants are also sensitive to
Trehub SE (2001) Musical predispositions in infancy.
Ann NY Acad Sci, 930: 1-16 2001.
In searching for this ref, I just found another of
Trehub's demonstrating the ability of non-musicians to discriminate recordings
of instrumental themes from popular TV shows in their correct key, from those
transposed up or down by only one or two semi-tones. They conclude that
"Adults' reportedly poor memory for pitch is likely to be a by-product of
their inability to name isolated pitches."
Schellenberg, EG and Trehub, SE (2003) Good pitch
memory is widespread. Pyschological Science, 14 (3): 262-266.