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Re: any examples of acquired absolute pitch?

Hi Susan,

I believe this is exactly why the older term of "perfect pitch" was substituted with the newer term of "absolute pitch", which is not meant to imply that the Western tonal system has any more value than other musical tonal systems, e.g. India.  Or at least, that is my understanding.  There are of course many individuals with AP who are not raised within the Western tonal system, and indeed, if the evidence is to be believed, the incidence of AP may well be significantly higher in speakers of tone languages, like Mandarin and Korean, perhaps because they associate pitch with verbal labels early on, as Deutsch suggests.  Whether or not it is of any "use" to them for non-speech purposes, in the way that it is to performers of Western music, is perhaps the more interesting question?

Let's not get too hung up on the terminology.


On 19 Apr 2008, at 07:15, Susan Allen wrote:


I find it amazing that you all talk about absolute or perfect pitch in regard to Western tuning systems!
Why are Western systems 'perfect' or 'absolute'?
These tuning systems are constructed, like the Bible, on thousands of inputs and are not related to any 'one thing' except their own outcome!
viz Stuart Isacoff "Temperament" which documents the history of how we arrived at our "perfect" systems!!
They are not 'perfect' and they represent nothing except imperialistic notions...how could pitch be perfect in Iran? in Thailand? in Indonesia? in Africa?

Susan Allen

Susan Allen PhD
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Instructor of Harp & Improvisation
The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, CA 91355 USA

phone 661-753-4200


On Apr 18, 2008, at 10:57 PM, Arturo Camacho wrote:


Check http://www.perfectpitch.com. They claim that many people have
acquired perfect pitch with their method and cite two studies in which its
effectiveness has been confirmed:

(1) Rush, M. A. An experimental investigation of the effectiveness of
training on absolute pitch in adult musicians, The Ohio State University.

(2) Nering, Marguerite Elaine. A study to determine the effectiveness of
the David Lucas Burge technique for development of Perfect Pitch, The
University of Calgary.

I tried the method about 15 years ago and got to hear what they described:
a maximum in smoothness at C and a maximum in sharpness at F# (those were
not their exact words, but what I remember I perceived). However, I was
not as consistent as recommended (I was too busy to practice everyday) and
after a while my performance actually started to decrease. I gave up at
about 1/4 of the course.


Hi, i've found some interesting comments on absolute pitch on this
mailing list and was wondering if anyone has heard of any examples of
people who have acquired absolute pitch somehow during their later lives,
ie not in early childhood development.

There is a clear trend between absolute pitch (AP) and autism, and many
autistic savants with musical talents (which tend to be more in terms of
music reproduction ability than creative composition) that have been
examined also have AP. There are numerous examples of people who have
acquired special abilities such as those exhibited by autistic savants as
a result of injury or other non-developmental processes. I haven't however
heard of any examples of people who have acquired AP later in life, it
would be very useful if anyone knows of any examples.

There are suggestions that AP development is an independent process that
is present in autistic and non-autistic people, and that presence of AP is
pre-requisite for development of special musical abilities for savants.
This model would suggest that cases of later-life AP
development would be unlikely, however if there are any examples of people
developing AP later in life for example through brain injury, similar to
how savant-like special abilities have been shown to be developed
(essentially spontaneously), it would be very useful.



a couple of references:

** <http://www.brams.umontreal.ca/plab/publications/article/32>Absolute
pitch in autism: a case study, L Mottron, I Peretz, S Belleville, N Rouleau
- Neurocase, 1999

Musical savants: exceptional skill in the mentally retarded, Miller L K,
Lawrence Erlbaum, 1989: 266

Absolute pitch in blind musicians, Roy H. Hamilton, Alvaro Pascual-Leone
and Gottfried Schlaug, NeuroReport Vol 15 No 5, 9 April 2004

Leuconoe, don't ask — it's dangerous to know — what end the gods will
give me or you. Don't play with Babylonian fortune-telling either. Better
just deal with whatever comes your way. Whether you'll see several more
winters or whether the last one Jupiter gives you is the one even now
pelting the rocks on the shore with the waves of the Tyrrhenian sea — be
smart, drink your wine. Scale back your long hopes to a short period. Even
as we speak, envious time is running away from us. Seize the day, trusting
little in the future.


Arturo Camacho, PhD
Computer and Information Science and Engineering
University of Florida

Web page: www.cise.ufl.edu/~acamacho


José Ignacio Alcántara, M.A., Ph.D.

University Lecturer
Department of Experimental Psychology
University of Cambridge
Downing Street
Cambridge CB2 3EB

Fellow and Tutor,
Director of Studies in Natural Sciences (Biological)
Fitzwilliam College
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