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Re: Perception as memory ...

Hi Kevin,

I hadn't heard that anecdote about Benjamin Britten beginning to name notes flat - that's very interesting. Many people say that AP'ers begin to make errors in the sharp direction, but that's not been my experience - it seems to me that there's a lot of individual variation here. If by chance you know of a printed source about the Benjamin Britten story, I'd be grateful to hear about it.



On Aug 24, 2009, at 2:12 PM, Kevin Austin wrote:

Thanks Diana

I am seldom serious about anything I say; life is too short to be taken seriously, and too serious to be taken lightly.

My reference point, as I noted, [ ... My experience with some others with absolute pitch has been that they don't "hear" chords. One person told me that she did tonal harmonic analysis not by hearing the chord and its function, but by hearing the notes and doing a rapid [reverse engineering] analysis.... ] was four people with whom I have had this discussion. I did not reference "people with absolute pitch".

From the discussions with these four (and a few others), I am considering that those with absolute pitch occupy a different perceptual universe than the one I live in. Regrettably, I may have tried to oversimplify the description. On occasion, special occasions, I ask the following question: "At the end of the second movement of the Beethoven Eighth Symphony, do you hear that the cadence, as a full-close cadence, is successful?" I do not hear it thus; I hear the Ab which occurs just before the end, even though it is 'canceled' by a following A, as shifting the tonal center from Bb to Eb. Over the years, three of my colleagues who have taught music theory have then told me that they ... actually don't hear tonally. This is another thread for another list.

The individual with enough theory and absolute pitch then told me that s/he 'really couldn't tell' whether the key had changed, but the score indicates that it hadn't. I don't know what to make of these anecdotes.

In one conversation about transposition and absolute pitch, two pieces of information came out. The famous one about Britten's 'slipped' pitch, where C major in his later life mapped out as B major, and the other that compared transposition to being like reading in different fonts, but this didn't make sense to me so I have not told anyone about it.

I am not AP.




On 2009, Aug 24, at 4:23 PM, Diana Deutsch wrote:

Dear Kevin,

You can't be serious in saying that people with absolute pitch don't 'hear' chords. It's true that we can pick out the names of notes within a chord in addition to hearing it, but of course we perceive pitch relationships at the same time.

I quote from Arthur Rubenstein's autobiography: 'My young years', in which he describes an interview he had with the great Professor Joachim when he was about four years old:

'First he asked me to call out the notes of many tricky chords he struck on the piano, and then I had to prove my perfect ear in other ways. And finally, I remember, he made me play back the beautiful second theme of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony after he had hummed it. I had to find the right harmonies, and later transpose the tune into another tonality'.



Professor Diana Deutsch
Department of Psychology
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr. #0109
La Jolla, CA 92093-0109, USA

858-453-1558 (tel)
858-453-4763 (fax)


On Aug 24, 2009, at 7:05 AM, Kevin Austin wrote:

Thanks for the reply.

My experience is that perception is unique and individual -- statistical in nature.

The training example is interesting. What I didn't mention is that in three cases I 'tested', synesthetes, all three with absolute pitch and absolute color, they did not have the sensation of integration of the 10-note chord. They simple named the 10 notes in ascending order on hearing the sound for under a second. My experience with some others with absolute pitch has been that they don't "hear" chords. One person told me that she did tonal harmonic analysis not by hearing the chord and its function, but by hearing the notes and doing a rapid [reverse engineering] analysis. All three chose to be in the visual arts and keep music as a hobby.

One of the three prepared a 10 meter-long score of the first movement of the Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, in graph form, by ear. Each pitch class was represented by a different color (her color <-> pitch-class mapping). She reported difficulty in only one place, in the lead-up to the central (octave) unison, where certain inner voices appeared in the wrong octave. I think this had to do with the quality of the recording she was working from, and the (low) quality headphones she used. She did this all with relative ease and I realized (again) how dwarfish my own hearing is in such an environment.

At some point in this on-going discussion, there may be a topic on continuous and quantized time. Another time maybe.