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Re: Perception as memory ...
Interesting! Jane Gitschier and her group at UCSF did a web study from
which they concluded (as did others anecdotally before them) that AP
labeling of notes tends to move in the upward direction with age, but
in my recollection this claim wasn't accompanied by a test of
statistical significance. I found that I was beginning to make
semitone errors in either direction, but recently with some practice
have been able largely to overcome this. I'm thinking that perhaps the
basic alteration is peripheral in origin, but that one can compensate
for it by readjusting ones categories centrally.
On Aug 25, 2009, at 12:44 AM, Leon van Noorden wrote:
my absolute labeling of notes has definitely gone up one step (a
"do" sounds rather more like a "re"). I am 64 now.
I have noticed this already quite some years now. 10 or 20 years.
But I can shift my grid now quite easily. Something I could
absolutely not do at younger age, say the first 20 years of my life.
In the kind of experimental music I have been doing all my life and
still do, in a small music group, I had to get rid of any standard
tonal reference system. Only the sound counts.
On 25 Aug 2009, at 02:16, Diana Deutsch wrote:
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
On Aug 24, 2009, at 2:12 PM, Kevin Austin wrote:
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
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:
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
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.