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Re: Perception as memory


Yours is not an isolated case. Musicians with AP often report the phenomenon of "the climbing tuning fork" as they age. Go see the Richter documentary by Monsaignon (it is worth seeing for Richter and lots of music): R. talks about it in one of the episodes, saying that he now hears a note to be a whole tone higher. I have been experiencing the same which often drives me crazy when listening to music on the air or from recordings. Getting old is not great, except if you consider the alternative. I hope you keep up with your piano -- you were excellent some 15 years ago...


Eric LePage wrote:
In reply to your message dated 26/08/2009 at 12:12

Hi all,
I too am 64 and can score A+ with the UCSF score, but have been noticing half step errors in the naming of notes for the last year or two.
I first read about this phenomenon a long time ago:
Schelleng, J. C. Letter: Anomaly in pitch perception. J Acoust Soc Am. 1975 Jan; 57(1):249-50.
His two page letter describes regional dislocations, first one half step (semitone), then two.

Ever since reading this article I've been wondering whether as I aged I would experience the same phenomenon.  Indeed I have.  The first time was alarming - of the genre of remembering what you were doing when you heard that JFK had been assassinated.   I was listening to an organ work which I knew well while visiting St. Sulpice in Paris.  I thought that I'm either going crazy or the organ is tuned sharp (always possible).  It was like the weirdness of experiencing one's first earth-tremor - one's sense of absolute security is shattered, i.e. At first I was just as sure I was assigning the tags correctly, only to realise I was not.

What it has done is to challenge my ideas about mechanisms in AP.  1) I realise it is now episodic --  it comes and goes and I think it tends to be tied to how recently active I have been as a musician.  2) Other times it takes a second or two to 'recalibrate', after which security is restored.  It is indeed possible to recalibrate by imagining where a C (~1kHz) or A(440) should be.  (Bill Siegel once was surprised that I could do this with accuracy, despite otherwise displaying categorical perception).   3) The really alarming thing is that the sense of certainty is not lost, so this says that categorisation is taking place centrally, where as the wandering of the grid suggests cochlear involvement, e.g. loss of basilar membrane stiffness with aging.

Eric LePage
Perth, Australia