[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Linearity as pitch perception: was Perception as memory

FYI: I include at the bottom the url to a manuscript, about which I talked a few days ago and that seems to have never been published,
but I found it scanned on the web. It may be of interest to some of you.

Dear Kevin,

my perception is a bit different. Contour is certainly important for me. It has a lot to do with the movement of the music. I do not make confusions between tones a third or a fourth apart, but between tones that have the same vowel in their labels. And only if I put time pressure on my judgements.

It never felt that tones a fifth, fourth or third apart are more closely related than their distance in steps on the diatonic scale, which is the case with the octave (where you came home again).

I recently heard the same comment of two jazz musicians, that they have only AP for the scales in which they play. It seems that in jazz only a few scales are used.

It was true in the time that I had to make music dictations, very long ago, that I had to reconstruct the interval or chord from the notes. It does not mean that you could not say what kind of chord it was from the sound, such a major or minor.

here is the url:

I received it from Saul Sternberg in 1975.

I also found the obituary concerning the author:


On 01 Sep 2009, at 16:13, Kevin Austin wrote:

Thank you Leon. This is my third noted instance of the 'non- linearity' of pitch (perception) among three people possessing AP.

While I do not wish to speak for Eliot Handelman, a number of years ago (perhaps 5 or more) in a discussion with him the topic turned to a series of melodic dictations, sight-singing and theory exercises I had prepared. He asked me something like "What is this thing with melodic contour?", and went on to, as I understood it, indicate that he did not think that 'contour analysis' was necessarily valid. He will clarify what he said and what he meant. At the time, I thought he either had very poor hearing (which did not seem to be the case), or perhaps he had residual elements of AP, perhaps (as I thought) from taking violin lessons (or piano lessons) at a very young age.

Just before that, I had had the experience with a number of oriental students in my classes who exhibited an unusual (to me) form of AP. They were fine naming notes in the C and G pentatonic scales, and the intervals associated with them, that is, all intervals except the semitone and tritone. In these cases, there was confusion in interval identification between them. To me, one was "close", and the other "more distant". I pondered.

When they sang melodies, in general, the pentatonic notes of C and G, were well-placed and in tune. The other notes, (context dependent) were placed 'somewhere between' these points of reference -- they were 'variable' (or lost) pitches. Since then, I have equated this to having a clear pitch grid for certain notes, and the others being "somewhere between".

Leon's email indicates that there is confusion of pitches which are a third and a fourth apart. My experience in this is that people with good relative pitch may make (contextual) semitone errors, or confuse P4 and P5. I had mentioned before the heretical view that AP individuals do not hear intervals and chords (as integrated) in the same way that relative pitch individuals do. I'm not sure that we live in the same perceptual world.



Date:    Mon, 31 Aug 2009 22:07:46 +0200
From:    Leon van Noorden <leonvannoorden@xxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: Perception as memory


Long ago I have also performed some reaction time studies on note identification. With me as the only subject. Under pressure I made quite a lot confusion errors between fa and la and between si and mi.

So I think that AP subjects use a connection between the chroma and the tone height dimensions of pitch.