Who is a musician? (Pierre Divenyi )

Subject: Who is a musician?
From:    Pierre Divenyi  <pdivenyi(at)MARVA4.NCSC.MED.VA.GOV>
Date:    Tue, 6 Jun 2000 12:07:47 -0700

Dear Bill, Your question could be answered from two points of view. As a once-musician, I venture to say that, during that period of my life, I encountered a number of those I would label "excellent musicians" -- they heard things accurately AND they were able to hear things FUNCTIONALLY, i.e., the objects found their place in the whole of the particular musical context. This ability, I judged then, was as much a sensory as a cognitive skill and was usually paired with a generally inquisitive mind, a well-read culture, and imagination. In contrast, I have also known very skilled instrumentalists (some of whom actually achieved at least a limited concert career) who had no idea or about, and even interest in, music beyond moving their fingers or arms according to the notes to be played. In general, those individuals did not score very high in ear training (=solfege) or harmony classes and I presume that they would have been lousy listeners in auditory experiments. Based on this experience as a musician, as a psychoacoustician, I have approached the question in a very pragmatic way. Since I had no time to evaluate my subjects' musicianship, and I would not have known what test battery to use for the evaluation, since the oldest and best known among them, Seashore test, had been shown by then to be a poor indicator of almost everything except pitch discrimination, I only set up the requirement that my listeners should have had at least two years of active musical training. Why? Simply because if that training was effective to even a limited extent, it meant that the subject reached a certain performance level on my (usually complicated) listening tasks sooner than his/her musically moron counterpart. And a shorter training period meant savings, both in time and money. Conclusion: use musical subjects (as defined by yourself based on some arbitrary criterion) because they are cheaper. Pierre Divenyi **************************************************************************** Pierre Divenyi Experimental Audiology Research (151) V.A. Medical Center, Martinez, CA 94553, USA Phone: (925) 370-6745 Fax: (925) 228-5738 E-mail : pdivenyi(at)marva4.ebire.org ****************************************************************************

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DAn Ellis <dpwe@ee.columbia.edu>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University