The power of Repetitiveness

Talk about what you've discovered by using ETC-- and post your high ranks!
gavriel
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The power of Repetitiveness

Postby gavriel » Sun Mar 16, 2008 3:00 pm

I would suggest all those who question the usefulness or have trouble with applying AP to take a piece of music they love. Preferably a classical piece before the romantic era.

Listen to this piece everyday, many times a day, endlessly, again and again.
It is effortless! Just allow yourself to be exposed to something you initially reacted positively to (a piece of music you loved the first time you heard it).

Just like in the practice of meditation. The magic is, that our brain is designed to avoid repetitiveness. This is an evolutional prerequisite - when something repeats itself we define it as background and look for new stimulus. In a jungle, at night, all the sounds which are repetitive (wind, water flawing, insects, fire) become the background and make place in our attention for a possible new sound (Tiger, Snake...). Our mind eagerly looks for new "material".

In meditation, we simply force our mind to devote itself to one and the same thing. For example, we think only about our breathing in and out, counting it till four at a time, for about 15 minutes (or up to 2 hours for advanced meditation).
After a minute of doing so, an average person's mind will start rebeling and doing all possible tricks to get free from that applied perceptual limitation. Although concentrating on our breathing could be described as "effortless" (since we know what it is and how to do it, and we can easily do it once), doing it for a while is very very hard.

The beneficial effect of such an activity happens when the mind tries to find alternative gateways, and along the way the more gates we "close" - forcing our mind to come back to the breathing - the more gates our mind creates and discovers, trying to "save" itself from the limitation of having to think about one thing only.
The result is a refreshed mental environment, a more creative and open mind, relaxed body once we stop the meditation.

In fact, a prisoner's mind locked in a dark silent room for a few weeks can only save itself by going insane i.e. by creating illusions and inner dramas (=gates) sceneries. The mind prefers even insanity to extreme repetitiveness.

In the case of music, if you make yourself listen to a piece you like over and over again, your mind is "forced" to find ever new ways of perceiving these *painfully* familiar sounds. Our minds literally cannot bare the repetitive perception of exactly the same stimulus over and over again and again. Even if that stimulus is something we basically/initially find/found pleasant and enjoyable.
All the musicians I know who have complete musical literacy and are individually fluent in that language of music have had at least extensive periods (if not a lifetime) of listening to specific musical/aural material again and again. Some are junkies of specific pieces and listen to them "millions" of times, others practice passages over and over again.

Here are some more examples:

I have a friend with an "atomic ear". She is not playing (the organ) anymore, but when we were a bit younger I remember she used to watch the same talk show millions of times or listen to recordings of stories (read aloud) endlessly. She was addicted to forcing herself to dive ever deeper into the SAME COMPLEX AURAL TRIGGER.
She used to act the talk show to us (which she new by heart of course) with such accuracy that it was scary. She would imitate all the voices (of D. Latterman and his guests for example... and the music, and the advertisements and even the sound and rythm with which the guest came into the studio, and the length and type of the applause).
She didn't practice or work hard to develop the amazing hearing and musicality she has, she simply exposed herself over and over again to the same recorded material. I witnessed how her perfect pitch developed. It happened after she got hooked on music and developed this "junky habits" I just described. She was always an addictive type but before had to do with sports and painting, then she changed to music and speech and her hearing developed so rapidly and naturally.


Centuries ago in Baroque times all musicians were composers and they all studied counterpoint with methods spanning over 20 tomes of exercises (each with hundreds of pages). This methods would scare you to death if you had a look at them today. The exercises are almost identical over hundreds of pages. They cover for example ALL the possible combinations of two voices were the first voice is a C whole note (or even a brevis which equals two whole notes) followed by a G whole note (for example) under a strict and very complex set of (religious musical) rules.


Or another example: Figured bass practices meant that (like in Jazz) people harmonized a (very simple) bass line in all possible ways again and again. The very study and practice of music thus involved exposure for the same material again and again.


The Gregorian Chants on which the whole church music is based are only a few dozens (the famous ones). That means that for over three centuries, there were few dozens of melodies which were used EVERY DAY in the church (when praying) - as standards to interpret, take-in, improvise upon!


My father, who cannot read music, listened to the Bach Ciaconne (for violin solo) everyday about 5 times for 45 years of working in the lab. This was his way of starting the day. He was addicted to forcing his mind in such a way. After that he felt "in balance" and ready to work in the lab.
Needless to say he has a fantastic ear and sings very much in tune and in the right key (better than I do - and I am a professional musician). He also has a phenomenal musical memory (which i dont - not to such extreme extent) which he sais was developed during these years. he is convinced it is a function of "listening to Bach" as he puts it.


All this comes down to feelings (for not having a better word). When you listen to Bach again and again, the music and its functionality becomes self-explanatory. You gradually become able to "flash" the whole piece in a second without having to listen to the piece from the beginning to the end. It lives in an abstract form in your mind so that you can experience it literally in-a-flash. Time and the flow-of-time becomes a Feeling in that piece rather than an actual chronic Time you'd have to spend listening to the notes in the piece one after the other. Thus, Rythm Harmony Articulation... all fall into a single point; like sort of a "perceptive black-hall" where the piece can be experienced and grasped at once; At a glance.


Such experience gives a similar feeling to the feeling of loving somebody/something. It is when music becomes completely embedded in our being and a part of our well-being.


Speaking from own experience it does indeed come down to feelings. and these come about not because you try to hear the twingy quality of an F# but because you hear a whole piece in F# millions of times in different interpretations (including your own?) and in different life situations (when you are sad, happy, lonely, driving, sleeping, eating...)
As kitchy and non-scientific as it might sound this IS the main science there is to learning the language of music and making it subjectively real for oneself. As real as your hand, the taste of chocolate, the feeling of love to someone, or the meaning of the word "ohhhh" pronounced by your grandmother.


hmmm...
I better stop here.

Gavriel.
Last edited by gavriel on Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:49 am, edited 3 times in total.

petew83
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Postby petew83 » Sun Mar 16, 2008 10:32 pm

great post

balkoka
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Postby balkoka » Wed Mar 19, 2008 2:43 pm

I loved it too - real eye opener!

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:17 pm

Speaking from own experience it does indeed come down to feelings. and these come about not because you try to hear the twingy quality of an F# but because you hear a whole piece in F# millions of times in different interpretations (including your own?) and in different life situations (when you are sad, happy, lonely, driving, sleeping, eating...)

This certainly agrees with the main-page post I (finally) finished today... now I have to figure out: why?

gavriel
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Postby gavriel » Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:05 pm

fascinating text Chris.

To try to answer the question at the end of your text:
How can an absolute pitch be described, functionally, so that no other pitch fits the same description?


I would say, we should follow the same strategy you followed with perceptual differentiation. This time implementing Functional Differentiation.

Here I should note that the terms Characteristic and Function are physically speaking the same thing. Function (if I understand correctly) is the ability to apply the characteristic functionally (systematically) to a scale of values or to a vocabulary-of-qualities.

At first glance I thought that would mean that we hear a note whose different functions are changing (for example height, timbre, chroma), and we should be able to learn what is the function of Absolute Pitch by differentiating it from other functions, but is actually the catch 22 you write about.

I think you hit the point in your text in that height is the pit fall.
The ability to differentiate by height stands in the way.

To give an analogy, if we wanted to try and see by smelling or through listening to the resonance of objects, the first thing we would do is CLOSE OUR EYES, right?
if we would also block our ears that would leave us with the function of smelling objects (a function we might never noticed or used before systematically for navigating and recognizing objects).

In the same way we should neutralize our sense of height and timbre to be left only with the sense of chroma as a function for judgment.

This is were your examples of C4.5 could get very useful.

Programming-wise, imagine a software which always plays all 8 octaves of a given pitch (for the sake of this example let's say that the program is playing single notes only - no chords or arpeggios of different chromas). Each single note (tone) is a composite of 8 octaves of the same pitch-chroma. it is very important to compose each of the tones out of many (at least eight) pitches with the same chroma so that they don't sound like an interval!

There is a Question Tone and three Answer Tones.
The program automatically calculates the levels of the octaves of one of the Answer Tones to match the height of the Question Tone.
The Quation Tone and and Answer Tones have different Pitch Chromas.

So for example we hear a G4 as a question and then we hear the following three possible answers:
C4.5
C2
and C6.2

The player must choose C4.5 as the correct answer since the height is the same like the height of G4.
Chris, if you will use highly compound tones (tones made of at least 8 different pitches with the same chroma), it will be easier to shear the height simmilarity than in tones compound out of two pitches only.
What I mean is that to achieve C4.5 you should use for example:
A bit of C1
A bit of C2
A bit of C3
A bit of C4
A bit of C5
A bit of C6
A bit of C7
and A bit of C8

Then when you compare it to G4, you will more readily be able to hear the similarity in height. If you use few tones a trained musician can very easily extract the second (higher) tone out of the overtones and recognize it as a separate pitch thereby completely missing the compound height and rather hearing two notes each with its own height.
In a bizzare way, Absolute Pitch might be the ability to hear fractional height values (for example C4.5). Since that is the only way to perceive two tones with the same height but different chroma!

Since the function of Height seems to be the perceptional "black hall" into which relative listeners keep falling, such a game could force the player to discover the function of chroma by answering the question which one of the other chromas has the same height as the Question Tone?

Later on, as the game become more difficult, one could go one step further were the question tone is G4 and the possible answers are:
compound A2
compund D6
compound C4.5

Again the correct answer is C4.5 because the height is the same as G4.
By equalizing the familiar function of Height to zero difference (G4=C4.5) we are directly confronted with the only difference which is left - the difference in chroma, and this difference becomes functional since for the very first time the function of height is NOT there anymore.

Our mind will answer the question: If height of G4 = height of C4.5 and the timbre is the same then what is the difference we are hearing? what is the function according to which we hear a difference?
The answer is:
The difference we are hearing is the function of Absolute Pitch.

To give a definition:
The function of Absolute Pitch is the ability to differentiate tones independently from their relative height.

Or put differently:
The function of Absolute Pitch is the ability to hear fractional height (compound height values), thereby experiencing the independence between chroma and height.


Can't wait to to put my hours into such a game!

Greets to all,

Gavi.

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Postby djf » Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:15 pm

This sounds exactly right to me. Your point early in the post about "seeing" by the resonance of objects reminded me of this video that I saw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkDI_spL0HQ It's a CBS news report about a blind kid who figured out echolocation. I completely agree with your idea for a new game. Would this game supplement or replace APB?

gavriel
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Postby gavriel » Thu Mar 20, 2008 3:07 am

I would say it should supplement.
APB is perfect in differentiating chroma.
If I understood Chris correctly, he is looking for an additional tool to differentiate the function of chroma hearing from other aural functions.
Since "height hearing" is the function which we (relative listeners) tend to fall back into even after being able to listen to the chroma of notes, this function should be deactivated by comparing notes with same height but different chroma.

Actually I have another idea. It is a possible tweak to APB which should not be very difficult to implement.
Imagine for a moment the pool of notes ABP is playing from.
It plays only standard pitches like A3, C4, B3 etc...

What if APB - being exactly the same game it is now - would play fractional pitches which all have the same height?!

So for example one "octave" of pitches in APB would be (I donno the exact values): C4, C#3.9, D3.8, D#3.7, E3.65, F3.57, F#3.5, G3.2 etc... (supposing that these values all result in exactly the same height => the same frequency just different harmonic make-ups).

This little tweak would eliminate the height difference between the pitches within one octave! and in a fast mode of play APB should thus much faster bring by the function of Absolute Pitch!
Imagine hearing chords and fast arpeggios in APB which are constructed out of pitches with the same height! wow. that would be awesome!
I would sell my piano to be able to play such a game :wink:

Basically, by implementing this tweak we would be avoiding the spiral-like "scale" of pitches going gradually ever heigher in frequency from one octave to the other. The height/chroma dependency which is so well illustrated in one of Chris' texts (we have to higher the pitch to hear the "next" chroma - we get to C# by making C heigher... etc).
by implementing the tweak I suggest we would slice the cylinder horizontally onto rings of 12 pitches (each) with the same height.

Once again (this is really important!) I want to note the crucial importance of the compound notes being constructed of as many separate pitches as possible. The compound pitches have to be constructed out of as many pitches as possible (at least 8 different octaves). That makes it impossible to break into separate pitches and easier to perceive their fractional height value.
I made a test, and even sounds which are compound of 4 different pitches are very easy to break down to their component octave-pitches. if I can break a sound down to its component pitches I am actually hearing a chord of pitches with "primary" height values rather than a compound pitch with a fractional height value.

cheers
Gavi.


PS Please do tell what you think. Does it make any sense??
Curious...
Last edited by gavriel on Sat Mar 22, 2008 6:39 am, edited 2 times in total.

gavriel
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Postby gavriel » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:05 am

Image

:lol:... got so excited that had to draw something.
If Chris could program APB to automatically equalize the frequency of all compound pitches, one could practice in one frequency for a while (say 440Hz) and learn to differentiate all chromas at that height and then gradually higher the frequency of all notes (say 550, then 700, 1000 etc...) and learn to differentiate the chromas at heigher frequencies (one frequency at a time).

Then once chroma differentiation within a given frequency ("height" level) is mastered, one could start mixing different frequencies but not in the way APB is doing it now, were all the pitches have a primary height value (C4,A3,E6 etc.) but rather in a fractional height manner (C3.4, A5.8, E2.1).

The question lends itself:
Could it be that children who develop absolute pitch naturally perceive complex sounds around them which (unlike sounds played on our diatonic instruments) have fractional height values and instead of translating ("bending"... forcing..) these sounds into a primary height value (A3,C4,B6 etc) they perceive them as they are - as compound sounds with fractional height - thereby automatically separating height from chroma and thus getting exposed to the function of Absolute Pitch?

The thought that hearing fractional height values as such might be the very factor that directly and naturally leads to Absolute Pitch makes perfect sense to me.

We are in fact trained to hear any sound as a primary height values or as an interval between two primary height values. Even when it isn't the case. Our instruments and in fact all the anthology of western music rarely expose us to very complex sounds with fractional height values which cannot be reliably broken down or forced into a primary height value. Such complex sounds however are very often found in nature or in a non-musical environment.

Think of the typical sounds which excite absolute listeners (birds, squeaks, glass, hitting with a spoon on a porcelain plate, car engine, growls...).
These are all very complex (compund) sounds in terms of height. it would be practically impossible to define the height of the sound of an engine since the pitch usually repeats itself with differentiating strength over many octaves. However the chroma of that sound is often easily recognizable. I know for example that the train I am taking from home to downtown has a dominant chroma of C# and another less dominant chroma of low-F# creating an out-of-tune forth which "slides up" to D-G and then D#-G# as the train accelerates.
So what actually happens is that I hear the engine of the train and instead of taking in its sound as constant-height/sliding chroma, I force my mind to hear sliding height/sliding chroma. An absolute listener would feel how the chroma gradually modulates from C#-F# to D-G while the height of the sound is staying the same or changes independently of the chroma. i on the other hand create an illusion that the height and chroma are interdependent.

Even the height of speech is less define-able than one thinks it is. I dare to suppose that here the case is opposite from the case with the train.
The height of speech is rather stable especially with people who tend to "sing" more when speaking. however the chroma is modulating. Since the sound of our voice is constructed out of a dominant interval (two dominant pitches) and many other subtle barely-hearable pitches, one could suppose that an absolute listener hears a very rich "color" in a human voice which - while having at times a stable height value - is made-up of a modulating combination (make-up) of chromas.

One again, the most fundamental pitfall seems to be that we are working with MIDI sounds - a most isolated, artificially simplified bottom-up-constructed stimulus.

My gut feeling is, one should have many versions of APB:
1) Playing synthetically generated same-height/different-chroma sounds
2) Playing cut outs of chords and notes in WAV format which are taken out of live recordings of reall acoustic performances. For example the first three notes of the goldberg variations (both hands - played by Glenn Gould), the first five notes of Tears in Heaven played and sung by Clepton, the first three notes of a Bach Saraband played by Hilary Hahn, etc. The player would then recognize complex sound make-ups.
3) Playing APB with incredibly complex sounds made up of dozens of different sonar events, some live some synthetic. This has to do with the Decoding issue I wrote about in another post suggesting the Screening Game. The player only has to recognize one note (one with which he is already very familliar), or alternatively compare two examples and see if there is difference (if there is no difference he shoots the missile... for example - just an idea).
4) Reverse APB. This is very important. The same game but you shoot the missile when you STOP hearing a pitch. For example you are training red "C": As long as you hear the C in the example you don't shoot, when you do NOT hear the C, you launch the missile.

If we would have all these four games and the functional interval loader and chord hopper, I am sure the results would come by very fast.


Damn, I feel like going down town and spending a day in that train... :-)

G

abminor
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Postby abminor » Thu Mar 20, 2008 8:46 am

Could it be that children who develop absolute pitch naturally perceive complex sounds around them which (unlike sounds played on our diatonic instruments) have fractional height values and instead of translating ("bending"... forcing..) these sounds into a primary height value



Very interesting way to define chroma perception as resulting from a lack of height categorization thus allowing another way to categorize sounds.

This could also mean that AP owners would be more sensitive to timbre nuances if all height changes relative listeners perceive are perceived by the former as timbre variations (wich may be a more "realistic" way to hear).

But doesn't it contradict studies telling that absolute perception is temporal rather than spectral ?

gavriel
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Postby gavriel » Thu Mar 20, 2008 9:03 am

Hi,

True but...
Whether it is temporal or not, the question Chris raised was how to nail the *function* of absolute hearing.
It's clear that at least to some extent APB teaches us to hear chroma.
We can name and recognize (certain) pitches quickly. However is this differentiation functional to our experience of sound in general? if not, how can we make it be functional?

If we are used to categorize (-good word!) sound by timbre ("thats a piano") and then height ("second octave - a third higher than the previos note") the perception of chroma will not be useful to us. It will not be functional.
The function (if I understand this word as Chris meant it) makes a perceived quality applicable. It makes us be able to use the perception of Chroma fundamentally when listening.

Now to nail the function of Absolute Pitch without knowing what true absolute pitch is exactly (we can only know once we have it), I find that the only way is to experience fractional height, thereby separating chroma from height. Absolute Pitch functionality should then come as a natural outcome, shouldn't it?

G.

gavriel
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Postby gavriel » Thu Mar 20, 2008 9:32 am

This could also mean that AP owners would be more sensitive to timbre nuances if all height changes relative listeners perceive are perceived by the former as timbre variations (wich may be a more "realistic" way to hear).


That is exactly right I believe!

I don't think that APs are necessarily "height deaf" and have to refer to any height variables within a given chroma as timbre. But they definitely have a tendency to do so! The APs I know perceive the height of a tone as height only when they have to and they will tend to describe it with adjectives we use for timbre. In fact, it would be very difficult to prove whether they actually hear height as height or maybe they just compare chromas to judge the frequency.

We should not forget that AP as well just like RP, is an ability that can have many levels of development. Some APs get distracted by a timbre of an instrument (they can recognize a bird's singing or a note on their instrument, but when they hear some unfamiliar timbre they have to first separate it from the chroma).
Other more totally developed APs hear anything as chroma immidiately. Interestingly, these APs often end up growing into the most dry musicians around - playing with no feeling "separate notes". Their playing is characterized with bad legato, hard touch (on a piano) or bad sound production (on a violin for example), cold phrasing (no tension between the tones). They play as if the music explains itself. But alas, it does not!
Music needs relative interpretation.

I would have never exchanged my musical experience with that of an extreme born AP. They have great difficulty engaging in analysis and feeling music two dimensionally (which is as important as 3Dt!).

I am very happy to be here, 30 years old, working on my Absolute Pitch. When I get a full spectral absolute functional perception, the order in which I worked I believe will have lent a more meaningful result than just having absolute pitch since you are a child and never thinking about anything else. AP should come as a tool of "recognizing a face" within a single note, it should assist in speeding up our hearing and synthesis, it should give a unique character to a key and introduce the dimension of keyality into what we feel besides the relative chord progression.

But AP is never meaningful on its own. In fact it has something anti-musical in its nature.

The statistics I observe are that among really good musicians there are many relative listeners or people with a strong relative pitch and a weak (undeveloped) or partial perfect pitch.
Among great musicians (I mean really truly breakthrough-ers) most have (had) perfect pitch and a fantastic relative and functional pitch of course.

but most interestingly, if you enter the moscow conservatory, you will see hundreds of instrumentalists with absolute pitch who are mostly never going to be able to play one expressive note in their lives. They are fixed and married to their note IDs and it is very difficult for them to genuinly need to express more than the text itself. meaning, they cannot read music "between the lines" they can only read the notes - the pitches.
The danger with absolute pitch is that the "text" (the pitcehs) become more important that the tension/release interplay they should provoke us to feel.

Finally, to add to this general motivational note about Absolute Pitch, I would like to note that in my opinion...

music maybe seems to be a language to some extent, but it isn't really - music is not more a language than math is.

You see, a language is there to encode external information. We create the word Banana to express something external to that piece of paper - a banana or an idea of a banana (out there on the table). We code with letters/sylables/words something which is not the text.

The beauty with music is that, while the composer might be inspired by something external - a beautiful view, the death of a friend, his loneliness in the world, or some other experience external to the notes ("text") he is writing, once the music is created it is totally free of the external stimulus.

Music is a closed infinitely inter-related and inter-dependent semantic universe. It is more like math or geometry and much less like words!

It is primarily coded by the relative tension between pitch values, not only functional tension - also rythmic and articulative tension, agogic, temporal symetry, abstract ratios of many kinds, and it is much less coded by absolute values of separate notes or absolute chromas of the primary key of the piece.

Of course that is also there, and it is very important (otherwise I wouldn't be here writing all this text) but it is SECONDARY.


Musical greets to you all :-)

petew83
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Postby petew83 » Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:00 pm

gavriel wrote:We should not forget that AP as well just like RP, is an ability that can have many levels of development. Some APs get distracted by a timbre of an instrument (they can recognize a bird's singing or a note on their instrument, but when they hear some unfamiliar timbre they have to first separate it from the chroma).
Other more totally developed APs hear anything as chroma immidiately. Interestingly, these APs often end up growing into the most dry musicians around - playing with no feeling "separate notes". Their playing is characterized with bad legato, hard touch (on a piano) or bad sound production (on a violin for example), cold phrasing (no tension between the tones). They play as if the music explains itself. But alas, it does not!
Music needs relative interpretation.


I have noticed this myself. Most 'Born-with' ap people seem to play with no feeling. It was said by Beethoven that Mozart sounded choppy on the piano. I think it's a whole different way of thinking musically, like Chris has said many times. Brian Wilson sounds very choppy, my cousin with AP sounds choppy (for lack of a better word). Yet some of these people are musical geniuses. They do bang, but meanwhile they're producing the greatest works of all time. I believe they are thinking on a much higher level than what can be aesthetically presented in their solo playing. Their minds do not work that way. When their music is orchestrated and combined into longer pieces the genius begins to show itself. So I just wanted to point out that it's a pretty common trait in genius composers to be a banger at the piano, odd as it may seem.

Your playing sounds excellent on your website BTW.

gavriel
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Postby gavriel » Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:32 pm

oh wow.
Thank you Petew. That's very nice of you, indeed.

I should try keep my identity secret here.
My managers would KILL me if they new what I am busy with instead of brushing my passages and rehearsing with the pianist for the upcoming tour in a few days! Out there nobody would believe me if I said I am busy with ear training... I have a major label on my back and 90 concerts a year worldwide... funny...

By the time I was about 9 I felt that something was missing in my musical education. It was a very deep feeling. Alarming yet undefined. I was being trained like crazy, like an athlete - performing every week solo, chamber music, having theory lessons, technique lessons, repertoire lessons, music literature, history, analysis, competitions, auditions, score reading, etc etc... It was a business for everybody around me.

But again, I felt every now and then that something is missing. Something is fragmented in my contact with music. And sure enough here I am in my thirties after all sitting and brain storming with you all about Absolute Pitch and ear training praying for Chris's next creations. That is the beauty in our profession I guess. It is so humbling and ever humiliating. One is always at the feet of a mountain. And the mountain is below the sky (the composition).

I have so much to learn.
I have so much to discover.

G.

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:02 pm

The APs I know perceive the height of a tone as height only when they have to and they will tend to describe it with adjectives we use for timbre. In fact, it would be very difficult to prove whether they actually hear height as height or maybe they just compare chromas to judge the frequency.

I'm curious-- what kind of adjectives are you thinking of? Or do you have some stories to share? Although Revesz said many years ago that Tonhöhe and Qualität were two entirely separate qualities of "pitch", it's only upon encountering the Patterson-Griffiths experiment that I started speculating that height was timbre, and I haven't talked with anyone who spontaneously expressed their experience of music this way.

I don't think the capacity to perceive height as separate from chroma is limited to absolute musicians. I was surprised a couple years ago when I collared some non-musicians in the hallway of the University of Florida theater building and asked them to sing a note, then the same note but "thinner" (or "lighter", or "brighter") and found them singing a perfect octave. Even now I find that I can easily sing a note and perceptibly, drastically change its "height" without altering the actual fundamental frequency I'm singing.

I think you're right about repetition. Long ago when I began thinking about perceptual differentiation, I considered that when you contemplate a fire truck, an apple, a stop sign, etc, you abstract out the quality of "red". At the time, the musical object I was thinking of was a single tone. A more complete musical object is, of course, a composition; there must be a way to make differential, functional judgments about compositions. The tricky thing is still transposition; I'm not going to assume (or presume) that pegging melodies to particular tonal centers is going to be an effective approach, because even if you listen to fifty different melodies with the same tonal center, if you inadvertently mis-remember one you can still change all the rest of them to fit the first's new absolute position and think your memory's correct. It may be, perhaps ironically, that this will lead back to individual tones-- the apparently cyclical reasoning that you can identify a melody as centered on G because it sounds like it's centered on a G. Although I haven't yet thought about it particularly deeply, it seems to me that the only legitimate functions of an absolute pitch are to be a tonal center and to be itself (completely separate from any musical use).

TS
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Joined: Sun May 07, 2006 4:58 am

Postby TS » Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:28 pm

My proposed answer to the question "How can an absolute pitch be described, functionally, so that no other pitch fits the same description?" is: An absolute pitch is a pitch which is the tonic in melody A, and is also the major second in melody B, and is also the major third in melody C, and is also the fourth in melody D, ... ... ...

Absolute pitch has a function when tonality breaks down, like between two songs, or when a song modulates to another key.

What comes to separating height and chroma, there might be some problems with manipulating tone height with the same degree of accuracy as tone chroma. Chroma is a frequency, but height is an attenuation of the odd harmonics. C4 and G4 are related to each other by a precise ratio, but it's not clear how C4 and C4.5 are related to each other. Supposedly the odd overtones are halved in amplitude to get halfway to C4.5, but does this mean that they are 50% less in power, or are they 10 dB less, which is 90% less, because some say that a 10 dB attenuation sounds like halved loudness. It isn't so easy to get precise ratios for loudness. Maybe what is required is a way to mathematically calculate the height of any mass of sound given its spectrum.


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