The power of Repetitiveness

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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

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

I loved it too - real eye opener!

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


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


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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: 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

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


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


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


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


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


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Postby TS » Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:28 pm



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