Some thoughts on Perfect Pitch

Talk about what you've discovered by using ETC-- and post your high ranks!
aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Sun Oct 12, 2008 1:31 am

if you took a persons voice that you knew and compressed the pitch ranges in a stream of words from them you would arrive at the base pitch for that person

I seem to recall that Diana Deutsch (who has absolute pitch herself, if I'm not mistaken) does exactly that for people she meets, although perhaps only as an amusing observation.

TS
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Postby TS » Sun Oct 12, 2008 2:36 am

I remember playing with an electronic keyboard when I was a child, randomly pressing the keys, and by accident I hit on two keys that I instantly recognised as the speaking voice of a teacher at school. Maybe it was because he always spoke at constant pitches, like he was singing, and didn't glide between pitches.

The impression was strongest only with a certain timbre. I showed this to my friends, saying: "doesn't this sound like mr. x?", but they didn't hear it.

Lately I've noticed that creaking door hinges and buzzing power tools play music.

aruffo wrote:Early on, I turned up my nose at the idea that absolute pitch was related to recognizing pitches in one's environment, but now I'm not able to think of any better examples of unambiguous functions for pitch. Anything musical I could think of could easily be transposed.


Does the function really have to be absolute in the abstract sense? Wouldn't it be possible that the absoluteness of absolute pitch is just a side effect, like naming tones is? Is it possible to develop relative pitch to such a degree that you could complete all of ETC only using relative pitch, thus being immune to all absolute pitch development? And would such RP skill be any different than absolute pitch?

Axeman
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Postby Axeman » Sun Oct 12, 2008 3:48 am

I had a few more thoughts well waiting for fish and chips down the road.
I was thinking about the warning pitch that happens when I put my car into reverse. The function of the pitch is 'to tell you that you are in reverse' i.e. it is a warning signal.
Now I was thinking about the difficulty of assigning functions to pitches. Because they don't really actually have a function. If you think about the warning pitch of the car it could be any pitch that the manufacturer arbitrarily assigns to the vehicle. But the pitch becomes the signifier of the event i.e. its function is created by being assigned to 'the vehicle is in reverse'.
I was thinking that the function of pitches for a person with AP must be similarly artificial. This is why a lot of AP'ers (is that a word?) complain (show off) about a common tune being in the wrong pitch. For instance if they hear Beethoven's 5th in E they say that its all wrong or the record must be fast. Similarly when they have to transpose to another key a melody that they are holding in their hand written on paper.
In the Mind of the AP possessor Eb 'IS' Beethoven's 5th. In any other key it is not right i.e. something different. The Pitch of the piece has been assigned to fulfill the function of 'Beethoven's 5th Symphony'. I suppose that they arrive at this state of affairs because in the development of their AP the pitches have been assigned by them various meanings, as stated in my earlier posts, and then anytime they hear an instance of the pitch in various other situations they just relable it according to the new event they are hearing. Then that event, in this case 'Beethoven's 5th', becomes synonymous for the pitch also and is very hard to call otherwise. It would be kind of like calling a screwdriver a hammer or something.
All that being said I can't figure out (haven't thought about) how this kind of function assigning translates to visual colours. What is the function of yellow in say a yellow banana and a yellow lemon? and how could they have ever been correlated?
Dunno.

Axeman
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functions and objects

Postby Axeman » Sun Oct 12, 2008 5:14 am

Have you ever been in need of a screwdriver? What do you do? Usually people improvise with whatever is handy - a fingernail, a knife, a rock, a sharp stone, a shell or other.
When you think about the function of a screwdriver the object that you use is only a screw driver if you are using it for that purpose. In the examples above a fingernail can also be a nose picker, a knife - a cutter, a shell - a home for a mollusk. The question I have been playing with is 'Is the thing a screwdriver because it screws or does it screw because its a screw driver?' In other words is the thing made/named for the function or is the function made/named for the thing? The best screwdriver will be the one that fulfills the screwing function with the least effort i.e. will be the best fit for the job.
When it comes to assigning pitches to functions or dynamic events - the exact pitch being assigned is quite arbitrary in some cases (the reverse warning on a vehicle compared to the reverse warning on some other vehicle). But there must be some significance placed on the mind / memory when the event is repeated often enough at the one pitch (e.g. the spin cycle on ma's washing machine or if one only ever hears the reverse warning of one vehicle).
So when other events are heard (i.e the embedded pitch of the events, that are close to / best fit to the original) they must trigger the mind to recall the function of the first event. So when AP kids are first learning the ability they must hear a pitch and say or think 'that sounds like mum's washing machine, dad's truck's reverse warning bleeper etc. Or if you like pitch X is like function Y (or maybe the pitch associated with function Y).
Hope that makes sense!

Axeman
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Postby Axeman » Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:44 am

http://www.societymusictheory.org/mto/issues/mto.98.4.1/mto.98.4.1.zbikowski_frames.html
In response to reading this article and the quote below...

Mapping the spatial orientation up-down onto pitch works because of correspondences between the image-schematic structure of components of the spatial and acoustical domains. Both space and the frequency spectrum are continua that can be divided into discontinuous elements. In the spatial domain, division of the continuum results in points; in the acoustic domain, it results in pitches. Mapping up-down onto pitch allows us to import the concrete relationships through which we understand physical space into the domain of music, and thereby provide a coherent account of relationships between musical pitches. Mapping various fruits onto musical pitches works less well because fruit do not (in any ordinary way) constitute a continuum. To employ this mapping is to highlight instead the discontinuity among musical pitches, as well as how they are unlike one another (an emphasis on difference suggested by the idiomatic phrase "like apples and oranges").


It seems to me that the discontinuity between pitches is exactly what we want to highlight when developing AP. If the mapping of enough non-correspondent domains onto the acoustic domain is performed habitually then maybe the discontinuity will stick somehow and thus the individuality of pitch become established.

Axeman
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Postby Axeman » Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:50 am

Rephrasing earlier comment.
If the mapping of enough non-correspondent domains onto the acoustic domain is performed regularly enough then maybe the discontinuity will stick somehow and thus the individuality of pitches become established.

TS
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Postby TS » Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:31 am

aruffo wrote:
A few examples that came to mind: Wheel of Fortune letter beep = F, 'prototypical' slot machine or casino = C

Early on, I turned up my nose at the idea that absolute pitch was related to recognizing pitches in one's environment, but now I'm not able to think of any better examples of unambiguous functions for pitch. Anything musical I could think of could easily be transposed. And in thinking of stories of children who evidenced absolute pitch, just about every one of them had the child describe some real-world event(s) by their pitch.


Maybe absolute pitch is non-musical and non-language after all? Maybe the absolute part of absolute pitch is just the ability to recognise different objects by the sound they produce when you hit them, and has nothing to do with the musical or linguistic meaning of that sound.
I was thinking of the coffee grinder that said "green", which appeared on the main page in the past. At first it just sounded like the sound that the coffee grinder makes, and then suddenly it was the word "green", and hearing the sound as a word was a whole different way of perceiving.
Maybe absolute pitch possessors have these two ways of perceiving activated simultaneously, and they listen for meaning when they perceive intervals and scale degrees and the relative stuff, and they listen for "sounds like a coffee grinder" when they perceive key centers and all the absolute stuff.

Axeman
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AP as non language

Postby Axeman » Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:54 am

I see where you're coming from TS. It is the same as what I've been saying I think. I was testing this out yesterday - just goin' around hitting stuff.
I remember seeing a video of Larry Carlton -a great jazz fusion player talking about carrying a pitch fork around and just hitting everything and ending up with the ability to hear an aeroplane overhead going from an A down to an Ab etc.
If my thoughts are right about dynamic events or your
the absolute part of absolute pitch is just the ability to recognise different objects by the sound they produce when you hit them, and has nothing to do with the musical or linguistic meaning of that sound.

then the labeling of a pitch would be non-essential in the development of the AP ability. The first impressions would be just - 'hey that (thing/event) sounds like that other (thing/event)'. Later on the labels would be an easy addition to an already established fact. However the events would have to be significant enough to be noticed. Like in my earlier comment about my mum's washing machine. The damn thing was so loud that you couldn't help but notice it as it jumped around in the other room and finally as it got to the point of the spin cycle (and the associated pitch) where it would switch off there was a relief that the whole thing was over. It was quite funny really.

petew83
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Postby petew83 » Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:15 pm

Axeman wrote:
Mapping the spatial orientation up-down onto pitch works because of correspondences between the image-schematic structure of components of the spatial and acoustical domains. Both space and the frequency spectrum are continua that can be divided into discontinuous elements. In the spatial domain, division of the continuum results in points; in the acoustic domain, it results in pitches. Mapping up-down onto pitch allows us to import the concrete relationships through which we understand physical space into the domain of music, and thereby provide a coherent account of relationships between musical pitches. Mapping various fruits onto musical pitches works less well because fruit do not (in any ordinary way) constitute a continuum. To employ this mapping is to highlight instead the discontinuity among musical pitches, as well as how they are unlike one another (an emphasis on difference suggested by the idiomatic phrase "like apples and oranges").


It seems to me that the discontinuity between pitches is exactly what we want to highlight when developing AP. If the mapping of enough non-correspondent domains onto the acoustic domain is performed habitually then maybe the discontinuity will stick somehow and thus the individuality of pitch become established.


I recommended using fruit a couple years ago. They would be a great set of symbols for pitch for a few reasons. First of all, they come in a variety of colors. They also have different shapes and textures. But more interesting is their qualities of taste and smell. It could lead to some interesting synesthetic development.

cjhealey
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Postby cjhealey » Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:05 am

An interesting observation I've made of late is that it is by far easier to recognize chroma in a chord.

If I play, for example, an F and then an A, I don't notice much difference between the two (at least not at the moment), however, when I play the together and move my attention between the two pitches I can hear a significant and distinct difference between the two.

The 'A' sound more hollow and empty and the F sound more vibrant... for lack of words that can describe them.

For some reason, it is much, much easier to hear them when you play them with other pitches.

The reason why I think lies in the diagrams Chris posted of patterns and recognizing similarities and differences. When you play the two tones together, the brain is able to strip away or ignore the 'piano' part of the tone because it is a constant. You seem to end up with a single piano-sound shell and then the two chroma embedded within.

The challenge is then keeping your awareness on the chroma part of the tone and ignoring the piano part when you are trying to identify them individually.

I just thought I'd post this experience because it may prompt some further insight in the direction ETC needs to go.

Chris

lorelei
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Postby lorelei » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:23 pm

Axeman, I like your ideas on assigning functions to pitches. Here is my theory: I guess it's similar to color, and the pitch is just a property of the sound. If a little kid pays attention to this property, it becomes embedded in his brain. Also yes, people with AP (at least my case) can differentiate between pitches before they learn the names (my earliest memory is before any musical training, is of me on a carousel riding around and listening to the music issuing from it. I think it was in E major, but I didn't know back then).
As to the 5th symphony, if it's played in any key besides C minor, it just sounds wrong. It's kinda like if you get some sort of temporary visual disorder which causes everything to shift over one color, e.g. red becomes purple, purple blue etc. It's annoying.

Axeman
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overtones

Postby Axeman » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:51 am

Thanks Lorelei,
I have been trying to get perfect pitch since about 1990 when i came across Burge's method which obviously didn't work. Was excited initially by APB but am more reserved now. At least Chris is honest about his ideas.


I was wondering if you hear overtones in pitches. Have you seen the bryce alexander method and what are your thoughts?
http://www.brycealexandermusic.com/perfect-pitch-training.html

lorelei
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Postby lorelei » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:43 am

Yes, I know about this method.
Thing is, I'm not actually sure about what causes chroma: is it overtones or just the wavelength? I think that overtones have more of a connection to timbre? I think they have some sort of connection to chroma, too. When I heard the F# with the simulator, it just sounded really weird to me. Still an F#, just with weird timbre. Personally, I think Chris's method is better.


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