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Two Quick Questions

Posted: Wed May 19, 2010 3:10 pm
by phuler
Hey, I'm new to the site but I'm really interested in this and have been reading everything in sort of a frenzy, but I had two questions that I couldn't fully reason through.

First, there's a lot of talk about speakers of tonal languages and how it's more likely that they possess absolute pitch, but it seemed to me that in the experiments the difference between "native-speakers" and "fluent speakers" was somewhat left ambiguous (at least in the studies I read). Since English native speakers can learn to speak for example mandarin chinese fluently...wouldn't this ability to learn a tonal language, even after growing up speaking only a nontonal language, be a positive sign for the possibility of AP as a learned ability, especially considering Deutsch's analogy that for those who can speak a tonal language fluently, learning absolute pitch is just like learning another tonal language? Has anyone read that those who can speak a tonal language fluently, but only as a second language, have no increased likelihood of AP?

And the second question involves Deutsch's Mysterious Melody ( ... earch7.php) which plays a recognizable melody but spreads the tones randomly across 3 octaves (jumbling up intervals and so messing up RP, making it unrecognizable). I was simply wondering whether someone with absolute pitch would be able to recognize the melody (based on chroma)? Any ideas?

Thanks for your responses!

Posted: Thu May 20, 2010 12:50 pm
by aruffo
Yes, the tonal-language results are ambiguous. There is no direct transfer between speaking a tonal language and musical absolute pitch, and the cross-cultural studies are as likely to suggest a genetic link as a linguistic one. There are no second-language studies. Yet.

I don't believe the mysterious melody has been tested on absolute listeners...

Posted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:16 pm
by lorelei
As for the testing on absolute listeners, I listened to the melody a few times and, although the octaves do mess it up a bit, was able to identify it. I expect this would be easier for someone with AP and problems identifying octaves.

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 12:26 pm
by phuler
lorelei, thanks so much for trying it out! That's very interesting. If you don't mind, I've also been really curious about how people with absolute pitch perceive languages that rely on relative pitch cues -- such as English, where raising pitch at the end of the sentence denotes a question or lowering pitch denotes confirmation. There are also many inbetween levels of pitches that denote further nuances of meaning. Do you just ignore absolute pitch in normal conversations?

And one more quick question! (sorry!) but do you have any trouble distinguishing tones played by instruments with unusual timbres, say a complex chord played by a distorted guitar?

Posted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:33 am
by lorelei
Yeah, in English, normally I try to tune out absolute pitch, as it can be quite distracting. If I focus on it, I hear the pitch rather than what the other person is saying! So yes, I ignore it (or at least don't pay attention to it). It helps in learning chinese, though.
Also, timbre doesn't mess me up. Chroma and timbre are two completely different things that are impossible to mess up (for me, at least). Of course, some timbres are tricky (like cymbals or speech) but most of the time it's not a problem.