April 23, 2016

Something Wonderful: The Perfect Pitch Test

Okay, it's been one of those days in which you are more than usually in despair over the fate of the damned human race, right?


Well here's the antidote. Listen carefully and more deeply than you usually do.

You'll notice the young feller yawning and stretching to illustrate the hour.
He has Perfect Pitch, sometimes known as Absolute Pitch. He can identify any note he hears without any other reference. He can even do it with ambient noises out in the world, like bird songs or sirens. They didn't get around to it in the video, but you can play multiple notes on the piano, and he can tell you all of them. It's a very unusual ability. Of course his father, in his infinite wisdom, taught him how to play the drums. -- Sippican Cottage
Posted by gerardvanderleun at April 23, 2016 5:51 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

It's more of a hindrance than an asset in a musical career, though. I read the autobiography of a pianist who accompanied a lot of lieder singers and this particular one wanted the pianist to play a semi-tone lower because he couldn't quite hit the high not of the song. This is not normally difficult for a professional pianist, but this particular one had perfect pitch and found it very difficult to transpose the song on the fly. He ended up unable to do it in the critical passage and watched in shame as the singer turned purple trying to hit the high not.

Posted by: Brett_McS at April 23, 2016 7:55 PM

not=note. Damned auto-typing fingers.

Posted by: brett_mcs@optusnet.com.au at April 23, 2016 7:56 PM

Ironically, pitch itself is imperfect, absolutely. The ratio of the frequencies of consecutive semitones is the 12th root of 2. That ratio is necessary to tune a well tempered clavier, as Bach discovered out of necessity. No virtuoso, no barbershop or string quartet ever deferred to it. It seems that God needed to work on the seventh day after all. Or it may be that perfection is overrated.

Posted by: james wilson at April 23, 2016 11:17 PM

James, tempering is a practical approximation for a keyboard instrument. An instrument such as a violin can play true scales (which are based on simple ratios, not powers of two).

In reality a keyboard can only be tuned correctly for one scale, and that's what they used to do, but it made playing in different scales (especially 'remote' scales) awful. Bach wrote the Well-Tempered Clavier in order to champion the idea of equal tempering so that all keys, although slightly 'off', were good enough.

Posted by: Brett_McS at April 24, 2016 4:01 AM

Not really. A perfectly tuned fifth added to a perfectly tuned fourth equals an octave that will bark at you. Pitch demands negotiation to attain momentary perfection, and this is the first question I will have of God when I see him if he's still taking interviews.

Posted by: james wilson at April 24, 2016 12:41 PM

When I see God I want Him to show me all the big bucks that I walked past or missed seeing while hunting. I will also ask Him if all my forced piano lessons in my youth could qualify as penance time served for future days in Purgatory.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 24, 2016 5:10 PM

Sorry, that only adds time to your parents stay in purgatory.

Posted by: james wilson at April 25, 2016 11:10 AM