Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hurray for perfect pitch

It is beyond me why everyone assumes perfect pitch is such a wonderful thing. The nearest visual equivalent would be if everywhere you went, you saw a Cartesian plane projected onto the landscape which told you the approximate dimensions of everything you were looking at. While this might amuse people at parties ("Hey Osbert! How high is that mountain out the window?" "157.2 metres." "OMG THAT IS SO COOL DID YOU HEAR THAT EVERYONE HE DIDN'T EVEN NEED A TAPE MEASURE"), it would also tend to take some of the aesthetic enjoyment away from life.

There are also problems of practicality. When I sing with less skilled choirs, I am forced to transpose the music down a semitone when the ensemble begins to go flat. And you can imagine what mental gymnastics I have to go through in order to perform at A-415.


Anonymous said...

Instead of the "mental gymnastics" why don't you just open your freakin' ears and sing in tune with the choir. I swear perfect pitch people who think they are victims are so annoying. If you can stop thinking about, say, the color blue, then you can stop thinking of the absolute pitch of a given note. Just listen (to the real world, not the one inside your damn head) and adjust. Sheesh!

Osbert Parsley said...

A pleasure to meet you, Anonymous! Oh, wait.

I think you're projecting attitudes upon me that I didn't actually express. For an interesting discussion of perfect pitch, see the New Liturgical Movement blog - several of the comments reinforce my own belief that perfect pitch is a learned skill rather than an intrinsic ability. It certainly has nothing to do with thinking about colours, as the advertisements in musicians' magazines seem to suggest.

Anonymous said...

I have perfect pitch,and it's true, there is a bit of mental gymnastics involved. Someone with perfect pitch gets used to 440, and playing at anything else does require mental transposition,and can be disorienting. Transposing instruments can also be confusing. Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that the benefits provided by perfect pitch outweigh the minor annoyances.

Anonymous said...

I have AP as well, and Anonymous no.1, I wish it were possible to adjust that way. It's like painting, only eg. you need to use paint red objects orange, orange objects yellow, yellow objects green etc. That's why it's hard. In this case, if everyone else is painting "wrong" like this, it's hard to "open your eyes" and paint like everyone else. I wish it were that easy.