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Re: Perfect Pitch

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Posted by Rick Threadgill ( on March 20, 2002 at 15:03:22:

In Reply to: Perfect Pitch posted by Conor MacCarthy on March 19, 2002 at 08:51:07:

That's a great question. I'm a neuroscientist and I've always formed my own opinion on the matter, but you promted me to check it out. The fact is, we know very little about how the brain perceives music and pitch. I will not even go into the music aspect as it is rather complicated, so I'll say that pitch is still poorly understood. We can make a topical map of the ear and brain illustrating where certain pitches are recognized and transmitted, but beyond that, the data that tries to outline the way we compute is a bit confusing. For example, people with congenital amusia, or tone deafness, cannot differentiate when a note is moved by a semitone nor are they moved by dissonance. However, they could tell the tonal differences between the phrase 'He plays piano' and the question 'He plays piano?' Some people in the field believe that our understanding of tone in relation to music lies along a seperate pathway than our understanding of other sonic and furthermore, that it is learned through experience. When trained trumpeters and violinists were tested with neuroimaging, their brains showed greater activity when hearing a melody on their own instrument then when hearing the same melody on any other insrument. Anyway, sorry about the long message, especially since my answer is that we don't know, but it's a great discussion. Personally, I believe it can go either way - one can be born with the ability to recognize pith more accurately than most people, but I also know that it can be learned. Hope you learned something.


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