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Subject: Re: Serious Question
From: Andrew Moravcsik <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Andrew Moravcsik <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:46:25 +0000

text/plain (39 lines)

The time at which absolute pitch manifests varies, and it may lay dormant for a period of time-so you could have developed the latent capacity but not know it for years. That is different than the early exposure needed to get it to "stick." On the latter point, there is experimental and statistical evidence in the literature that exposure to tonal languages (hence absolute pitch is higher in East Asia), music or other tonal phenomena in early to mid-childhood, i.e. pre-adolescence, is necessary, as that is the "critical period" for brain development of hearing. In fact, almost all human beings have some capacity for pitch recognition and some have an approximate sense of absolute pitch, but the real thing is clearly distinct.

Andrew Moravcsik
Princeton, NJ

From: [log in to unmask] [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2017 19:46
To: Andrew Moravcsik <[log in to unmask]>; [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Serious Question

    Hi, Y'all!
    At LAST, a possible explanation for what happened to me.
    I have sufficient evidence that perfect pitch can be learned to make me almost convinced of it, but insufficient evidence to make me totally convinced of it.  And it is all from my own experience.
    I was first chair clarinetist for four years in my high school band.  Perforce, it became my responsibility to tune each member of the band privately before each class began, going around to each member individually as we were warming up.  Our teacher made it clear that she would do NOTHING to further tune any player after I had ostensibly done the job, and if someone in the band was out of tune, IT WAS MY FAULT.  "The concertmaster is the concertmaster," she insisted, "and that is NOT my job."  (Actually, she was a superb teacher, who had great faith that I could learn to do this if she just "put it to me" and gritted her teeth for a few weeks.)   Well, after about six weeks, I had learned to tune the band almost perfectly.  OK, so maybe I had "relative pitch" that had fallen into decay through lack of use, and I "recovered" it through practice.  But by the end of my first year, I had actually learned to do it without anyone ever giving me any pitch cue AT ALL.  Now people who have absolute pitch because "they are born with it" SAY they never need to "learn" how to activate it.  And I always thought that I WASN'T born with it, and never acquired it for about four of the scale's twelve tones.  I never had "absolute pitch" for these few notes of the scale just "out of the blue," but I always did for a concert B flat, and then I could always find any other notes accurately from there.
    I have never claimed to actually HAVE "perfect pitch," because anything I ever achieved fell clearly short of what the people who actually DO have it describe.
    No one has ever told me before about the "activation in early years" part.   Perhaps that explains what happened to me:  because it wasn't activated in early years, I never fully recovered what I was born with.  "Amoravcs," my question now is:  how early is "early"?
    Dennis Ryan

In a message dated 4/24/2017 2:26:12 P.M. Central Daylight Time, [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> writes:

Actually the truth is more complex.

On perfect pitch, the research is pretty clear. Perfect pitch is inherited by nature, but it also must be nurtured. If you do not "activate" it in early years, it never developed. So it's a bit misleading to say "You are either born with it or not."

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