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solo4652

Is pitch perception a universal human phenomenon?

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On 25/09/2020 at 10:09, solo4652 said:

My other half is attempting to learn piano, and she's really struggling. I show her how to play a scale, saying something like: "Let's start on C, do the do-rey-me thing, until we hit C again" Blank looks. She regards two C's an octave apart as different notes because they sound different. She is not Bolivian.

You should take a sample and do the DNA thing; she’s probably Bolivian in there somewhere 

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15 hours ago, Dan Dare said:

If you want to really squirm, listen to the flute solo on California Dreaming. It's just slightly flat all the way through. Always hated it when I was younger. Used to have to turn the radio down whenever it came on.

 

13 hours ago, Woodinblack said:

Yes, the flute on that used to annoy me a lot too. I guess they didn't bother redoing things back then. 

Could it have been flat on purpose, or by accident but deliberately left that way, to give it a sense of melancholy? 

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4 hours ago, Maude said:

 

Could it have been flat on purpose, or by accident but deliberately left that way, to give it a sense of melancholy? 

Could have been there to give it a sense of 'we are all too out of our tree to notice'.

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Darwin claimed that the power of producing and appreciating music existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. 

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2 hours ago, MacDaddy said:

Darwin claimed that the power of producing and appreciating music existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. 

True, but there is only so long you can put up with your tribe singing "I know a song that will get on your nerves" before you learn to articulate 'shut up'!

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But do we all see colours the same..? How would one know..? I see trees as green (mostly...), and the sky blue. Maybe, for others, the trees look like, what to me would be, 'red', and the sky, my 'green'. I can't think of a way of proving that, one way or another. o.O

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15 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

But do we all see colours the same..? How would one know..? I see trees as green (mostly...), and the sky blue. Maybe, for others, the trees look like, what to me would be, 'red', and the sky, my 'green'. I can't think of a way of proving that, one way or another. o.O

Exactly. When I was doing my printing C&Gs one of the things we did in the non-technical parts of the course was the standard colour-blindness dots test. It turned out that one of the lads on the course was so badly colour blind that he couldn't even see the "wrong" numbers on the test. Every card was just a random arrangement of dark dots on a light background to him.

Edited by BigRedX
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This topic could, I suggest, benefit from being studied from a psychoacoustic perspective.

For those who don't know, psychoacoustics is the study of how the brain processes the information contained in the pressure wave arriving at the ears. The brain is an immensely complex organ that we still don't understand all that well. In particular, it is able to extract a huge amount of information from a single, continuously varying pressure wave.

Looked at in that way, sounds have to be learned. In particular, perception of pitch has to be acquired. If we can accept that, then surely the perception of a doubling of pitch (and hence the notion of an octave) has to be acquired as well.

In truth, I'm not a great believer in innate abilities generally. I can accept the idea of certain people having differing propensities for certain types of knowledge, skills and understanding, but I remain to be convinced that there is much at all (beyond the most fundamental elements such as breathing) that could be truly said to be innate (unless of course one defines innateness in terms of such propensities). In particular, I don't believe anybody is born with the abilty to recognise an octave.

I'm certainly not seeking to present this as a fait accompli though, and am happy to be convinced otherwise. If anybody can point me to studies that lend support to the concept of innateness, then I'm all ears.

Edited by leftybassman392
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2 hours ago, Dad3353 said:

But do we all see colours the same..? How would one know..? I see trees as green (mostly...), and the sky blue. Maybe, for others, the trees look like, what to me would be, 'red', and the sky, my 'green'. I can't think of a way of proving that, one way or another. o.O

It doesn't matter does it, as long as you call what you see green, and I call what I see green, it doesn't matter what we see as long as we have a common name for whatever it is.

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38 minutes ago, Woodinblack said:

It doesn't matter does it, as long as you call what you see green, and I call what I see green, it doesn't matter what we see as long as we have a common name for whatever it is.

Yes - as long as we are all going on green and stopping on red then we are OK.

Not sure what the pitch equivalent of that is though 😕!

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37 minutes ago, Nail Soup said:

Yes - as long as we are all going on green and stopping on red then we are OK.

Not sure what the pitch equivalent of that is though 😕!

F# is green, and tastes of tin.

Google synesthesia for more information 😊

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5 hours ago, leftybassman392 said:

This topic could, I suggest, benefit from being studied from a psychoacoustic perspective.

For those who don't know, psychoacoustics is the study of how the brain processes the information contained in the pressure wave arriving at the ears. The brain is an immensely complex organ that we still don't understand all that well. In particular, it is able to extract a huge amount of information from a single, continuously varying pressure wave.

Looked at in that way, sounds have to be learned. In particular, perception of pitch has to be acquired. If we can accept that, then surely the perception of a doubling of pitch (and hence the notion of an octave) has to be acquired as well.

In truth, I'm not a great believer in innate abilities generally. I can accept the idea of certain people having differing propensities for certain types of knowledge, skills and understanding, but I remain to be convinced that there is much at all (beyond the most fundamental elements such as breathing) that could be truly said to be innate (unless of course one defines innateness in terms of such propensities). In particular, I don't believe anybody is born with the abilty to recognise an octave.

I'm certainly not seeking to present this as a fait accompli though, and am happy to be convinced otherwise. If anybody can point me to studies that lend support to the concept of innateness, then I'm all ears.

Well, it was a long time ago when I did my Psychology degrees! Since then, I spent all of my working life as an Occupational Psychologist trying to understand and predict human behaviour in the workplace. Eventually, I gave up and retired. Took up bass playing instead.

Off the top of my head, here are a few things may be innate in humans, but I'm not saying they definitely are;

 

Blink reflex

Disgust reaction , and an associated puckered-lipped expression.

Garcia Effect, which is an innate predisposition to associate illness with taste on a one-trial basis.

Wariness around snakes.

The Five-Factor model of personality, sometimes referred to as the OCEAN model.

Primacy and Recency effects in memory. - the tendency to remember the first and last things in messages.

Eyebrow lift as a greeting.

Miller's magic number 7 (Plus or minus 2) - how many "chunks" of information can humans comfortably process at any one time.

Innate predisposition and ability to learn language. Chomsky was your main man there, I think

The need for some sort of over-arching belief system. Doesn't matter what it is - Shamanism, Sun-worship, Communism, Belief in Spirits/Gods, whatever. It's long been argued that humans have an innate need to believe in something...

Steve

Edited by solo4652
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@solo4652 I do - sort of - remember Chomsky from my undergrad days, but that was a long time ago as well! :lol:

Blink reflex I wouldn't have a problem with.

In truth I don't know enough about the subject to confirm or deny any of the rest.

I do note that you haven't included an innate predisposition to recognise octaves though. :)

 

I do have a serious question though: as I said in my post on the ancient Greeks, the octave wasn't a big deal in their musical firmament (although, interestingly, they did have an interval that we don't: the enharmonic, roughly equivalent to what we would think of as a quarter tone). In the music of the period this interval was part of a half-octave scale called a tetracord, considered through most of the ancient Greek period (ca. 1300 - 300 BCE), as the purest and most natural of all the available variations. We hear it as horribly dissonant. Also, the scales of the time had many slight variations (not unlike the equal temperament/Just Scale/Cycle-of-fifths discrepancies, but considerably more complex and varied).

My question is this: Is it possible that such differences can exist in different cultures over such long periods of time, and still be considered innate?

My instinct is to doubt it as you already know, but I'd be fascinated to hear a counter argument.

Edited by leftybassman392

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I have studied acoustics in a university and music in music schools. Perception is also one interesting area, psychological point of view another. 

A local violinist is a son of a concert pianist. While she was pregnant, she played a lot, naturally. Is it any wonder the kid, the violin player has a perfect pitch? Learning since -9 months of age?
Do you see this ability has anything to do with the surroundings? I think the perfect pitch has been there since the birth. Another thing is to use it. My friend's aunt has perfect pitch, but she's not musically talented. What a contradiction.

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I wonder if the innate aspect is the ability to sense a doubling/ halving in frequency. From the way nerve impulses are generated in the ear, and built in timing function in our brains it’s possible that we can determine such changes. That said I work with special needs kids who can’t tell if a note is higher or lower than the one before, even with some fairly big intervals. What would be interesting would be to see if people can perceive such intervals visually, for example, the speed a dot moves across a screen.

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12 minutes ago, itu said:

A local violinist is a son of a concert pianist. While she was pregnant, she played a lot, naturally. Is it any wonder the kid, the violin player has a perfect pitch? Learning since -9 months of age?
Do you see this ability has anything to do with the surroundings? I think the perfect pitch has been there since the birth. Another thing is to use it. My friend's aunt has perfect pitch, but she's not musically talented. What a contradiction.

It has to be there from birth / young

 

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@Woodinblack Watched the video.

Very interesting and in broad terms I agree with quite a lot of it (especially the statistical analysis aspect). Some years ago I read about some robot scientists at - I think - the University of Warwick, who were researching how babies learn to walk. It's too long ago for me to remember the finer points, but in essence they concluded that in their first few months the babies' movements are essentially random. Over time they learn to focus on the movements that let them achieve what they're tryting to achieve and progressively phase out the ones that don't. This sounds to me very similar to the statistical analysis the video host talks about.

That said, calling it statistical analysis when talking about the actions of a small baby somehow doesn't quite sound right to me as it seems to suggest some conscious analysis going on in the baby's brain. I think it's a lot more random than that. Or rather, he doesn't explain either how the analysis works or where it starts from. Perhaps he does in another video...

That said, something about the limitless capacity for learning section that doesn't quite feel right to me. He seems to be suggesting that in learning to talk, the child's capacity to learn is somehow compromised. Whilst I think I understand what he's saying, I'm finding it hard to understand how learning to walk and talk constitute compromises. If the child is exposed to extensive musical stimulus then this same capacity for learning would apply in much the same way as learning a language. In truth I'm not so sure it's saying much that intelligent, observant and engaged parents couldn't work out for themselves.

And while I'm here, saying that a baby has the capacity to learn anything doesn't really address the question the OP is asking. Having the capacity to learn is not the same as having an innate instinct or knowledge. Language has to be learnt, whether it's the everyday language of speech or the more specialised language of music: and if perfect pitch is an innate skill, it would seem that it's an innate skill most of us don't have.

Still not convinced. Sorry. :/

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3 minutes ago, leftybassman392 said:

That said, something about the limitless capacity for learning section that doesn't quite feel right to me. He seems to be suggesting that in learning to talk, the child's capacity to learn is somehow compromised. Whilst I think I understand what he's saying, I'm finding it hard to understand how learning to walk and talk constitute compromises. If the child is exposed to extensive musical stimulus then this same capacity for learning would apply in much the same way as learning a language. In truth I'm not so sure it's saying much that intelligent, observant and engaged parents couldn't work out for themselves.

That I can see from doing neural network training. When a network is made it is completely open and capable of anything, after a while of training, it is not capable of learning some things because those neurons have been used for something else.

3 minutes ago, leftybassman392 said:

And while I'm here, saying that a baby has the capacity to learn anything doesn't really address the question the OP is asking.

This wasn't relating to the OPs point, this is from additional conversations where the topic has drifted, sorry.

3 minutes ago, leftybassman392 said:

Still not convinced. Sorry. :/

Thats fine, not trying to convince anyone! Just seems reasonable to me. I have met very few people with perfect pitch, but many people that claim to have it.

BUt that has nothing to do with the OP, as I said.

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The Bolivian rainforest people teach their children to hone their senses to the possibility that they may be being watched by a jaguar . 
We are trained to ignore traffic noise . Cultures shape neurodevelopment .

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While I'm thinking about pitch perception, I think the extent to which we prioritise pitch against the other elements of music varies between individuals. And also between cultures.

Some people listen to music and have a strong connection to the pitch and melody. Others are connected more to the rhythm and feel.

It often amazes me on TV documentories when analysing a piece of music someone sits at a piano saying they used such and such a scale and don't even mention the rhythm section or guitar sounds and all the other stuff.

 

Edited by Nail Soup

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56 minutes ago, DaveFry said:

The Bolivian rainforest people teach their children to hone their senses to the possibility that they may be being watched by a jaguar . 
We are trained to ignore traffic noise .

Probably explains why I was almost run over when crossing the road by a jaguar the day before yesterday!

 

34 minutes ago, Nail Soup said:

Some people listen to music and have a strong connection to the pitch and melody. Others are connected more to the rhythm and feel.

Yeh, but they are drummers and we don't care about them.

34 minutes ago, Nail Soup said:

It often amazes me on TV documentories when analysing a piece of music someone sits at a piano saying they used such and such a scale and don't even mention the rhythm section or guitar sounds and all the other stuff.

Because that is the crux of the song. You can play around with the sounds and even to an extent the rythmn, and you can still have the same song. You can often find completely different versions of the same song by the same artist done with different instruments and rythmns.

Also, often the person writing the song just has a guitar or a piano, doesn't mean the final track will be like that

 

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51 minutes ago, Woodinblack said:

Probably explains why I was almost run over when crossing the road by a jaguar the day before yesterday!

 

Yeh, but they are drummers and we don't care about them.

Because that is the crux of the song. You can play around with the sounds and even to an extent the rythmn, and you can still have the same song. You can often find completely different versions of the same song by the same artist done with different instruments and rythmns.

Also, often the person writing the song just has a guitar or a piano, doesn't mean the final track will be like that

 

Interesting response!

I mentioned 'piece of music' in the original comment, and the reply was centred around 'the song'.

I think that illustrates the point about being tune-centric (or not) pretty well. It's pretty unconscious.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Nail Soup said:

While I'm thinking about pitch perception, I think the extent to which we prioritise pitch against the other elements of music varies between individuals. And also between cultures.

Some people listen to music and have a strong connection to the pitch and melody. Others are connected more to the rhythm and feel.

It often amazes me on TV documentories when analysing a piece of music someone sits at a piano saying they used such and such a scale and don't even mention the rhythm section or guitar sounds and all the other stuff.

 

There was a very interesting programme on BBC4 on Sunday evening about the place of music by black musicians in western musical culture. Hosted by Lenny Henry (but don't be put off by that). It contains some eye-opening revelations, not least of which is the rise, around the turn of the 20 century, of music focussing more on the rhythms of the music as oppossed to the melody. I could wax on about it, but if you have access to iPlayer you can watch it here

This is a great example of the kind of thing being discussed (from the  - classically trained - Scott Joplin):

If this doesn't get your feet tapping then you've no right to be calling yourself a musician IMHO

 

Edited by leftybassman392
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It very much depends how you listen to music. I tend to listen to the whole piece as a single item and generally if something sticks out to me it's because I think it's "wrong". 

There are plenty of cover versions where the vocal melody only seems to bear a passing resemblance to the original and the rest of the arrangement is completely different. Think of all those "sensitive acoustic" versions of rock songs that appear to be popular as advertisement sound tracks at the moment. Often I'll be struggling to recognise the original song from this new "arrangement".

When I write, even if it's on a "full range" instrument like guitar or keyboards, I can hear in my head what the other instruments are going to be doing when it comes to presenting the music to the rest of the band.

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