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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#Perfect Pitch by John von Daler

                Have you ever been a saint? I have. I have perfect pitch. In practice this means that what most people hear inadequately or incorrectly, or play or sing falsely, I hear correctly and usually play correctly.
                It's like being teacher's pet or Goody Two-Shoes or, well, a saint.
                I've read that some researchers have found out that countries where the same word can be spoken at different pitch levels to mean two different things (China, Vietnam) have a greater number of perfect pitchers. This emphasis on the influence of the environment means in effect that all humans could be born with the possibility of having perfect pitch but probably lose it along the way. It has to be actively cultivated. While we regularly name colors for our children, we seldom name notes.
                In my case notes got names when I reached four because I started taking violin lessons. They thought I was a genius because I could hear and sing A 440 or A 438 or A442 (roughly speaking, the world-wide version of A, the "Viennese" version of A and the American version of A). I was not. Little imposter. Anybody could have done it.
                All right. I did learn to play the violin in my Eton Suit with short pants. The ladies clubs were enthralled.
                But who wants to be right all the time? I used to sit in the school orchestra surrounded by all that cacophony of wrong notes while I just fiddled away in the correct pitch, all alone. When you are the only one who is right, sometimes you just want to be wrong like everybody else.
                Happily I'm getting there. With age my perfect pitch has gotten less sharp. Soon I'll be singing off key with the best of them.  I'm looking forward to the companionship.
                Watch out down there! I'm stepping down from my pedestal. Wonder if I'll miss being Saint John. 

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!


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