[Smt-talk] Perfect pitch and aging

Lai, Eric C. Eric_Lai at baylor.edu
Tue Feb 7 15:11:04 PST 2012

Dear all,  I  have been reading a biography of the conductor Georg Tintner, and the following excerpt in the context of tuning issues in Baroque performance practice supports the universality of the experience:

Georg had no time for the new movement [of Baroque performance practice]; he said it was a fashion that would fade, although not in his lifetime...Most intolerable was the revised tuning, a semitone or so below the customary A = 440.  His sense of pitch was so powerful that if one played in the wrong key the main tune of a work he conducted often and from memory, it was only with great difficulty that he could identify it.  As he grew older his sense of pitch drifted downwards by a semitone (an almost universal occurrence for people with absolute pitch): a piece he knew to be in C would sound to him in C sharp.

Tanya Buchdahl Tintner, Out of Time: The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner (Crawley, Australia: UWA, 2011), 310.


Eric C. Lai
Professor of Music Theory
School of Music, Baylor University
One Bear Place, Box 97408
Waco, TX 76798-7408

Phone: 254-710-2360
Fax: 254-710-1491
Email: eric_lai at baylor.edu<mailto:eric_lai at baylor.edu>

From: "Huron, David" <huron.1 at osu.edu<mailto:huron.1 at osu.edu>>
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 2012 12:17:27 -0600
To: SMT Talk <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>>
Subject: [Smt-talk] Perfect pitch and aging

It's well-known that people with perfect pitch experience an
upward pitch-shift with age.  Typically, by around 55 years of age
a C sounds like a C#, and by 65 a C tends to sound like a D.

I wonder if this is a universal experience or whether there are
people with perfect pitch -- older than 60 -- who have NOT experienced
an upward pitch shift.

I'd appreciate people writing to me to convey their experiences regarding
age and AP.  I'll post a summary if I receive enough responses.

David Huron
huron.1 at osu.edu<mailto:huron.1 at osu.edu>

David Huron
Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor
School of Music & Center for Cognitive Science
Ohio State University

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