[Smt-talk] Perfect pitch and aging

Candace Brower candacebrower at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 19:32:29 PST 2012

In discussing this issue with other aging AP-possessors, I have never come across anyone who did not experience this. I first noticed it happening to me when I was in my late 40's.  I found it difficult to follow a score when listening to a recording because every note sounded "wrong."  Sometimes I could persuade my ear to shift downward (kind of like flipping a Necker cube or the vase-two-faces illusion), but often the revision wouldn't "stick."  

Interestingly, my absolute pitch has reverted to near-normal over the past few years.  One thing that has changed is that I have gone back to playing the cello several hours a day. I hadn't played for over twenty years, and when I first took it up again, I found it challenging to play in tune.  But my absolute pitch now seems to be as reliable as when I was in my 20s (I am now 58). Perhaps my ear has retrained itself as a result of having to actively seek the right pitch in order to play in tune?  During my years away from the cello, I played the piano several hours a day, but that never seemed to help.

Candace Brower
retired, Northwestern University

> From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org
> [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Huron, David
> [huron.1 at osu.edu]
> Sent: 07 February 2012 18:17
> To: SMT Talk
> 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.
> Thanks,
> David Huron
> 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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