[Smt-talk] Audio disability question

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
Mon Oct 6 12:51:29 PDT 2014

I have followed this thread with some puzzlement. What remains unclear 
to me is what is meant by "recognizing and reproducing pitch height". Is 
"recognizing" a matter of absolute pitch? And how are the pitches to be 
"reproduced", in singing or in playing – and why pitches?

As to absolute pitch, many around me on this side of the Ocean would 
consider that, for a musician, absolute pitch is a defect to be avoided 
at all costs (it can be cured). Only a cursory glance at Arthur Mendels 
article on "The pitches in use in Bach's time" would soon convince 
anyone that if JSBach had suffered absolute pitch, he would rather have 
become a painter, or gone mad. He cannot have had AP and nevertheless 
was a decent musician, I believe.
     A subsidiary question: could the interest for AP in the US, and the 
relative distruss for it in Europe, be linked to our usages with respect 
to mobile /vs /fixed solfege – that is, might you be requiring AP 
because mobile solfege does not produce it?
     I don't want to rekindle a discussion on this topic, which had been 
held here some time ago. I would merely ask whether you are sure that 
the skills you are expecting from this student are necessary beyond 
doubt? For sure, they are useful for most of your students, if only 
because they teach them a discipline (it is like the rule of avoiding 
hidden fifths or octaves in part writing: it is useful as a pedagogical 
tool), but is it useful in real music?

As to reproducing pitch, does the exercice require singing, or playing 
an instrument? Is her incapacity most apparent with isolated pitches, or 
does it also concern the reproduction of melodies (at the right pitch or 
elsewhere)? Does she have the same problems of recognition and 
reproduction with intervals?

My questions, as you can see, shift the problem from whether she is able 
to answer the requirements of her formation to whether these 
requirements are the right ones. I let you think about that.

Nicolas Meeùs
Professeur émérite
Université Paris-Sorbonne

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