After writing my previous entry I still didn't feel like working so I decided to look into perfect pitch some more.
The first thing I found led me to a study at UCSF. I hit on the link for the system sound test and was dismayed by how quickly the pitches are played. I felt like I could catch some but the speed was making me nervous. I also didn't like the sound of those pure tones.
I know that a part of me really wants to feel like I have this because in a weird way it would sort of justify my extreme devotion to music. It's sad that I still feel that I need to justify it. I guess a part of me hasn't completely given up on the whole "destiny" thing, feeling that I was born to do something. This is a silly line of thought because I'm going to do this even though I can't get into the NY Phil.
My next hit was on wikipedia. This sentence stuck out: A person with absolute pitch will be able to, at minimum, know when a piece isn't played in its original key.
DING! I scored a point. It annoys my husband to no end that I am constantly correcting him in regards to what key he's playing something in. He always says "but it's the same thing". And I say "no, it's not!".
Wikipedia has redeemed me:
Persons who have absolute pitch, but who do not have strong musical training, will seem annoyed or unnerved when a piece is transposed to a different key . . .
They may feel that such a piece does not have the intrinsic beauty of music, and in some cases will be physically uncomfortable . . .
I knew I wasn't just being annoying, anal, or crazy. It just bothers me to hear it in the wrong key; you should see me scrunch my face disapprovingly. It definitely loses some of its beauty.
This part was also interesting because it reminds me of what I just wrote about with my struggles with melodic dictation. I need to further develop my relative pitch.
They may have a harder time developing relative pitch than others, and for many musical tasks like transposition, lack of training in relative skills can trip up a musician with absolute pitch, who will attempt to use their absolute knowledge for what is clearly a relative task.
I guess I may possibly have what they describe as "passive absolute pitch". I can identify certain notes, the ones whose sound I've cared to learn. Right now the one I know the most is "a" since oboists are expected to provide that tuning note. In addition to the c and f# which I knew before I can usually get f, g, and d. I didn't really try to cultivate this after I saw how it set me off course with ear training. I can sing c, f# or a on command as well, albeit slightly out of tune some days. As I mentioned I can definitely tell when things are in the original key and I can sometimes identify what key things are in. Again, this is mostly uncultivated. I can recognize the keys we use a lot at church: C, G, and D major and f#, b, a, d, and c minor. E major or minor I sometimes get though they both have a "weird" feeling to me. Nearby keys that I am less familiar with like e-flat or b-flat trip me up. Also it's easier for me to recognize keys with popular music than with orchestral. With orchestral I cheat and use a reference piece. For example, since I love the 3rd movement of Brahms' third symphony it is my reference for c minor. If I hear another piece in c minor I will remember that it's the key of the Brahms piece.
I can always play a piece or song in my mind in the correct key. Right now I can listen to the opening of Mozart's 40th, Ravel's Bolero, or Beethoven's 5th in my mind in their original glory. And I can usually sing it back to you in that key. I'm not a great singer though so sometimes I'll sing it flat.
I remember one time in composition class there was a violinist who had perfect pitch and was a virtuoso and the whole nine yards. The professor wanted to test her ability and bounced a ball on top of the table and asked her what pitch she heard. I silently mouthed F because it was the one pitch I was really familiar with at that time and the ball's sound brought it to mind. The girl didn't see me but the professor did so when she said "That was an F" he gave me a weird look. Haha. That was fun!
Another interesting story happened when I was 7. I remember learning "Silent Night" from my second grade teacher. I found the melody very beautiful and one night I was in the living room by myself staring at the tree. I decided to serenate it by singing "Silent Night" to it. I started singing and realized that something wasn't right. I started again and again felt weird about it. I remember like yesterday the conversation going on in my mind. I realized that I could start singing it on a different note each time and I wondered how people knew what the correct note was. I figured that maybe I needed to play the guitar like my teacher did. At that point I knew nothing about music notation but it's really interesting that I was having this sort of sophisticated dialogue in my mind. Eventually I settled on something and the tree did get its serenade.
Do you think it's worth me trying to develop this? Or should I just spend my time on more fruitful activities? Maybe I can train my ear while making reeds. Now there's a thought. To be honest all I really want at this point is to get better at playing melodies by ear and to play in tune. But I admit, having a good ear is very satisfying. It can't hurt to work on it some more. :-D