Why can we identify colours but not notes?main
A study at the University of Chicago attempts to understand the basis of perfect pitch.
oth light and sound travel as waves, with characteristics that allow people with typical vision and hearing to perceive and categorize them when they reach their eyes and ears: “That’s a small red dog barking,” someone might say.
But while people can easily name most colors in different groups—distinguishing the specific frequencies and wavelengths of light—few can do the same for musical notes, which represent sounds with distinct, unchanging pitches. Hearing a musical note and naming it is beyond the listening expertise of most people.
In fact, this ability is rare enough that society celebrates people who can label musical notes heard spontaneously: They are said to have “perfect pitch,” or “absolute pitch” as scientists who study the science of auditory perception call the ability. More common among musicians is “relative pitch,” the ability to name musical notes in relation to one another on a scale (“do, re, mi”) but not without a reference note.
For psychologists and neuroscientists at the University of Chicago who have studied perfect pitch for years, this raised an interesting question about the relationship between sensory processing and cognition: What makes some musicians so good at identifying musical sounds? Is it the way their brains process sounds, their musical training, or both?…
Read on here.