If you can do X, why can’t you do Y?

Standard

This video is my all-purpose answer to that.

Was not planning on making a video tonight, or at least not this video. Just sort of happened. It’s mostly text and spoken words, but there’s parts that are different. Does presume standard hearing and vision (at least standard range of hearing and color perception) but that’s sort of the point, given who it’s geared towards.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

60 responses »

  1. On my screen (or maybe just to my eyes) the “red” looked sort of orangey … and of course the tones had me lost (and wondering for a minute if all hearing people, at least other than my Mom who I know is “tune deaf” could identify notes).

    As a deaf people who can lipread in some situations but not others, I find that some hearing people seem to get confused by me too. They assume just because I seem to lipread them okay when we’re in a reasonably quiet situation with no interruptions, their face is well lit, they’re facing me and speaking at a moderate pace, etc. … that this necessarily means I would still be able to lipread the same person if they were speaking in front of an audience in a lecture-type situation. Or that I could necessarily keep up with a group conversation. To me, these kinds of situations are as different as night and day. In the other situations I don’t usually get to see people’s faces as clearly (because they’re looking at the whole group, not only at me) and they’re more likely to forget to speak at a moderate pace and go too fast for me to keep up. And if more than one person speaks, then someone might be finished asking a question before I even realize that someone else had started talking, meaning I never get a chance to see the question. Which means the answer will make no sense — which means I may not be able to lipread it at all, because a lot of “lipreading” is actually “educated guessing”: I depend heavily on contextual cues to help me figure out what non-signing people are saying.

    Hearing people do get *some* of this if explained to them — for example, once it’s explained, they realize that it’s “common sense” that a deaf person would need to SEE their face in order to lip read them, and that makes it easier for them to grasp requests such as “standing in front of the window puts your whole face in shadow, could you please move” or “your hand is blocking your mouth” etc But I think failure to understand the difference between lipreading in a one-on-one conversation situation and lipreading in a group situation might have contributed in small part to some of the frustrations I had in summer camp when I was 6 and 7 years old: the counselers seemed to just assume that I always knew what the group was supposed to be doing because they had told everyone. Whereas I only knew if someone told me literally to my face. (I say this “contributed in small part” because I think the more key factor is that they couldn’t be bothered. One time I tried explaining that it might help me understand if they would write things down and their response was pretty much that I should just follow along with whatever the group was doing. They didn’t seem to recognize how helpless, angry, and frustrated it made me feel to not know anything of what was going on.)

  2. This is an excellent way of explaining this stuff.
    I’m going to try it out on a few people I know; I suspect it does require at least a partially open mind. People can be so very attached to the things they just intuitively “know”.

  3. This video is a good way of explaining things. Personally, my musical ability is rubbish, but I was pleasantly surprised I cam close with the notes. I got B (but just b, not sharp or flat) as that’s the first note I learned to play. I guessed G for F as it was a low/deep note and I got C because it’s very high. So I suppose I put the references in place but doubt they were any more than guesses brought on by memory. You could expand the note recognition point further and say that most people could hum a tune but not identify the notes in that tune.

  4. I attributed my inability to identify notes to a lack of music education, or rather, having forgotten most of the music education that I had. I forgot about the whole “relative pitch” thing.

    I heard that many (or maybe most?) speakers of Mandarin Chinese (I think it was Mandarin), a tonal language, have perfect pitch…so, like speaking without an accent, it is probably something that most neurotypical people can learn/rewire themselves to do in early childhood. Relative pitch may be like the inability of Japanese and Koreans to tell “l” from “r” because their native languages don’t require them to do so. And then, since less than 100% of Chinese speakers have perfect pitch, it is probably something that people with certain neurological configurations can’t learn – and these configurations are likely included under the socially defined “normal” umbrella as well (although the Chinese could make up a category of “dyspitchia” as a learning disability if they wanted to).

  5. I made a new blog entry inspired by this post http://abnormaldiversity.blogspot.com/2007/09/you-have-weakness-in-that.html
    It’s on a tangent – the idea that a weakness in an area under the classification of a certain kind of skills means you must not be able to seek a career in that area. For example, a dyslexic shouldn’t be an author because they ‘have a weakness in that area’, even though they may in fact have a weakness in the mechanics of writing but be excellent at thinking up insightful stories and putting them into words. Or conversely, someone who has difficulty expressing ideas in words might be just fine and transcribing tapes, something the other person in my example would find quite difficult.

  6. Neat video. I’m trying to teach my brain to know the notes (at least the ones on my harmonica I’m trying to learn to play), I guess it’ll be an interesting mini-experiment in neuroplasticity.

    This is a cool example because it kind of punches a hole in people’s belief that what is intuitively correct (i.e. “colors are easy to distinguish as compared to sounds”) isn’t necesarily very scientific or objective (because they both represent frequencies, and there’s no reason the eyes have to be any better than the ears at detecting those frequencies.)

  7. reform_normal, that is a fascinating tangent. I wonder if there’s more research in that area . . . however, I might add that Asian cultures generally use the pentatonic scale, no? And therefore might more easily be able to identify notes from rote memory?

  8. There’s also a distinction between perfect pitch and memorized pitch, which is why the UCSF people were so careful in the study.

    Perfect pitch is hearing a note and automatically knowing what the note is, the same way you automatically know the color of something. (Which in my case, neither of those are automatic until I run a particular process, but I think most people run that process without thinking so I doubt it counts. It’s not that I have to compare it to anything, it’s that I have to engage my categorization function.)

    Memorized pitch is where you hear it and then have to think for awhile but can still come up with the note, probably by consciously replaying a familiar note you’ve memorized in your head, then consciously comparing the two. It would be like looking at a color and then having to think “Hmm, red looks like THAT, and blue looks like THIS, etc… must be blue!”

    That’s why the UCSF study makes people identify notes in three seconds or less. (And I used even less than that in my video to make the point that you can tell a color in two seconds, but most people can’t tell a pitch in two seconds.)

  9. Re: what Ettina wrote, what I end up with is an expectation that because I have an area of strength that’s considered musical in nature that I must be a really good musician.

    I’d say I’m good at singing, and pitch helps with that, but instruments I range from bad to average at, mostly mediocre. (I used to be very good at violin for a kid, but I can’t even play that instrument up to that standard anymore, let alone adult-level.) I enjoy music, but having good relative pitch is more important than perfect pitch in a musician, and even that isn’t enough to be a good musician on its own. Practice, motor skills, and body type all come into it as well (for instance I will never be even mildly competent at guitar because of the way my hands are shaped, that’s just a given unless there were a way to design a guitar around my specific body type, and I am at varying degrees of disadvantage at some other instruments due to hand size, unless I play on small versions I guess; I am also guessing that some of the problems I’ve acquired since childhood would make it a bad health move to even attempt much violin).

  10. I find this a very good video.

    On a side note, I use the common color names (blue, red,..) when I communicate, but in my mind I use the numbers of the color system that I used for 10 years (I was a color maker for industrial paint)

    Although it isn’t perfect, because there are millions of different shades, I’m familiar with some 180 colors and their numbers. Despite colors on computer screens are very different from paint colors, I immediately knew which color code came most close to the colors in your video, RAL1018 for yellow, RAL2004 for red – it’s actually called orange in that color system, but names aren’t important and RAL5012 for blue.

    Until here my little perseveration on colors, merely to say that people would find it strange that I would say, “I’ve repainted my living room in RAL1015..”

  11. Wow, that was really helpful.

    “Why can you do things some of the time but not all of the time?” I’m tempted to buy an iPhone just so I can show people the video the next time I get asked why I get lost all the time (despite being able to read maps in the sort of overall abstract way, and having lived in the area my entire life), or why some social situations send me into hysterics while others don’t, or why I can spend eight hours monofocusing on a complex task, but can’t seem to get the two-brain-cell tasks I have to do at work done.

  12. It’s a matter of expectations. People expect knowledge of colours – at least on the basic level of blue, red, yellow – but not of musical notes.

    In a society with high levels of literacy people are expected to be literate, unlike societies with low levels of literacy.

    I had piano lessons when I was a child, though my piano playing was only average. But I still remember the notes and I can read music.

  13. I played music as a kid along with large groups of other children who had also played music from a young age. I was the only one who could identify notes by name.

    And I got really tired of kids playing notes on their various instruments and saying “What was that one?” or even playing two notes at once and claiming it was only one note to try to “trick” me.

    And among all of us, which was quite a lot of kids, I was the only one with perfect pitch in a conventional sense, and then there was one girl who could play back anything she heard, but who couldn’t read music. (And she pretended to read music because she didn’t want to be seen as weird.)

    Since I could identify individual notes but not chords, I had a strange role in the music thing that we did at one of the programs I was at as a teenager. Since we mostly played various pop songs, the guy who ran the group and I would go sit by the tape deck. He’d ask what notes were in a particular chord. We’d play them over and over until I identified them one by one. Then since he had all the relative pitch and musical theory and all that that I didn’t have, he’d figure out what chord it was. (It was kind of amusing in that case how fast his response to my admitting to perfect pitch went from “Yeah right, tune my guitar then” to finding uses for me after he tested me on a few notes.)

    (And FYI, the reason it’s “admitting to” perfect pitch is because it gets really irritating to be asked “What note is this then?” about everything from piano notes to armpit farts. Sort of like a less extreme version of what Jerry Newport got as a kid when asked to multiply large numbers and stuff all the time — although I think he derives more enjoyment from playing with numbers than I do from identifying notes.)

  14. The part reform_normal didn’t apparently get is that he probably also didn’t get much color determination education. Yet colors are easy for most people, without having to put a lot of effort into learning them. Music, on the other hand, is considered a “talent”, because it’s difficult to most people. Clearly we’re talking about neurological capabilities, not just learning or being taught.

  15. “(I should add that a lot of the things I do without conventional instruments I consider musical, but that’s in the realm of general weirdness.)”

    I was noticing that with my young autistic friend. A lot of the noises he makes are fairly musical, and he responds similarly to me playing with sounds by vocal stimming as he does to me singing actual songs (delighted interest).

  16. Wow, that was really very good. Captivating, and eye-opening. It helps to explain some of the apparent confusion (and definite lack of response) I get from my boy when I ask him to identify a color. If he is as completely bewildered by colors as I was by the pitches, that’s a good thing to know. At least it is a different way of looking at it.

    I do, however, think that if we were taught pitches in primary school like we are taught colors and animal sounds (and there is a LOT of emphasis on these things), they might be much easier to identify. Even if we could only identify them relative to another known pitch. If they were drilled into our heads the way that colors and numbers and letters are for years 2 through 6 of our lives, that is. We’re just more visually oriented, I guess. Imagine if the terror-alerts were issued by pitch of the warning sounds coming from the radio rather than a color-based system. We’d learn our pitches pretty fast, I’d wager.

    Either way, great video.

  17. Oh, another weird thing.

    I hear original music in my head a lot of the time that I can’t play, at all. It’s complex, with lots of chords and competing rhythms, and while I can easily pick out individual notes, I can’t pick them out all at once, in other words it’s exactly like hearing music (both the good and bad parts). And often there seems to be a sort of music in things around me.

  18. I’ve the same issue with the music stuck in my head! I cannot tease apart the elements of it, because it exists as a unified gestalt.

    I think I would be described as having perfect pitch, if only I had learned the names of the notes! But I can always tell when something’s a wee bit off-tune, or misplayed — made sitting through children’s concerts uncomfortable.

  19. Hmm, I didn’t know about the difference between “perfect pitch” and “memorized pitch” before. I don’t think I have perfect pitch, but I did guess the “C” note in your sequence…oddly enough because it sounded yellow to me, and I have a yellow synesthesia association with the letter C. :) Didn’t get the others, though. I think that what I have is more like “memorized pitch”; I can pick out most songs I know by tune on a piano keyboard or on the recorder, and I can sing songs in tune from memory without hearing them in the background.

    Also, I recognize the voice you used in that video as “Audrey – UK English” from the AT&T Natural Voices. :)

  20. And what about those of us who can identify the notes (I could probably sing back all three of those and recognize them when played again) but never learned the names for them? Are we really note-identification challenged, or just misunderstood?

  21. I’m neurotypical (at least as far as anyone bothers to categorize), and I get the music in my head, too. I have a lousy sense of pitch, though, so I have no shot at transcribing it.

  22. Hi, I really enjoyed the enlightening discussion. I really flipped out & was ready to turn off the sound, when the two higher notes came through the speaker. I assumed they were only going to be short, and I guess they were, but they really felt like an eternity to me. I had my eyes almost shut etc and totally lost track of what I was supposed to do. I could not figure out that I actually was supposed to make a ‘C’ note referrence. I am sure I have heard a softer ‘C’ than this, but it must have just been more quiter. I do have autism and am very ‘noise sensitive’. I was referred to this site by a friend to help me explain things to others. I don’t know where this comment is leading, but just to say, that some people don’t mind colours one bit but certain sounds that others tolerate quite well, are absolutely abhorent to others, when played too loud.

    Cheers and take care.

  23. (this reply is slightly graphic at the end.)Since the video didn’t have sound where I am, at school, I can only respond to the title of the post……..I get that question, directly or indirectly, quite often from my family……..and it drives me CRAZY!!!!!!!! Like I’m going to know or care every single time, why I can do something so well and not something else……..

    We’ve probably got perfect pitch as well……probably, because we’ve never been directly tested……never thought about it……..

    Heike: re your brief discussion about how some are tolerant of sounds others cannot stand…I sing in my church choir (contralto/tenor, mostly the latter, in case anyone is curious) and we have a soprano…….who has a lovely voice, but when she is standing directly behind me, or even slightly to my left or right, and she hits those high notes, I feel as if someone is drilling a hole in my skull! I have to at times exert a great effort not to start shaking my head violently when that happens

    sorry that was a bit graphic, couldn’t find another way to describe that would do justice to the feeling……..

    The Integral (for Ivan and Athena-that means, both of us as one……..and a calculus operation. woot for maths!)

  24. I also found the two high ones painful.
    I can say which note is higher or lower, but my sense of ‘how much’ higher or lower is broader than actual notes, more note ranges. I can tell it ‘sounds wrong’ if it’s slightly different, but can’t tell if it should be higher or lower. However if you played the real note I’d know which was higher. I think it’s that I have trouble mentally representing tones. Anything I can’t say or see I find it hard to imagine.

  25. I could identify the colors but not the pitches.
    I am a painter but even no I am trying to learn
    instruments sometimes sound itself is painful.
    I think I have an auditory processing problem.
    Interesting, I have heard some autistic people describe their brains as like computers. Mine
    is like a radio. Background music all the time.
    Stations that need to be changed continually.
    Lots of static

  26. It could be something mangling the audio, it could be that you learned the pitches a half-step different from normal, or it could be that pitch perception often shifts a half-step by adulthood. I used the exact frequencies described to generate the notes, and they sound right to me. And they match my pennywhistle.

  27. I don’t know if it is my age (60) but I almost
    could not hear the lowest tone…It sounded very far away and muffled to me…..I did identify
    the note C….but I think that was just a lucky
    call or perhaps the fact that throughout my formative years different music instructors often
    played that note as a reference point….

  28. By the way, all the tones were generated at the same objective loudness too, the variation in apparent loudness is an artifact of differences in parts of our hearing range, unless my computer is just screwed up.

    There’s actually a pattern to which tones people remember best.

    Tones in the C major scale are identified the most easily, also B-flat. I used those tones because I’d used primary colors and I figured it was only fair to use some of the easiest of notes.

    A-flat is hard to identify, often because not all bands and orchestras tune A to an exact 440 Hz frequency, so people sometimes play A to an A-flat and can get confused between the two.

  29. Oh, and one thing I learned when I was in the UCSF study (was actually in it several years ago) was that I am not the only person with perfect pitch who took Tegretol and had their perfect pitch disappear.

  30. Stefan…that may be my problem as well…I have a mini-apple…At least I would rather think it is my
    computer then my hearing….;P

  31. this is offtopic but whenever i accidentally select the hidden phrase that asks for comments and see that it says “What do you think about?”, i always want to answer it literally. that could be very long or very short, depending. am looking fwd to watching this video another day when i have more brain available.

  32. Amanda I believe you. I used to take
    Tegetol for my seizure disorder and only
    recently it was discovered I was dangerously
    anemic from being on it too long. I was taken slowly off it and put on Lamictal which feels
    healthier.

  33. That was really interesting. My mother has perfect pitch. I have perfect relative pitch and a memorized middle C, so I was able to identify the high C accurately (octaves are easy), but in the specified time-frame was only able to guess within a note or so of the other two pitches.

    Varied abilities have never phazed me much, but that’s probably from hanging around with my father’s patients (he’s a neurologist). Just hanging around with that lot for a few hours could give you a lot of empathy for the amount of explaining they had to do every minute of every day.

    Oh, and my mother has never been more than a very casual singer, while I sing and play piano and organ semi-professionally.

  34. Sort of tangential, but a guy at work recently was telling me about how they did hearing tests back when he was in the armed services — during one of these tests, he kept failing it at 400 Hz. He could hear pretty much everything outside that range, though, so the examiners were wondering what was going on. Eventually, my co-worker remembered that he often worked in an area that had a constant 400 Hz hum in the background due to some equipment in that area. Once he remembered that, he was able to hear the 400 Hz tone during the hearing test and pass it. I guess his brain just “habituated” to that pitch, but he was able to undo the habituation by consciously thinking about it.

  35. Based on the title, i thought this was going to have somrthing to do with one of my leaast-favorite subjects, algebra. So glad i was wrong!

    Anyway, loved the video. Very thoughtful, and proves your point well. It sure is something to think about. Personally, i think that concept apllies to everyone, whether they realize or not. If only more people would think out-side thier own barriers for a moment, and were open to the idea.

  36. Memorized pitch… Hmm, I didn’t even know that existed. That explains why it takes me longer than that to recognize notes–I would’ve had to replay them to pass your test. So, technically, I don’t have perfect pitch, but rather a good memory for sound and very good relative pitch? I know I’ve always been very, very good with intervals. Before I knew what a “third” was, or knew how to read notes, I would stand in church and sing the notes a third below the hymns, to harmonize with the melody… I think I was about eight or nine. I didn’t know that the other people were reading the notes when they sang harmony!

  37. I am definitely having a bad night- I couldn’t identify the colours in the time frame given (I knew the colours, just couldn’t access the words within 2 seconds).

    The two higher notes had me in pain, so I didn’t even try to identify them.

  38. *de-lurking*
    I just wanted to say that this video is an excellent way to explain the situation. Most of the time, I understand my son, but have difficulty explaining why he does what he does to other people. This video will definitely help. Thank you!

  39. Very well done, I find the idea that someone assumes if you can do one thing you should be able to do another very annoying.

    It is also tiresome to explain to people, as in your example about being able to not boil water, but do other tasks, that this does not mean you are like a little child. That’s like saying someone with “pitch-deficency” is infantile, because they fail at that one specific task.

    This also brings to mind the idea that people will fail to teach us things, because they will assume we can’t comprehend it, without even trying to teach us.

    I don’t mind explaining things to people, if they will understand. Not pat me on the head and act as if I explained to them I’m a child, and want to be treated as such. Like not being able to drive. For most people it seems not being able to drive, is akin to having the mindset of a 4 year old. What is up with that?!

  40. A skil which is regarded as natural in one culture may be viewed as bizarre behaviour in another culture.

    In ‘The Mask of Benevolence: Disabling the Deaf Community’, Harlan Lane tells how when a deaf friend with deaf parents was a young boy he made friends with a little girl next door, who was hearing. However he discovered that he could not communicate with her as he could with his family. She couldn’t understand even the simplest gestures. So he was reduced to pointing and bringing things to her, or her to things. He did not know what was wrong with her, but his conviction that she was strange was confirmed one day. The girl’s mother walked up to them while they were playing and moved her mouth furiously at her daughter. Suddenly she picked up her toys and left. He went to his mother and asked what the girl’s affliction was. His mother explained that the girl was hearing; she didn’t know how to sign, so she and her mother communicate with talk.

  41. I once read a story about a hearing, sighted 4-year-old girl whose mother just happened to be both deaf and blind. Her mother had the primary responsibility for looking after her during the day. So her father had gone through all of her books to add Braille to them, both for the text and also to add descriptions of the pictures so that if the girl pointed to, say, the yellow duck, then the mother could read the Braille and know to say, “Yes, that’s a yellow duck, and the duck is taking her babies to the pond blah blah.”

    Well, one day, it appears that this little girl (who had not yet started learning to read on her own) was visiting a friend’s home and started going through the books there. Except, she kept saying, “oh this book is broken” then she’d look at another and declare that one broken also. (I forget if she was speaking this or signing this, but whatever, she was saying the books were all broken.) This kept going on for book after book until her father got there to ask what she meant. Turned out she thought all the books were “broken” because they had no Braille. So her father had to explain that sighted people read things by print instead of Braille!

    We consider “natural” to be whatever we’re surrounded with. If we’re surrounded with sign, then of course sign will be natural. If we’re surrounded by books in Braille and a Mom who only reads Braille, than thats what will be natural. And if we have perfect pitch but can’t boil water, then that’d be natural too.

    If a person doesn’t like chocolate, though, THAT can’t possibly be natural … ;-)

  42. Perfect pitch sometimes can be a hindrance. I have a person in my choir who cannot easily sing a piece of music if I transpose to another key. Everyone else can, because they have relative pitch. One Sunday I sprang a new idea on the choir: I wanted to transpose the last stanza up one half-note, kind of like country music. :) But we had to scrap that idea because it would have made the one singer not be able to read the music.

    Someone I know who tunes instruments told me the story of a young man who walked up to a piano and got very upset because one note was out of tune. He didn’t check any of the others, which is what one normally does to tell that a note is out of tune. My friend realized that the young man had perfect pitch. I am not sure if he was autistic or something, but was a teenager who had limitations of some sort and did not work. My friend taught him to tune pianos and his mom used to drive him around to tune. He said luckily the piano from which he memorized the pitches was at or near A440 so he did a fairly good tuning job. This is something that would have happened at least 30 years ago so I know nothing else about it.

    C is not quite yellow for me. It’s an orangish yellow. When I am having trouble with a piece, I do write the colors in, and then I get the notes right almost immediately. If I wrote in yellow for C, I’d be in trouble. I have to dig through my colored pencils finding just the right sort of yellowish orange, since F and E also are shades of yellow and orange. I wish they’d change to something a bit more varied but they don’t. At least D is a bright blue with some green in it, whilst B is a violet blue. I don’t get those mixed up.

    I think I look at mouths and lip read somewhat. I never thought about it at all until I started reading about auditory processing difficulties.

  43. I had a horrible experience at a tryout where the sheet music I was given to sight-sing was in one key and the piano was playing in a totally different key. I couldn’t do it. At all. I tried to say something and they told me “just transpose it” like that’s easy or something.

    The flipside to that is how new and interesting a song sounds in a different key.

  44. My Dad says it’s not a fair comparison because most people recognize colors as ‘red’, ‘blue’ etc instead of what exact hue they are to the degree of specificity of notes. He doesn’t have absolute pitch but if you play a note he is usually within 1-2 notes of it in his guess, which is probably similar to colors.

  45. There are several pages about absolute pitch (AP) in the book ‘This Is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession’ by Daniel Levitin, who runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, Montreal, where he is also Professor of Psychology.

    People with AP can name notes as easily as most of us name colours. A person with AP can tell you if you play them a particular note, C-sharp for example, on the piano. Most people can’t do that – even most musicians can’t unless they’re looking at your fingers. Most people with AP can mame the pitch of other sounds also – like car horns, the hum of fluorescent lights, and knives clinking against dinner plates.

    Colour is a psychosocial fiction. It doesn’t exist in the world, but our brains impose a colour, such as red or blue, on the one dimensional continuum of the frequency of light waves.

    Pitch is also a pyschosocial fiction which does not exist in the world. It is caused by our brains imposing a structure on the one dimensional continuum of the frequency of sound waves. “We can instantly name a color just by looking at it. Why can’t we name sounds just by listening to them?”

    “Well, most of us can identify sounds as effortlessly as we identify colors; it’s simply not the pitch we identify, but rather, the timbre […]. Still, it remains an unsolved problem why some people have AP and others don’t.”

    In relation to autistic people and music, Daniel Levitin perpetuates stereotypes and ignorance. He contrasts people with Williams Syndrome [WS], who are highly social, gregarious and paricularly good at music, with autistics who are highly anti-social and not very musical.

    Because we are unable to empathize with others, to understand emotions or emotional communication, particularly emotions in others; we are utterly unable “to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of art and music. Although some [autistic] people play music, and some of them have reached a high level of technical profiency, they do not report being emotionally moved by music. Rather the preliminary and largely anecdotal evidence is that they are attracted to the *structure* of music.”

    “Temple Grandin […] has written that she finds music ‘pretty’, but that in general, she just ‘doesn’t get it’ or understand why people react to it in the way that they do.”

    We are able to empathize with others, to understand emotions in others, and to appreciate art and music, and be emotionally moved by music. I am. Besides there is no relationship between sociability and emotional enjoyment of music. With all the means to listen to music when alone an anti-social person can easily enjoy music,and be moved by it emotionally.

    Also I’ve read elsewhere people with WS being described as very social, in contrast to autistics who are described as being very anti-social.

  46. I think timbre is more equivalent to (visual) texture than color, somehow. And I am actually at times not good at timbre identification, at least not as good as at pitch identification. I played violin for years (and played quite well for my age, although now I can’t seem to play at all) while unable to pick out the sound of a violin among other instruments and relate it back to the instrument I was playing. I can identify a violin sound now, but sure couldn’t then.

    At any rate, I think “violin” vs. “trumpet” is a lot closer to “striped” vs. “paisley” than to “blue” vs. “green”.

  47. I liked this and don’t know what else to say and I’m enjoying the comments too about the (guessing here) synaesthesia. I used to visualize a LOT more all my sensations. Smell, Touch, Sounds, Taste, Even vestibular…. like I see blue tubing at times, red brick structures with feelings inside. I’ve lost it and I actually don’t know what it’s due to. I feel like it got stolen and I don’t know where my ability went. I feel like I used to be able to do a lot of really cool things that others couldn’t and now I can’t like I forgot. It’s like, when I was allowed to play, I could do them but because I’m focused on media and how *everyone else* does things and I’m used to doing everything *their* way, my old talents never got appreciated/used and I guess their lost! No one asks me what color some feeling feels like at all. It’s weird and so it got lost/unused. Society seems to select skills that are considered important and the rest are thrown away or never used. If I were isolated, it might be better but then I’d also be lonely….so no win yet…it’s why I want to be around people who are not “normal to society” and yet “normal to themselves”. I know I’m not or at least I remember that I wasn’t. I can maybe learn some things from them that I might have forgotten.

    Sure, the extra visualization for everything may seem like work now but at one time, it was more natural than language and my mind has been drilled and drilled to use language that is common to everyone so that everyone will roughly be the same and differences will diminish…even though these differences might be useful or even essential for some of us.

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