[Menvi-discuss] blind musicians with perfect pitch

Beth Smaligo bsmaligo at gmail.com
Sun Sep 17 05:48:09 EDT 2017


Hello to the discussion group,
It's been fascinating reading the latest chatter about blind professional orchestral musicians. I'm solid as far as musical comprehension, but as far as execution I wouldn't make the cut for an orchestra now, although I played in a junior orchestra for fourth through eighth graders in seventh and eighth grade. Contra the stereotype, I do not have perfect pitch, at least not anymore. I have always been painfully self-conscious about disclosing what I am about to say, but as it's nothing remotely inappropriate to post publicly, I might as well ditch the introversion and open the floodgate. It would probably have come up one day since my mother, an extremely gifted music educator and informal advocate for blind equality, might have eventually posted as such. It seems apparently that I had perfect pitch until age 7. I cannot recall what that must have been like, nor can I imagine it now hard, as I try, but I must have had it because if you asked, and sometimes when I was younger even when not asked, much to my chagrin at the time, both of my parents would say to certain people and retell me that upon a key being randomly brushed up against or deliberately struck I would immediately invariably pipe up with unerring accuracy its note. We'll never know how I lost it, and I have my limitations (OK I opened the floodgate, but I will not be a research subject), but my mom has this theory that I also discovered that I was different, as in how being blind separated me from the other kids around second grade time because the others didn't absolutely have to run up and touch everything anymore, or at least not nearly as much. This "discovering that I was different," as she terms it, we think psychologically traumatized me, and one of the damages was the loss of this mysterious gift of automatic ability to name notes. I think also in consequence my reliance on braille music is such that I could use some formal ear training. I'd love to learn to improvise in an American folk style kind of way, and I really appreciate jazz, though my tendencies are definitely classical. I'm sorry: perhaps it is that I've just rambled on in a sort of self-pity, though this has certainly not been my intention. I think a lot, often too much, and when I journal privately, I find that my entries are seldom short or without detail. Some of this is also the result of the expansive writing and clarity drilled into an English literature and communication double major (that was my undergrad degree). Anyway, I recently had an almost video game-like dream like a fantasy world recently (and I've had variations of this dream over the years) in which one of the powers I could acquire along the Path to Success in whatever fantasy world my dream had made up, nonspecific as it was that I could ever remember upon awakening, was perfect pitch. I guess then in my dream, and only in those particular fantasy-world dreams, could I have perfect pitch. I've tried, never successfully, to identify random notes by clumsily banging random keys on a piano and recording and then playing back said recording, but only playing back after a day or two so as not to be able to recall, even if unable to identify notes by name, at least the relative non tune I'd "played." Am I making any semblance of sense? Someone was all means please tell me bluntly if I've just confused an entire discussion list with gibberish and made a total idiot of myself. I'm feeling rather foolish posting this. I'll go back to mostly monitoring; over and out.
Elizabeth [Beth] A. Smaligo, B.A., M.A.
Sent from my iPhone
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