Monday, May 22, 2006

Radio Lab: musical language

While I haven't listened to the broadcast linked to above (my cheaper internet connection isn't fast enough for streaming audio, and the more expensive one will bankrupt me if I try it!), I did encounter Diana Deutsch's fascinating site through the page summarizing the show. The idea of musical predisposition has always fascinated me. I have difficulties with the notion of talent, because I feel that it encourages people to discriminate against those they consider less talented, and gives those people labeled as less talented an excuse for not doing their best, but I suspect that there is some sort of predisposition built into people, not by their genes, but perhaps by their very early life experiences. If that is the case, then at least to some degree, people's ability is governed by matters beyond their control. Diana's work on perfect pitch and tone language suggests that, at least as far as musical ability goes, circumstances play a role in the skills we develop, and those skills play a role in the development of our ability as musicians. The study does mention, however, that the ability to acquire perfect pitch is universal at birth, so at least to some degree there is evidence that anyone is capable of developing this skill.

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