The national press missed this last week. Jerry Sanders is the Republican mayor of San Diego:
Perfect pitch is the ability some musicians have to perceive musical notes independent of any tonal reference.
Perfect pitch is used primarily to make other musicians without perfect pitch feel inferior. Typically, this is accomplished as follows. The musician with perfect pitch points at the musician without perfect pitch, and says something like, “You lack perfect pitch! Ha ha ha!” At this point, the musician without perfect pitch runs away crying.
However, I am here to tell you that the notion of perfect pitch is bunk. All humans have perfect pitch. You have perfect pitch already. Would you like me to prove it to you?
First, choose your favorite song by your favorite singer or band. Yes, you love lots of songs. Think of one that you would love to turn up if it came on the radio, because you’ve heard it like a hundred times and you still think the song is cool. Go ahead and choose the song. I’ll wait. While I’m waiting, I’m going to choose “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. Note! You don’t have to choose “Comfortably Numb.” Any song will do, whether it’s by Pink Floyd or not.
Okay, now you have your song. What you’re going to do is play the opening section of it right in your mind. You’ll just close your eyes and think the song right now, like it’s playing on the radio. Dum dum dum dee dee dee… and you’re going to hear the singer start to sing the song. In my case, Roger Waters is going to go, “Hello hello hello…”
Now did you just hear the singer sing that note in your head? That note is, for you, an absolute pitch. You could, if you wanted to, hum that note very quietly. And you could do it today or a month from today, and you will always hum that note.
You could even walk over to a piano or a guitar, sing the note again, and futz around on the keys until you found the exact same note that Roger Waters was singing (F-sharp below middle C). From now on, if you want to know what an F-sharp sounds like, just play the opening sequence from “Comfortably Numb” in your head1, and wait for Roger to sing an F-sharp for you.
If you did this for twelve songs all in different keys, you’d know all the notes of the scale. Poof! Perfect pitch for you!
1The original 1979 version, not the cheesy harmony version with post-Waters Floyd they did in the mid-80’s. That was a B-minor chord.
[Laughing] I have a joke. It?s a good one. This joke is called “The Aristocrats,” okay? So the setup is, there?s this guy, and he runs a talent agency. He?s an agent. And a man comes into the agent?s office, says Have I Got An Act For You. And the agent says, We Don?t Take Family Acts. And so the guy says… no wait, the guy?s got his family with him. Yeah, the guy walks in to the talent agent?s office, he has a wife and a son… So the guy goes in, with his whole family, says to the talent agent, Have I Got an Act For You. Talent agent says, We Don’t Take Family Acts. And so the guy goes, You’ve Never Seen Anything Like This. And so the daughter… Wait a second, this is important. There’s a daughter there. So the guy has brought his wife, his son and his daughter. And he goes to the talent agent, Have I Got An Act For You, blah blah blah. And so the daughter takes out this big thing, it’s like about this long and like this. It’s some sort of sexual device. And the whole family is, like, “whoa!” … Let me see if I can remember how this goes. So the son takes the thing… I’m sorry, I’ve totally screwed this up. Wait, wait! There’s a pony. They’ve got a Shetland pony with a velvet collar covered with sleigh bells and blue ribbons. And the pony is pulling this sleigh, and the sleigh is full of toys and gifts and things… I always wanted a pony. It would be nice to pet one. They have those soft manes. [Make pony noises] The joke! So okay, we have a pony. And so the daughter, she has this sexual device, it?s like this big, and everybody’s like, “ohhhh!” And then… So maybe, the pony isn’t actually important to the story. I can’t remember. The pony comes in, and then… [Long pause] Knock knock. [Who?s there?] The Aristocrats! [The Aristocrats who?] Um… [Long pause, then cry quietly]
You haven’t missed much. I tend to sleep poorly. Most days I wake up around five-thirty, doze for a few hours. Weekdays start at eight or so. I drag my sleepless butt out of bed, watch the coffee maker drip, and saunter into the office. I spend my days hunched over a computer, spinning out miles and miles of code. I’m writing audio rendering code, the auditory heart and soul of a new video game. If I do a good job, the game will be played by over a million people. If the game sounds bad, well, that’s my fault.
Producing, listening, testing. It must be perfect. I must be perfect. It’s music and art multiplied by all my programming and techie abilities. I argue with other engineers. I get frightened: am I too old? Too arrogant? Too sleepless? Am I wrong? Can I build what I can imagine?
Not enough time, never enough time.
I stop work usually around seven-thirty, my head still spinning from code and digital-signal algorithms. The global-positioning system in my Prius guides me home. I’ve driven this route for months, but occasionally I still get lost.
My head, you know.
Usually, the wife has made pasta and salmon, or maybe chicken. We watch the big-screen TV (nature documentaries from the BBC) and maybe talk for a little while. Usually, I don’t talk to her about work.
Lather, rinse, repeat. It?s been six weeks that I haven?t auditioned for anything, and only written one script. And here I am, in the shadow of L.A.
I think I’ve fallen into a pattern that I know too well.