Music Composers Unite!
I saw that Julie Harris mentioned in a blog post that her composition students "mostly have perfect pitch".
How much advantage does perfect pitch bring to a composer? It's obvious it'll make it easier to quickly jot down a musical idea, or to read one.
But music is based on the relative values of notes, not absolute values. Especially after the scale became "well tempered" we can transpose a piece from one key to another without changing the piece's character. To most people it will sound essentially the same after transposition.
There are days when I have close to perfect pitch, and days when I don't. I prefer when I don't have that awareness of pitch because I find it distracting. I prefer to be focused on the relative value of notes.
But then again I just started composing recently. I would like to know the opinion of more experienced composers if they feel inclined to comment.
Rick Waugh said:
In my junior high school there was a girl who had perfect pitch. She also had a number of mental and physical problems, not enough to keep her out of school, but they made her life more than a bit difficult. She could not abide any music that was not in perfect tune. Listening to the school choir would literally send her into a screaming fit. I'm not saying that that's normal, and as I said, she had a lot of issues, but I'd think that if it could be that irritating, it would end up being a detriment to learning, and being around music and musicians.
It can be quite irritating, but usually it doesn't get this bad. Most folks with PP (or least that I've seen) learn to deal with it in various ways, with varying degrees of success. Personally I found learning to cope with microtonal tunings very helpful for learning to deal with situations like this, and that is a win-win situation: I'm not as bothered by the intonation as I used to be (or at least if it is very bothersome, I can still manage it), but I can hear the subtleties better than I used to be able to before learning to deal with these systems.
The irritation in these situations is caused by a mismatch between what you hear and what you feel you should be hearing: PPers perceive notes in categories, and if they don't match what they think the categories should be, then you have a mismatch. For instance, if you think you should be hearing a C, but what you are actually hearing is quite a bit sharp of that, then there's a mismatch between what your C category is and what the actual sound you are hearing is. This is also why transposition can be a problem. Both of these issues can cause difficulties if the PPer in question doesn't learn to work around them, and there are many possible strategies for coping with these problems.