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Who is a musician?

Dear Bill,

Your question could be answered from two points of view. As a
once-musician, I venture to say that, during that period of my life, I
encountered a number of those I would label "excellent musicians" -- they
heard things accurately AND they were able to hear things FUNCTIONALLY,
i.e., the objects found their place in the whole of the particular musical
context. This ability, I judged then, was as much a sensory as a cognitive
skill and was usually paired with a generally inquisitive mind, a well-read
culture, and imagination. In contrast, I have also known very skilled
instrumentalists (some of whom actually achieved at least a limited concert
career) who had no idea or about, and even interest in, music beyond moving
their fingers or arms according to the notes to be played. In general,
those individuals did not score very high in ear training (=solfege) or
harmony classes and I presume that they would have been lousy listeners in
auditory experiments.

Based on this experience as a musician, as a psychoacoustician, I have
approached the question in a very pragmatic way. Since I had no time to
evaluate my subjects' musicianship, and I would not have known what test
battery to use for the evaluation, since the oldest and best known among
them, Seashore test, had been shown by then to be a poor indicator of
almost everything except pitch discrimination, I only set up the
requirement that my listeners should have had at least two years of active
musical training. Why? Simply because if that training was effective to
even a limited extent, it meant that the subject reached a certain
performance level on my (usually complicated) listening tasks sooner than
his/her musically moron counterpart. And a shorter training period meant
savings, both in time and money.

Conclusion: use musical subjects (as defined by yourself based on some
arbitrary criterion) because they are cheaper.

Pierre Divenyi

Pierre Divenyi             Experimental Audiology Research (151)
                                     V.A. Medical Center, Martinez, CA
94553, USA
Phone: (925) 370-6745
Fax:     (925) 228-5738
E-mail :                       pdivenyi@marva4.ebire.org