[Martin Taylor 2006.10.29.22.35]
[From Bryan Thalhammer (2006.10.29.1235 CST)]
But just as Dennett and the rest of evolutionists get caught up in 0/1
explantions when 0/1 (from nothing to something) doesn't exist in the data, we
have to return to what was happening to Beethoven.
I don't know any more about Beethoven than what I read, but I can comment on my father's experience, as he reported it. But first...
As I was listening to the crickets, I started to hear
something very different, a ringing that welled up on my left side. It was the
outbreak of tinnitus. I am still ok, but in times of tension, that tinnitus
starts welling up and I have to ignore it. There are studies that show that
tinnitus is often associated with the onset of deafness, sometimes just mild,
other times profound. It probably has a lot of factors I won't go into.
My understanding is that each episode of tinnitus signals the loss of some outer (inner?) hair cell. You have about 30,000 of them, so you have to lose a lot before you get seriously deaf, but each loss does reduce your ability to discriminate sounds. In my own case, the pitch of the tinnitus is usually pretty high in the range I can still hear, dropping over the decades, while my upper limit has dropped from about 22 kHz at age 19 to around 6 kHz now.
Now about my father. He lost a lot of hair cells late in his life as a consequence of a bout of flu. He was a good pianist, but after the flu, his perception of the pitches of notes went awry. He demonstrated some of this by playing sequential intervals that sounded to him like an octave (I mean by playing one note after the other). Some times the actual interval might have been as large as a tenth, or as small as (I think) a sixth. When he played an octave chord, it sounded funny to him, in a way hard for him to describe. He still played the piano reasonably well, but it was no fun because the music was pretty much a jangle of sounds.
My interpretation is that he had lost almost all of the hair cells, or at least their sensitivity, over the mid-range of his hearing, sparing occasional ones or clusters, which then responded to tones near the pitch to which they were tuned. So if he had a few cells tuned to C, but none near C# or D, then a C# might sound with the pitch of C, or, because of lateral inhibition from the cells tuned near B, a C might sound as if it were C#.
We wanted to do some real experiments, but time and his health never permitted. What I say here is purely anecdotal, from a memory over 20 years old. I may have details wrong, like the magnitude of the pitch shifts, but the general phenomenon was as I described it.
Normal people do have pitch discrepancies between the ears, if you do a fine interaural comparison. Many years ago I did a small study on that (never published). If you present a sine wave tone to one ear, and ask a person to set a sine wave in the other ear to the same pitch (one tone sounding after the other, of course), the two frequencies will not match exactly, quite apart from the variability due to the subject's imprecision. Do this with the target frequency very slightly higher, and the comparison frequency may increase more or less, or may not change at all. If you plot the graph of the frequency in the left ear that is perceived as having the same pitch as the frequency in the rght ear, the plot is a distinctly wiggly line. The cross-ear matching is consistent if you do it again with the same subject.
As for my father, he may have either recovered some of the use of the hair cells, or reorganized the _perceptual_ side of his control loops, because a few years later, during his final illness, his last night out of hospital he was playing the piano for his old friends until all hours, and had enjoyed a concert the previous evening.
Anecdotes may not be much evidence, but perhaps they are better than nothing.