[spam] Re: Beethoven

[From Bill Powers (2006.10.24.0810 MDT)]

Bo Wang [2006.10.23] --

Little question:

How Beethoven played piano when he was totally deaf?

Or practiced/talented pianists are not controlling sound any more?

I have a new approach to questions, which I should have started using a long time ago.

Do you think a talented/practised violinist could continue playing the violin after becoming deaf? How is a violin different from a piano that is relevant to this question (there are two important ways)? And what if the violinist were also blind?

Is it important that Beethoven knew how to play and write music before he became deaf?

After he became deaf, could Beethoven have played a modern electric piano?

Would he have played it differently if someone turned off the electricity?

Did Beethoven have to play the piano to know how the notes he wrote would sound? According to PCT, how would he "know" how they would sound?

These questions are not koans. They have answers you can get by using PCT.

It is very good to hear from you, Bo. And it is even nicer to have memories of the way you look and how your voice sounds. When I read your words, I can see and hear you (but please use the microphone). I also remember that you are a very intelligent young man and I'm glad you are on my side.


Bill P.

Pianists always show off their skill with blindfolds.
Mozart did this at the age of 7(or even younger).

To Bryan and Rick:

Helen Keller grew up to a great writer though she became blind and deaf when
she was 19 months old. She was able to write, and even speak. She developed
sensitive touch which supply a gap. She listened to the radio, listened to piano
playing by put her hands on them.

Other perceptions take the place of it. Or not taking place of it, they existed in
this behavior and associated with sound. However, the lose of sound don’t affect
them a lot.


To Bill:

Socrates, Roger that : )
Thoughtful questions

To Tracy:

Yes, I admit that it’s similar to typing with eyes closed. Though playing
instrument is far more complicated than typing(typing don’t need controlling
rhythm), there’s something similar.

What if
a controller loses its input? This is the common problem Beethoven and
Helen had. The biggest difference between them is one lost his ability after
learning well while the other lost her ability before learning.

The most tricky mechanism behind is manipulating the memory or imagination as
Rick mentioned.

Thanks a lot : D

Best regards,



[Martin Taylor 2006.]

[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.


[From Rick Marken (2006.10.30.0930)]

This is Phil Runkel to Rick Marken in re his comments to Bo Wang.

I'm glad to hear that you want to tell your students that controlling does not guarantee the nature of the reference signals.

What I meant to be saying was that when you see controlling (which looks like people doing things) you can't tell, just by looking, what perceptual variables they are actually controlling. I mean to be talking about perceptions, not references.

That thought provides a comment on academic freedom, too. Many people claim that academic freedom leads to a better world (at one time, this was part of the idea of "progress").

That all depends on what one thinks of (has a reference for) as a "better world". If, like me, you think that a better world would be one where white people rule and have all the money, where gays can't marry and women can't get abortions, where we should be able to produce and consume with no thought of the future or of possible side effects of our actions, where Christianity is the state religion and Israel must be protected as an apartheid state where the Jews can be gathered before the second coming, where everyone carries a gun to protect themselves and it is understood that everyone living in poverty deserves it, where the government decides what kind of research people can do and who will be tortured for information, where people pay taxes in inverse proportion to their income, then I think academic freedom would not be that big of a deal to you. If, however, you are one of those _liberal_ progressive types who wants to destroy our society and make it a horrible cesspool of sin, as it was during the Clinton administration, then academic freedom may just be your thing.

Not necessarily. It DOES lead to expansion of knowledge. But there is no telling whether that knowledge will be used for good or evil.

Exactly. Increased knowledge could be used for evil, as it was by that smarty pants Clinton. Knowledge is nothing but trouble. It's ignorance that really makes the world go around. We have never had a more ignorant President than Bush and just look at the result. I rest my case!

Somebody should come up with a really good idea about what actions one can take now (that a million of us can take now) that will make it easier for people in the future to take actions that will make the world a happier place. My own ideas do not satisfy me.

That's probably because you have too much knowledge. Knowledge makes people go all wobbly, questioning their own actions. The only way to make the world a happier place is to elect Republicans. Not all Republicans are supporters of ignorance. You get the occasional bad apples, like Lincoln Chaffey, but, by and large, the Republicans are a marvelous party. They have assured a brilliant future for our children. Well, for rich people's children, but they are really the only one's who deserve a brilliant future.

So go out there next Tuesday and vote for ignorance. The world is waiting to see if we are really as stupid as we look.



--Phil R.

Richard S. Marken Consulting
Home 310 474-0313
Cell 310 729-1400

[From Mike Acree (2006.11.03.1625 PST)]

Bill Powers (2006.10.26.1838 MDT)--

It's been only recently, when I have been spending more time at the

piano, that I

realized one difference between me and a real musician: I have not

actually been

controlling the sounds of the piano. What I learned were primarily

finger movements in

relation to the keyboard, with an almost incidental side-effect that

they produced the

music I wanted to hear.

Once I realized that, I decided to focus more on the sounds, and to try

to control them >directly instead of as side-effects. My playing became
much less mechanical and (others >have remarked) better-sounding. If I
had gone totally deaf, I could still have played

boogie-woogie because I knew how to make the movement patterns that

cause pianos to play >that sort of thing. But it would have sounded
mechanical, because that's what it was.

Very interesting. I would think your observation could be useful to
piano teachers. The catch is that, when I'm learning anything difficult
(most of what I like to play), I have to spend a long time controlling
finger movements, gradually shifting over to controlling sounds. It may
help that I'm self-taught; I wouldn't be surprised if piano teachers
focused more on finger placement than the music.