[extropy-chat] Fwd: CNN features amazing user with autism

pjmanney pj at pj-manney.com
Mon Feb 26 06:22:01 UTC 2007

Jef wrote:
>Yeah, I noticed most of the "singing" aligned with western musical
>scales, and figured that's a natural consequence of exposure to such
>music and then the atonal variation are fun to play with because they
>create novel feelings in the mind.  We *all* notice and feel these
>things, right? ;-)

Well, yes, it appears we do, although we all don't act out on them like Amanda.  I've just started reading "This is Your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin and he says the average person can reproduce a known song with astonishing accuracy in rhythm, tempo, tone and pitch, too.  It was pitch that surprised me.  Many of us can hear the proper pitch, or damn near close, of a well known recording in our heads.  (As an experiment, I just grabbed my ipod and sang to myself the dominant note of the first chord to Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" and The Beatles "Yesterday" before playing it and I was right on pitch.)  Most people can recognize a recording from just the first chord, because of the unique timbre and the attack of the instruments.   (He specifically uses the example of "Bennie and the Jets" as a song most people could identify if they were familiar with it from a single chord.  I know I would recognize that first chord anywhere -- nothing else sounds like it.  "I can name that tune in one note!" -- Geez, does that reference date me?)    

And we do internalize our own musical heritage (in my case, Western) at an incredibly young age and it stays with us for life.  We can add to it, play with it, but that fundamental scale system, which ever one our culture uses, is the basis of what we recognize as music.

>I recall as a very young child by myself making similar sounds as I
>introvertedly examined and interacted with the world.  Making the
>sounds felt like a calming flow in my mind that all my various
>thoughts could align with.

I only mention this because a few of you have met her, including Jef, but my daughter is the same.  She's been singing since she was born and signing recognizable songs since she was 11 months old.  She'll do her homework or play with a constant song being sung, most of them unique to the situation and made up by her, both music and lyrics.  Another person has written me on this subject, who also lives with a constant soundtrack in his mind, and when Hannah read his email, she was so excited to find someone who was like her!  She and I watched "In My Language" together this morning and she really dug Amanda's music-making as part of the dialogue she has with the world.  Because neither my husband or I are like our daughter in this regard, we are fascinated by how her mind processes information.  It makes the phrase, "the soundtrack of your life" take on an entirely new meaning.

>I wonder whether this could be related to
>the creativity-enhancing of transcranial magnetic stimulation reported
>a few years ago.

How so?

>How many of us here have found ourselves at a party where the dynamic
>patterns of interaction are far more interesting than the words
>extracted from the din?   How many of us have nearly trembled with
>excitement upon discovering a new fount of knowledge. (I'll never
>forget my first time in a university library, and the potential of a
>Google-like resource was only a glorious dream in the 70s.) How many
>of us are moved to sadness or anger at the violation of what appears
>to others to be only abstract concepts?

Me.  Me.  And me.

>Hi, I'm Jef, and I'm a geek...

I think you'd be in a packed room at our Geeks Anonymous meeting.


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