Thursday, September 13, 2007

Apologies to Matt Damon

The idea for this post arrived as I was watching last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. I usually mute the first 30 seconds of the show because Robert Goulet’s vocals in the opening theme song are so horribly flat that I suffer physical pain every time I hear them. I lay there wondering how both the engineer and producer could allow such a dreadful overdub to make its way into the bedrooms of the millions who watch this wildly-popular show. My guess is that they were afraid to offend the legendary Mr. Goulet by asking for another take, or they simply could not afford one. What would Randy Jackson say about this performance?

I began to contemplate why I find such dissonance so offensive, when it can pass effortlessly through the ear canals of a trained professional. I can only offer the suggestion that my reaction is a genetic predisposition. I’ve always told people that I have perfect pitch, but after doing a bit of research, I found that what I possess is actually relative pitch. I play by ear, so I would have difficulty naming a note based upon its pitch, but I can tell which strings are out of tune on a guitar just by hearing a chord being strummed. Wikipedia says that relative pitch is a learned behavior, but says nothing about the discomfort associated with hearing mistuned instruments or voices. I know of at least two in my family who share this same trait. We squint our eyes and tilt our head hoping to magically bend that sour note back into place. It never works.

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