Why do some people have perfect pitch?

People with perfect pitch can identify notes — for example those played on a piano — without any context. (Image credit: Luis Alvarez via Getty Images)

In his book “Musicophilia,” renowned neuroscientist Oliver Sacks described the remarkable ability of Sir Frederick Ouseley, a former music professor at the University of Oxford, to recognize the pitch of everyday sounds. For example, he said it “thundered in G” and the “wind whistled in D.” 

Ouseley had perfect pitch, also called absolute pitch — the remarkable, rare ability to identify or produce particular musical notes without having a reference note as a guide. 


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