Absolute Pitch in Oral Transmission of Folk Tunes as Constrained Random Walks

Klaus Frieler


In this commentary, I would like to add a few of our own, still unpublished, empirical observations concerning the possible role of absolute pitch memory (APM) in the oral transmission of folksongs. This empirical data poses some questions on the likelihood of the observed inter-recording tonic pitch consistency of Olthof, Janssen & Honing (2015) and how these could come about. Based on simulations of absolute pitch class of tonics during oral transmission of folk songs, I argue that the interplay of melodic range and vocal range might actually be the main reason for the observed non-uniformity, in contrast to the conclusions presented in Olthof et al. (2015). However, this does not invalidate the therein presented evidence, but makes the case more puzzling, consequently calling for more empirical research on the interaction of melodic and vocal range and latent APM as well as for more detailed modeling of oral transmission of folk songs.


absolute pitch; oral transmission; folk songs; random walk; simulation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/emr.v10i3.4898


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Copyright (c) 2015 Klaus Frieler

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