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Perfect Pitch, Beethoven, and the Chef

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
/
SC Public Radio

We’re always fascinated by abilities that are far beyond the realm of our experiences, or even of our imaginations. Some people can hold their breath for 10 minutes, some can jump four feet off the ground, some can memorize the digits of pi out to thousands of places. And some musicians—actually many musicians, although I’m not one of them—can hear any note and tell you what that note is. It’s called having “perfect pitch.” 

And what about those musicians—Beethoven being only the most famous of many—who can hear combinations of pitches in their heads—chords, harmonies—and can invent, just in their heads, sequences of harmonies that have never been heard before? I was reminded of Beethoven by a TV show I saw recently, about a great chef who because of an operation had temporarily lost his sense of taste, but who was still able to combine ingredients in his mind and create brilliant new dishes.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.