Papa Blows His Nose in G: Absolute Pitch by Oliver Sacks Exceptional abilities affect the lives of people who are gifted with these abilities and readings from Oliver Sacks and Jeannie Alford Hagy convincingly illustrate benefits enjoyed and problems encountered by people with exceptional abilities. In his Papa Blows His Nose in G: Absolute Pitch, Oliver Sacks gives an account of the benefits and problems associated with perfect pitch. According to the author, absolute pitch helps one in identifying the pitch of any note, unthinkingly and immediately, and without comparing with the external standards, and the best example of such an individual is Sir Frederick Ouseley, who was able to remark at the age of five that his papa blew his nose in G. Whereas an exact pitch is uncanny to people without such a perfect pitch, it is perfectly normal for people who have it. The real wonder of absolute pitch is that it helps people to qualitatively differentiate every tone and key, each with its own ‘flavor’ or ‘feel’, and its own character. As the author maintains, while absolute pitch offers a delicious extra sense which helps one in singing or notating any music in the exact pitch, there are several problems associated with it. Thus, one with absolute pitch finds it distressing and even disabling to notice some overall sharpness or flatness. Such people easily get agitated or disturbed if they hear a familiar piece of music played in wrong keys, and the author provides several examples to illustrate this point. Another major problem with absolute pitch is that it makes one experience difficulties in hearing intervals or harmonies as one is very much conscious of the chroma of the notes. It is also important to realize that absolute pitch is not too essential to a musician, and a person with absolute pitch feels it a severe privation to have missed the perfect pitch. Similarly, Hidden Genius by Jeannie Alford Hagy gives account of Jonathan who was exceptionally gifted child and had enjoyed so many positive experiences in school. However, just as Oliver Sacks makes clear the benefits and problems of exceptional abilities, Alford Hagy maintains that brilliance has its price as it is not always recognized, understood, or appreciated, particularly in a child. Thus, readings from Oliver Sacks and Jeannie Alford Hagy share the ideas concerning the benefits and problems of exceptional abilities, and these accounts are true to any individual who is aware about the benefits enjoyed and problems encountered by people with exceptional abilities.
In his account of Jonathan in Hidden Genius, Jeannie Alford Hagy offers a similar case of the benefits and problems of exceptional abilities as suggested by Oliver Sacks in his Papa Blows His Nose in G: Absolute Pitch. By the age of thirteen, Jonathan has become vastly different from the happy, eager little boy with great gifts and he has lost his self-esteem, willingness to take risks, and excitement about learning. To him, it is not safe to be gifted in a world that prefers conformity and mediocrity to individuality, intelligence, and creativity. When he was in his 6th grade year, Jonathan was greatly sullen and discouraged, and terribly, maddeningly bored, because he required to ‘adjust’ with the other students. Thus, in his attempt to ‘adjust’ to his environment, he adopted a closed, guarded attitude, and no longer exhibited his wonderful, sophisticated sense of humor in public. Thus, the author gives a convincing illustration of the benefits and problems of exceptional abilities through the example of Jonathan.
A close analysis of the readings from Oliver Sacks and Jeannie Alford Hagy confirms that both the writers are providing a realistic picture of the experiences of people with exceptional abilities which one may encounter in day-to-day situations. Many often, these individuals find it difficult to adjust with the situations around them, and such attempts of adjustments result in a compromise with regard to the special giftedness or ability. One’s perspectives concerning the benefits enjoyed and problems encountered by people with exceptional abilities are best illustrated by both writers. In conclusion, the readings from Oliver Sacks and Jeannie Alford Hagy have a great relevance in recognizing the benefits and problems encountered by people with exceptional abilities.
Hagy, Jeannie Alford. Hidden Genius.
Sacks, Oliver. Papa Blows His Nose in G: Absolute Pitch. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. New York: Alfred A Knopf. 2007.