I spent years studying music. After a while my ears got very sensitive to even small differences in pitch. On the good side, I am a better musician because of it. I am more appreciative of people who play or sing truly well. But I am also very acutely aware of poor playing and singing. I hear bad singing on television and cringe. I go to church and hear bad music and lean forward with my head in my hands so no one will see my discomfort. I don't necessarily want to hear these things. Sometimes I wish I didn't hear them, especially when I don't have anything invested in the activity or can't change what's going on. In those instances, the knowledge is just wasted on me.
Sometimes hearing things no one else does even makes me a target of other people's distrust. One time I was involved in a performance using primitive instruments, each with a particular "pitch". The instruments were played as a group to form "melodies". Before the performance, the instruments must have gotten mixed up because when we started playing, parts of the melody were inverted. It nearly drove me crazy and as we walked off stage I immediately remarked to my colleagues on the issue. No one had noticed. They looked at my like I was loony. No one heard it. No one believed me. I don't know why, because they thought they heard something else? My word against what they thought they heard and they trusted their own senses more. A few days later we listened to the recording together. Everyone was watching me as someone pressed "play" -- either I was wrong or they were wrong and pretty soon we would know for certain. I was vindicated, but I wasn't happy about it. Not really. The didn't apologize. They looked at me like I was a witch.
It makes me trust people less too. Once I lost a competition to someone whom I thought was clearly playing out of tune. Because I believed that surely everyone else could hear how badly the intonation was, I thought there must be some other explanation for why his performance beat mine, something nefarious at work. I saw a conspiracy and cover up where there was none. It would be one thing if I could just convince myself that I have idiosyncratic preferences that aren't shared by many people -- which is better, beer or wine? There's no certain answer in matters of opinion. But matters of pitch are objective. Either you are playing or singing the pitches that are being requested of you or you are not. A tuning machine would be able to make these fine distinctions and so can I, for all the good it does me.
As a child I saw and understood a lot of things that I know I was not supposed to. Even now I see things that I don't necessarily want to see. I see people's fear and their betrayal, how weak and unreliable their love is, how soft their convictions are. And especially when I was growing up I thought that a lot of the world must be corrupt. Because why didn't other people see these things and act accordingly? It seemed like a cover up. And when I mentioned it to people they didn't believe me. They thought that I was making things up, and in blatant bizarre ways. I learned to stop pointing these things out, but I did feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland.
By the way, does any one else hear the wrong notes in penultimate and ante-penultimate timpani pitches in the theme song for Fringe?