One for the record...
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 93 18:20:24 PDT
Subject: One for the record...
From: vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU!bostic (Keith Bostic)
A Record Claim.
There it was, printed in the New York Times, and an obvious candidate for
scrutiny by Skeptical Eye. The story was about a Pennsylvania doctor
named Arthur Lintgen, who could look at a phonograph record with its label
covered and, from the pattern of grooves, correctly identify the
recording. In some instances, he could even name the conductor. It was
obviously a case for James Randi, DISCOVER's favorite investigator of
psychics and other charlatans.
Randi was happy to oblige. "I thought the doctor's claims were quite
far-fetched," he says. "I called Lntgen and asked if he would mind taking
a test identifying some of MY records." Lintgen agreed, but explained
that he preferred fully orchestrated classical music from Beethoven's time
forward, and nothing as avant garde as electronic music. Randi agreed to
Lintgen's conditions and arranged to meet him in two hours.
Dashing off to a record store, Randi bought the following recordings:
Beethoven's Sixth; Ravel's "Bolero"; Holst's "The Planets";
Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"; Mozart's 40th and 41st symphonies; and
two versions of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." In adition, as controls
for his planned scientific test, Randi picked up a rock album by Alice
Cooper and a voice (without music) recording entitled "So You Want To Be
Randi covered the labels and matrix numbers of all the albums with layers
of aluminum foil and paper. He then gave the disguised records to a
colleague, who covered the labels another time, so that when the test
began Randi himself did not know which album was which. In science, this
is called a double-blind test; it prevents the experimenter's bias from
influencing the results. DISCOVER does not fool around.
When Randi handed the first album to Lintgen, the doctor examined both
sides. "This is a pair of classical symphonies," he said, "but I think
it's pre-Beethoven probably a pair of Mozart symphonies. -- At the end
of the test, when all of the labels were uncovered, the record turned out
to be Mozart's 40th and 41st symphonies. --
Randi gave Lintgen another record. He examined the grooves and asked, "Is
this one complete composition? If it is, I don't know it. But I'm almost
sure it's Beethoven's Sixth." He took a closer look: "Oh I see, they've
added an extra overture . . . the "Prometheus" Overture." -- Lintgen was
Another record. "This is gibberish," Lintgen said. "It's not classical.
It doesn't seem to have much structure." -- Alice Cooper. --
Another. Lintgen laughed. "There are no instruments on this. If I had
to guess, I'd say it was solo vocal." -- So You Want To Be a Magician. --
Next. "This is Holst's Planets. I've never seen this recording before.
Must be digital. And probably a German orchestra." -- Indeed it was the
Berlin Philharmonic. --
An so the test went; the doctor never made a mistake. How does he do
it? He is a classical music buff, and expert in the dynamics of
orchestral music; he knows every passage of hundreds of symphonies, and
recognizes the patterns made in the grooves by diferent rhythms and
volumes of sound. Says Randi, "He's the real thing there's no doubt in
my mind. I was flabbergasted."
Lintgen, dedicated to medicine, regards his unusual talent as nothing more
than a hobby. Unlike others challenged by Skeptical Eye, he claims no
paranormal powers, and, in a controlled test, demonstrated that his
ability was authentic. DISCOVER's staff, jaded by spurious claims of the
paranormal, welcomes Lintgen's most refreshing rebuff.
© 1993 Peter Langston