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Terms We Get WRONG


Both terms are almost synonyms. However, the word sociopath is, to this day, used by many to describe someone who is simply introverted; or someone who's avoiding people, because they think people are stupid, useless, uninteresting... But that is, of course, incorrect. The second term — psychopath — most often invokes an image of a serial killer, or a madman, at the very least. Unbeknownst to the majority of the population, those two terms, in fact, describe the exact same psychiatric disorder, namely: anti-social behavior disorder.

There are some disagreements among experts as to whether the two terms are complete synonyms. This becomes apparent if you at least read the Wikipedia articles on psychopathy and sociopathy (as I was linking to the articles and re-reading them myself, I found, to my surprise, that the sociopathy term doesn't have a separate page on Wikipedia, rather it's a section of the article on psychopathy). Then, if you have some time and the subject interests you, I'd suggest you read Dr. Robert D. Hare Wikipedia page, a man who invented the Psychopathy Checklist and is one of the most notable researches in the field.

So disagreements do exist: after all — why have two words, when one would suffice? The strange thing is, despite Dr. Hare's Wikipedia page claiming he himself distinguishes the two terms, I remember, when I was reading Dr. Hare's book "Without Conscience", I was under the opposite impression. I thought his opinion had been that the two terms are to be used interchangeably.

Regardless of the possible differences between these two terms, a lot of people still simply don't realize the true meaning of these two words and what psychopathy or sociopathy mean. In fact, knowing what something is, even without naming it, is much more important than any word you may use to describe it. And so, let met close that gap with one sentence: simply put, a sociopath or a psychopath, is someone who lacks empathy and conscience; or, in other words, they're someone who'd feel no remorse or guilt or displeasure seeing others suffering.

A psychopath may also be a sadist, in which case they would find pleasure in other's sufferings, especially if they are the ones causing them (as opposed to a non-sadist psychopath, who would simply be indifferent). But most psychopaths aren't sadists — they just want to achieve their goals and experience pleasure in life — but, unlike most, they wouldn't blink an eye before taking any necessary action against another person, shall that person be in their way — if, of course, they think they can get away with it. And they would sleep just fine, feeling neither remorse, nor guilt about whatever it was they had done. I sometimes want to teach myself that just a little bit, because being overly empathetic ain't good either. So there's a lot we can learn from these creatures.

The condition, though, cannot be treated. You cannot win with a psychopath either. The only acceptable scenario for a psychopath is a win-lose one (in which they win, obviously). Psychopaths feel like win-win isn't good enough (meaning, they missed their chance at screwing you up). A draw isn't acceptable either, as they will push hard towards the lose-lose option once they sense they cannot win.

You cannot spot psychopaths easily either, for the most part, at least. I read quite a few books on the subject over the years and had met or known psychopaths in my life. Some of those encounters were quite harmless, as there was nothing for them to gain with me; yet others some cost me. It takes personal experience, and knowledge, and a very clear unbiased mind to tell if someone's a psychopath with certainty. And, more importantly, make that judgement sooner, rather than later. So, you see, it's very very hard.

False positives in your judgement here may not be as destructive to your life as false negatives. So just keep an eye on people and remember that psychopaths constitute approximately 4% of the population and that's a staggering number. It's a lot of psychopaths. Worse still, they know who they are, whereas most people don't have a very clear idea of what it is, nor that such condition even exists. And this is precisely why it's so easy for psychopaths to keep exploiting others.


Can't quite remember how many times I'd ask a someone "do you have perfect pitch?" and they'd say something like "yes, I actually kind of do!". But then, once I'd play them a note, and ask to name it, they wouldn't be able to do it. That's because they don't have perfect pitch. They might have very good relative pitch and hear — with a lot more precision than most — by how much a note that's played differs from what it's supposed to sound in the context of a particular musical interval.

It's good, though, that most people — and most musicians too — don't have perfect pitch. There is another side to this coin, though: sadly, 60% to 70% of people with perfect pitch go slightly cuckoo as they reach their 60s.


This one's also about music and I reckon those, who haven't been trained in music at all, would still benefit immensely from knowing these terms' correct meanings because it would make their experience of listening to music richer. I often hear people misusing these three terms — and that not only affects the quality of their conversations about music with others, but also their own appreciation of music they themselves enjoy. Affects negatively, that is.


Tempo is simply how fast you play a piece of music (measured in beats per second). You can play the same song in different tempos, without changing a single note. The rhythm and the metre would remain the same. Most people have no problem keeping up with the tempo or even its changes, as the composition slows down or picks up its pace. Interestingly, very few cannot: a real life person who existed in history being "tempo-deaf" was Che Guevara: apart from being a sociopath, he, allegedly, couldn't even dance to music, because of his lack of sense of tempo. A fictional example of a person who'd be on the other side of the spectrum — someone hearing even the slightest deviations in tempos is Fletcher — a character from the 2014 film Whiplash, brilliantly portrayed by J.K. Simmons. One of the most memorable things Feltcher says in the film, which to this day puts a smile on my face: "Not quite my tempo".


What's referred to as rhythm is usually the word people use when they mean tempo, but rhythm isn't how fast or slow you play something. A rhythm is how long certain notes sound when put together in one piece — be it a complete song or some part of it (one might say, for example, "I liked that rhythm they had in the chorus"). But then again, rhythm is a rather composite term: it may be very obvious with just one instrument, when that instrument expresses a clear rhythmic pattern (or sounds louder) — drums, of course, being the first place to look for to get a sense of a song's rhythm. But rhythm may be too subtle to notice with other instruments, yet together all rhythms from all instruments used in a piece of music create this overall sense of rhythm, a rhythm for the composition as a whole. Unless a composition is played with just one instrument, you'd have to be careful when using this term, because even if you fully understand the meaning of that word, others may not; or you may have noticed a different rhythmic pattern, when others picked up on something else that you yourself had missed — even though you might had been listening to the very same piece of music.

Metre (american spelling: meter)

This word, or rather what it means, is something most people actually have knowledge of, but that knowledge is buried deep under layers and layers of indoctrination education; and so, most non-musicians are blissfully unaware they do, in fact, know what it means. Luckily, they can be reminded rather easily about it. Think about a waltz — any waltz would do. Waltz is a genre you can you only write in 3/4: meaning that when you listen to it, you count "one-two-three, one-two-three, one-to-three" and so on. Most songs are written in 4/4, which is the easiest one for human brain to both play and perceive, but there are multitude of different metres, ranging from some simple odd ones such as 5/8 or 7/8 and going all they way to metres like 6/4 , 9/8, 12/8 or 9/16.

It gets even more bizarre when you realize metre can change multiple times during the course of a single song. The genius of the composition, then, is to make it sound such, that when you hear the music, you don't actually notice anything odd — and that is precisely that quality that most musicians who write music do not happen to possess. Most contemporary musicians tend to use odd meters just for the sake of it, and then it only sounds awkward.

I have some favorite examples of usage of odd metres are these two pieces. They sound completely authentic; they don't sound as if someone decided to abruptly end every every bar in the score and just start over (as in when you're practising, you make mistake, you stop and start over). So here they are:

Try and count — unless you already know what metre is it, of course. It's fun.


It was, in truth, the recent Hacker News submission about synesthesia linked to some kind of amateur research that prompted me to write this whole article. I had read the linked article, then all the comments from Hacker News too and it is then appeared to me how, for the most part, people are collectively blind to the fact that synesthesia is not just about colors.

Synesthesia is also not just about associating numbers, musical notes or other things with colors. Synesthesia is associating any one collection of things of the same type (say, days of the week) with pretty much any random set of objects, forms, colors, shapes or whatnot. This may not have been the best definition, but it avoided snooty words.

I had another thought after a while, which appeared very intuitive to me: most people must have some form of synesthesia, only they're not consciously aware of it. Or they are, but don't even know what to call it.

If you're interested in learning more about it, you can start with a a Wikipedia article Or, if you don't have much time — I would then suggest a much shorter and rather detached explanation by Rustin Cohle (Matthew Mcconaughey) in this beautifully constructed scene from "True Detective"

If you have anything to add...

to this list, feel free to contact me & I'll consider it and make another post or update this one (crediting you, of course, if you prefer).