Friday, September 28, 2007

More on Musical Memory

I think I have finally figured out something about musical memory, my nemesis. I just realized today that for me the process of playing from memory seems to involve getting from one note to the next note, or in the case of playing many voices at a time, one group of notes or one hand position to the next one. If this is true, memorizing a long piece of music should be pretty much the same as memorizing a short one: it simply involves physically, intellectually, and aurally knowing what comes next. It is kind of like knowing the way to get somewhere without having to refer to directions, but using visual cues along the road to remind you where to turn right or left. It doesn't "ask" you to remember where you've been, or even the contour of the "road." It only asks you to look ahead and proceed onward.

I was playing a movement of Bach today, one that I didn't think I knew from memory (I was simply too lazy to move the music from the pile sitting on my table to the music stand), and while I was playing it I paid attention only to the sounds of notes and the physical positions of my hands. I didn't think about the written music at all, and paid absolutely no attention to the names of the pitches I was playing. With the exception of one place where I "drove off the road," I was able to play the whole movement from memory, one note at a time, and sometimes even one group of notes at a time.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Very interesting, because I always imagined it had something to do with patterns.