Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Visual Memory and Vision: Seeing Music

I could play music from memory when I played the flute, but I found that after about ten years of violin playing (and I started in my early 30s) I was unable to memorize much of anything. I attributed it to my relatively advanced age, instrumentally speaking. I always thought that my musical memory was dominated by muscle memory, because once I had an instrument in my hands, I could hold forth for quite a while. I used to think that my musical memory was a kind of limited dance between only the kinetic and the aural parts of my array of senses, but today I discovered that my musical memory is visual as well.

Those dang progressive lenses that I had been using for everything, including reading music, from about the age of 40 caused me to have to do so much "post processing" that my inner vision got itself all clouded up when trying to memorize music. Now, after only a month of using single-vision lenses for music, I can close my eyes and visualize specific passages of music that I am practicing as they appear on the page. I can even do it without closing my eyes.

This, to me, is a revelation.


Anonymous said...

I found your post very interesting because I also memorize music in a visual way -- when I am performing a piece, I actually "see" a version of the printed page in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Another anonymous concurs. I see the actual place in a score as I am performing, and find the visual imagination a memory aid extraordinaire.

Crayons said...

Now that is an insight. You have written of your glasses in the past. I have the same discomfort using progressive lenses in drawing.

I don't know if I could draw a red pot from memory, but I could stand to relax just a bit. Thanks for that.

Thanks also for the HCA tale. I'd not read it. Yes, absolutely, it fits with my story of the red pot.

Rebecca said...

Isn’t the human brain amazing? What’s really interesting is the idea of synesthesia- seeing colors as musical sounds are heard. I wonder if synesthetes, who can visualize what they hear as well as what they see, could perhaps visualize these colors to help in the memorization process.