“In a feat of musical memory, the Aurora Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony without printed scores at the BBC Proms 2015,” writes neuroscientist Jessica Grahn on Tuesday (4/28) at the BBC’s website (London). “For scientists, such feats provide an opportunity to understand how human memory works…. Most ensembles escape the burden of memorization—with notable exceptions being the Kolisch Quartet in the 1930s and the Chiara and Zehetmair Quartets today. … Memorized music performance has interested scientists since as far back as the 1800s. One type of memory that musicians use is commonly called ‘muscle memory,’ … a type of ‘procedural’ memory called motor learning… We use procedural memory for actions such as driving, typing on a keyboard or riding a bike…. musicians may [also] write out the score to rehearse their visual memory, or conduct harmonic analyses to strengthen their memory of the music’s structures. …Neuroscientists have found that musical memories can be preserved in the brain even when most other memories are lost.” The article also discusses Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Clara Schumann and their differing attitudes to memorization.
Posted April 29, 2015