Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Memory and Music

Here are two articles talking about memory and music.

The first talks about a particular type of memory function that can vary from person to person. Some people can hold more information in their minds at one time than others.

In a series of studies, Hambrick and colleagues found that people with higher levels of working memory capacity outperformed those with lower levels – and even in individuals with extensive experience and knowledge of the task at hand. The studies analyzed complex tasks such as piano sight reading.

“While the specialized knowledge that accumulates through practice is the most important ingredient to reach a very high level of skill, it’s not always sufficient,” said Hambrick, associate professor of psychology. “Working memory capacity can still predict performance in complex domains such as music, chess, science, and maybe even in sports that have a substantial mental component such as golf.”

I was particularly struck by this as music educators always talk about how if you sight read a lot you'll get better, which is certainly true. But it also seems true that it's harder for some than others due to innate brain function, which I've always intuitively felt, but educators never seem to consider. I never push sight reading on clients for whom it's difficult, preferring to focus on what what comes more easily and then building out from that. 

The second article (thanks Jonathan!) is about a musician who suffers from amnesia, but can remember music. Here's the line that really caught my attention:

"Musical memory seems to be stored independently, at least partially, of other types of memory," Finke said.

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