Memorising music

Williamon, A. (2002) Memorising music. In: Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 113-126. ISBN 9780521783002


Performing music from memory can be extremely demanding. Not only is there the initial challenge of retaining thousands of notes and complex musical structures, but also the equally formidable task of remembering and executing them in stressful performance situations. All too often, such demands have caused performers to accrue hours of mere repetitive practice, trying to develop multiple ways of recalling music so that their performance will continue come what may. Such strategies, however, can be inefficient and can fail to guarantee perfect recall. As a result, musicians, teachers and researchers have sought to answer two questions: why should performers memorise music, and how can this be done most efficiently and effectively? Answers to these questions have traditionally been drawn from a large corpus of inconsistent, anecdotal evidence. This chapter will re-address these two questions in the light of recent research which has examined musical memory more systematically.

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