How memory fades: very-long-term recall of Bach

Lisboa, T. and Chaffin, R. and Logan, T. (2009) How memory fades: very-long-term recall of Bach. In: International Symposium on Performance Science 2009, 15-18 December 2009, New Zealand.


A cellist memorized the Prelude from J. S. Bach’s Suite No. 6 for solo cello and identified performance cues (PCs) that she attended to in performance. During the next three years, she recalled the piece twice, playing and writing out the score from memory on both occasions, in counterbalanced order. Played recall was better than written recall. Written recall was better at expressive and structural PCs, suggesting that these cues provided content accessible access to declarative memory. Written recall was worse at PCs for basic technique but less so when written recall followed played recall. In written recall, serial cuing was impaired by the absence of sensorimotor cues, particularly at basic PCs. These directed the cellist’s attention to her actions. Reinstating sensorimotor memory by playing through the piece reduced the impairment caused by the absence of these actions during written recall.

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