RITA AIELLO & AARON WILLIAMON
There is extensive biographical and anecdotal information on the memory of exceptional musicians, but only recently has there been systematic psychological research, and this has mostly focused on pianists. Historical reasons for performing from memory can be traced to Clara Wieck Schumann and Franz Liszt. General theories of expert memory can help us understand how expert musicians memorize music. Auditory, kinesthetic, and visual information contribute to musical memory. Recent psychological research suggests the importance of explicitly analyzing the score. Memory strategies depend on the skill of the performer and the style and difficulty of the music to be memorized. The ability to memorize seems to be enhanced by studying music theory and analysis. Learning to improvise in the style of the music could also be helpful.
During the last century, several pianists and piano pedagogues have written on how to memorize music. Matthay (1913, 1926), Hughes (1915), and Gieseking and Leimer (1932/1972) described three principal ways in which performers can learn music when preparing for a memorized performance: aurally, visually, and kinesthetically. Aural memory (i.e., auditory memory) enables individuals to imagine the sounds of a piece, including anticipation of upcoming events in the score and concurrent evaluations of a performance's progress. Visual memory consists of images of the written page and other aspects of the playing environment. Pianists and other keyboard players, for instance, may remember positions of the hand and fingers, the look of the chords as they are struck, and the patterns made upon the keyboard as they are played. Kinesthetic memory (i.e., finger, muscular, or tactile memory) enables performers to execute complex motor sequences automatically. For pianists, it is facilitated by extended training of the fingers, wrists, and arms and can exist in two forms: (1) position and movement from note to note and (2) sense of key resistance (Hughes, 1915). All these pianists and teachers stressed that no really intelligent memorizing is possible