"Pulling teeth and torture" : Musical memory and problem solving

Thinking and Reasoning 3 (4):315 – 336 (1997)
Abstract
A concert pianist the second author videotaped herself learning J.S. Bach's Italian Concerto Presto , and commented on the problems she encountered as she practised. Approximately two years later the pianist wrote out the first page of the score from memory. The pianist's verbal reports indicated that in the early sessions she identified and memorised the formal structure of the piece, and in the later sessions she practised using this organisation to retrieve the memory cues that controlled her playing. The practice and recall data supported this account. Both were organised by the formal structure of the music. Practice segments were more likely to start and stop at boundaries of the formal structure than at other locations, and recall was higher for the beginnings of sections than for later portions. Like other forms of expert memory, pianistic memory appears to be based on use of a highly practised retrieval scheme which permits rapid retrieval of information from long-term memory.
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