chapter  4
8 Pages

Expert Memory

Why is it that some people can memorize and others cannot? I am one who cannot. Or is it, "Will not"? I have tried. If the music is simple enough, I can do it. But the effort is so great, for such paltry results, that it does not seem worth it. This makes it tempting to think of memory ability as a special gift or talent. The history of music is filled with examples of extraordinary feats of memory that seem to lend credence to this view. The story of the young Mozart writing out Allegri's Miserere from memory after two hearings was seen, at the time and ever since, as a conclusive and final proof of his genius (Cooke, 1917/1999). Jorge Bolet tells of memorizing Liszt's Mephisto Waltz in an hour and a quarter (Noyle, 1987). Cases like these, and many others, seem to support the widely held idea that musical ability is a gift, given to the few, who stand out from the rest of us by virtue of their extraordinary natural endowment.