MUSICAL MEMORY - online book

A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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them. This, however, is no impossible situation to be in with regard to impressions of musical sounds which we may have stored. Many people who can remember with a fair amount of accuracy the melody or a portion of the melody of a simple song, are quite unable to write down with any degree of correctness what they remember, either because they do not understand the signs of musical notation, or if they do understand them, are unable to associate them with what they hear or with what they have retained from hearing in the past. In other words, they are unable to associate the sounds with the corresponding signs.
12. It will be seen, therefore, that the value of musical memory -depends very largely upon our ability to classify what we retain upon some intelligible and generally recognised plan, and to record it in a language both definite and well understood; and this will imply the possession of the complementary power of reading (that is, hearing in our minds) music written in this same language. How this object may be obtained, seems to us to consist in the adoption in musical education of a complete and comprehensive system of ear-training, educating the ear to discriminate different rhythms, intervals, and chords, the memory to retain the sound of such, and the intellect to classify them and associate such classification with the signs of some form of musical notation. Scales, intervals and chords represent the raw material of music, and he who can retain all the varieties of such possesses the material of musical •composition. Whether he can fashion them into intelligible musical thought depends upon his knowledge of what may be called the Technique of Composition in its widest sense.
Many persons who are quite ignorant of musical notation, and who have never attempted to seriously study music, are able by means of a quick and retentive ear and a certain facility of finger to reproduce upon some musical instrument (generally the piano), passages which have attracted their attention. Such efforts are commonly described as "playing by ear." Without attempting to despise such a power, for it reveals the possession of natural gifts of a fairly high order, we cannot but regret that the lack of any serious purpose which such performances frequently display, bears witness to the absence of other powers which are necessary, before natural abilities may become of true and lasting value.
13. Sense of Absolute Pitch.—In our consideration of the memorization of intervals and chords, we have always meant it to be inferred that the pitch of the notes of such was relative to some given or assumed sound and not in any sense absolute. The majority of people do not possess what is called a " sense of absolute pitch," but the fact of its existence demands that we should not pass unnoticed what is really an exceptionally perfect form of musical memory. It is apparently due to the possession of an ear of a peculiarly sensitive and retentive nature, which has the power of seizing upon definite sounds, and by the remarkably acute susceptibility of the mind to sound-sensation has ingrained them so effectually, that they have become permanent or fixed ideas of pitch. With some who possess this power it is partly the result of special sensibility, and partly the result of the constant repetition of one particular sound which has eventually become permanent, and forms a basis from which they calculate, perhaps
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