MUSICAL MEMORY - online book

A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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46                                                MUSICAL MEMORY.
97. (II.) Simplicity in Form and Construction is a condition which) demands fuller consideration.
The simplest form which intelligible musical thought assumes, is that-of an air or melody, and the simplest form employed in piano music is an accompanied melody. Pieces of this class, possessing one melodic idea with a simple harmonic accompaniment which merely colours and supports the melody, and does not introduce any special features of a new melodic or rhythmic nature, are the easiest to remember. Directly we introduce in combination with our chief melodic idea, others, either melodic or rhythmic, of a contrasted nature, and thus increase the interest and importance of our accompanying matter, we add to the complexity of what is to be memorized, and therefore increase the difficulty of memorizing. Music which answers to this description, while being built upon a harmonic foundation, is often both poly-melodic and poly-rhythmic in character. As it increases in complexity, so the memorizing of it increases in difficulty, until we reach the most difficult style of all to memorize—contrapuntal music, where every part is of equal importance and difficulty. Thus, disregarding any sympathy we may have for one style rather than another, our extremes of simplicity and difficulty are represented respectively by simple harmonic construction and pure contrapuntal construction. The greater portion. of piano music lies somewhere between these two, and while being harmonic in structure, exhibits a combination of different melodies and rhythms which is of the essence, if not the actual form of contrapuntal music.
98.   It is impossible to indicate any definite boundary lines between the different styles, but as a broad principle we may say, that the more brilliant and less intellectual a composition is, the more does its construction tend towards a simple rather than a complex harmonic structure. There is less material employed, and therefore it is easier to memorize. Thus the music of composers such as Mendelssohn and Weber, is as a general rule easier to remember than that of Beethoven, Schumann, and Brahms, while these again are simpler than Bach. This classification will not of course apply to every piece by these composers. There are pieces by Bach which are easier to remember than some of the piano fugues of Mendelssohn, but the general style of the majority of their works has guided us in placing them in this order, and suggestions as to general lines of study is all we presume to offer.
99.   (III.) Simplicity in Detail.—It is most important that we should learn every piece thoroughly from the book before attempting to memorize it as a whole, in order that we may note every detail with regard to phrasing and expression, as well as to notes and rhythm. Unless we are complete masters of such details when the book is before us, they will certainly fare badly when we have the additional task of remembering them. In our early efforts, if we are not most watchful, the extra demand made upon us when playing without the book will tend to make other things suffer, and perhaps what may be rendered in­correctly and most easily pass unnoticed, is bad phrasing and expression. Our first efforts, therefore, should be directed to pieces which are not characterized by too great a wealth of detail of this description. Here,.
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