Exploring learning, memory, and creativity in a musical savant

Adam Ockelford

in Applied Musicology

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199607631
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191747687 | DOI:
Exploring learning, memory, and creativity in a musical savant

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This chapter explores the capacity of a prodigious musical savant, Derek Paravicini, to learn and reproduce music by ear. It gives an account of an experiment involving a novel musical stimulus—the Chromatic Blues—that Derek sought to learn and recall over a period of four years. His performance was compared to that of an advanced pianist with absolute pitch, who familiar with learning by ear. The results are analyzed using zygonic theory. While there were some similarities in the way that the two musicians approached the task, there were important differences too. It is hypothesized that these are attributable to different ‘settings’ in the ‘music processing module’ of each subject, which, it is suggested, is a feature of working memory. Despite having no explicit learning strategies at his disposal, Derek’s performance was superior in almost every way. The pedagogical consequences of this finding are discussed.

Keywords: memory; working memory; long-term memory; absolute pitch; Derek Paravicini; musical savant; music processing module; recall; zygonic theory

Chapter.  28516 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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