Performing from memory

Roger Chaffin, Topher R. Logan and Kristen T. Begosh

in Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298457
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Performing from memory

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  • Cognitive Psychology


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This article discusses memory for performance, focusing on the role of serial chaining and content addressability. Two areas of the episodic memory literature are particularly relevant to the discussion: oral traditions and expert memory. In oral traditions, materials such as children's rhymes and folk songs are handed down from one generation to another without the benefit of written records, often for hundreds of years. Expert memory results from years of training and the effective use of retrieval schemes. Expert memorists develop retrieval strategies to make their memories content-addressable so that they can find the information they need when they need it. Anders Ericsson's theory of expert memory is used to explain how experienced performers memorize, as opposed to simply learn, a new piece.

Keywords: musical memory; musical performance; serial chaining; content addressability; episodic memory; oral traditions; expert memory; Anders Ericsson

Article.  6996 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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