Last week Eric posted about memorization, and our culture’s general lack of it. He was specifically referring to storytelling and poetry. I only had to memorize a couple of [very short] poems in high school, but I recall even that was nearly beyond me, I had a terrible time of it. I do really well with plot lines; the general series of events in a film or novel or history book stick with me for ages, but the specifics never do. Unlike some people, I have no idea when the Treaty of Ghent was signed. I’ve often wished for a mind able to trap these details and hold onto them until they become useful, but I’m afraid that’s not my lot.
Music, however, is a different story. It seems to be the combination of words and melody that does it for me… I’m no good at recalling either until I’ve memorized both, but that usually only takes listening to a tune a couple of times. Seeing lyrics written by themselves doesn’t help me at all, they slide right through my mind. Melodies, by themselves, are the same way. When I was playing classical guitar, I had lots of trouble memorizing pieces for performances. Once I even got halfway through performing a piece before realizing I had no idea what came next, and just stopped (this actually happened twice: the same song, at the same spot, at the same competition. Tres embarrassing.). Once you combine the music and lyrics, however, I’m fine. I’ve recently been playing a lot of tunes that I learned 5 or 10 years ago and haven’t even thought of in years… remarkably, they’re all still up there.
I’m not sure why I have an easy time memorizing these two concurrent vectors when simply one vector alone is very difficult, though I suspect it has something to do with the music reminding of associated lyrics, and vice-versa. No complaints, though. It’s allowed me to build a formidable repertoire of cover tunes which, some day, will be as useful (to me) as knowing the signing date for the Treaty of Ghent.
[Just to be clear, that last bit isn’t sarcastic. Chris got a great laugh out of an audience by mentioning that little tidbit, which I’d say is pretty awesome.]