Practicing Perfection: Memory and Piano Performance

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Overview

The memory feats of famous musicians seem almost superhuman. Can such extraordinary accomplishments be explained by the same principles that account for more ordinary, everyday memory abilities? To find out, a concert pianist videotaped her practice as she learned a new piece for performance, the third movement, Presto, of the Italian Concerto by J.S. Bach. The story of how the pianist went about learning, memorizing and polishing the piece is told from the viewpoints of the pianist (the second author) and of a cognitive psychologist (the first author) observing the practice. The counterpoint between these insider and outsider perspectives is framed by the observations of a social psychologist (the third author) about how the two viewpoints were reconciled. The CD that accompanies the book provides for yet another perspective, allowing the reader to hear the polished performance.

Written for both psychologists and musicians, the book provides the first detailed description of how an experienced pianist organizes her practice, identifying stages of the learning process, characteristics of expert practice, and practice strategies. The main focus, however, is on memorization. An analysis of what prominent pianists of the past century have said about memorization reveals considerable disagreement and confusion. Using previous work on expert memory as a starting point, the authors show how principles of memory developed by cognitive psychologists apply to musical performance and uncover the intimate connection between memorization and interpretation.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
As she learned a movement of Bach's , Pianist Gabriela Imreh videotaped her practice for a study conducted on the process of practicing, memorizing and performing music. With a focus upon memorization, the 11 chapters explore what combination of conceptual, motor and auditory memory is involved, and what kinds of practice psychologists Mary Crawford and Roger Chaffin conclude are necessary for reaching a high level of skill. Although written for both psychologists and musicians, the orientation of the material would be of more interest to the former. The included CD-ROM contains the performance of the Bach that followed the pianist's preparation. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Series Editor's Foreword
Preface
1 In the Green Room 1
2 Improvisations 8
3 In the Words of the Masters: Artists' Accounts of Their Expertise 26
4 Expert Memory 66
5 The Way to Carnegie Hall 74
6 Lessons From J.S. Bach: Stages of Practice 93
7 In the Words of the Artist 139
8 Effects of Musical Complexity on Practice 165
9 Memory and Performance 197
10 Stages of Practice Revisited 239
11 CODA 247
App. 1 Discography for Gabriela Imreh 270
App. 2 Score of the Italian Concerto (Presto) 271
References 279
Author Index 289
Subject Index 293
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