Music and memory

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An intersting short piece on ABC News

This [research]suggests that non-musicians remember music as an integrated piece of information. But musicians compartmentalise elements of the music and store them as discreet blocks, he says.

“I found that non-musicians … store the sound as a more of a composite picture, they take the entire piece of information and store it relationally between all the different aspects,” he said.

“Musicians store it as individual parameters … for example, tempo, key and timbre.”

He says storing relational information is more efficient than storing it as separate elements but the compartmentalised approach is more accurate.

This reflects the fact that remembering musical sequences has a lower priority for non-musicians than for those who make music their craft.

Which makes me think that this may well be a part of the reason why people like us, music fanatics, reviewers, writers, and DJs, like to categorise and genre-ise music. And why others, who have a more ‘situational’ experience of music (social lubricant, background activity, etc) don’t quite get this obsessive categorisation. Storing the individual parameters, from a DJs perspective, means categorising by what broad genres or specific tracks that a particular track might be able to be mixed with etc. The punter on the dancefloor, though, might simply remember who they made out with on the dancefloor or the overall impression of the night.

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About Author

Seb Chan founded Cyclic Defrost Magazine in 1998 with Dale Harrison. He handed over the reins at the end of 2010 but still contributes the occasional article and review.

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