Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Music and Memory

I just finished reading this very good book by Bob Snyder. Bob is a composer who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While the title and the opening make this seem to be a very specialized book, it actually covers many different topics in music cognition and music theory. Snyder includes sections on Gestalt psychology, Jonathan Kramer's theories of linearity and vertical time, pitch discrimination, Lerdahl and Jackendoff's musical hierarchies, rhythm theory, music and metaphor, as well as many details of the psychology of memory. I picked this book up to bolster my pedagogy model, but ended up finding many things appropriate for my phenomenology of time project. This is a well researched book, but also very readable by musicians, psychologists, neuroscientists, and interested laity. It provides a great introduction to many of the issues of music cognition and music theory, so much so that I'm considering using this book as the foundation for my psychology of music class. While the book only covers some topics quite superficially, it refers to excellent books and articles for more depth on each of those topics. I could have the students track down sources, both to learn more about the subject and to practice good research skills. But regardless, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in music cognition.

1 comment:

Hucbald said...

It is a fascinating topic, Scott. I have about 2.5 hours of music memorized now, and some interesting things I've noticed: If I play the set consistently all in the same order, it becomes like one, huge, multi-movement work and is solid as a rock. However, if I vary the order a lot, I begin to have memory failures and the pieces become ragged. Likewise, when I add new pieces, it seems to send waves of instability throughout the set for a while. Why is it that when I pick a piece out of the set at random I have to concentrate on it, but when I perform it in context I can daydream my way through it? Like I said: Fascinating stuff.

BTW: I'd get Paul Matthews' "Orchestration" book, but then, none of the other topics there interest me. Except for, perhaps, improv.