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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Memory's Mysterious Moods

Why I forget what I have forgotten but can remember music

Yesterday Saturday arriving at London airport I took out the boarding pass from my pocket for the third time in an hour to check the flight number, I couldn't remember it. At the check-in I was given a new boarding pass with the departure gate. This number too I kept forgetting as well as into which jacket pocket I had put the ticket.

The flight number and gate number, that's two, but there were various other things I can't tell you since I can no longer remember what I forgot. Call me forgetful or absent-minded or any other word you can remember that springs to mind, how can I deny it? I am sure some readers need only read their boarding pass once for the information to be imprinted in their brains as they skip merrily towards their departure gate.

Memory is a funny old thing. On Friday I gave a concert in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, for a dedicated and well-organised Music Society. It was the third time I have played there in the same hall, the last time was three years ago. As I walked in I was surprised how much smaller it was than I remembered. I had a vivid image of it as twice the size, but of course I was imagining it.

My memory may be both false and forgetful although there are some things I do remember well, apart from my own name. For my concert in Ealing on 4th March I revived a piece I hadn't played for some 10 years, not that it needed much reviving for I remembered it all straight away save for two chords. The same goes for much of the music I have learnt through my life. I remember it without much difficulty.

When I wrote the history section of my book Easy Guide to the Guitar I did it all from memory recalling so many facts and figures that my concern was whether they were of my own invention. Was my memory playing me tricks? When my assistant trawled through them all we found most of them were correct.

It would be too easy for me to say I remember what is important to me and forget what is not. Music and history are two of my passions, maybe that is why I don't forget them, but so too is cinema yet I cannot recall as easily the names of films and actors.

As I say, memory is a funny old thing and works differently for each of us. I am friends with an excellent professional musician who knows hundreds of jokes but cannot play a single piece of music from memory! I have met someone who could recite series of names and telephone numbers new to him, no problem. This is how he described his skill:

"Just imagine walking through your home and locating each name and number in specific familiar places."

In other words the association of ideas helps memorisation, which is what I do with music, stitching together finger sequences, visualisation techniques, harmonies and structural awareness and playing by ear, nailing them all into the memory.

As I write these words you may be relieved to know (that is if you still remember how this blog started) that in spite of forgetting flight and gate numbers I did make it onto the plane. I am on it now. I know I am travelling to Singapore, but don't ask me the flight number, I've forgotten it again.

March 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=453 .
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