Memorizing

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have an important recital coming up. As such, I am practicing a lot, and mostly, it feels great. Today was a "dud" day, where nothing felt great, but I kept at it anyway. There's definitely a difference between hurting and feeling off, and I was just feeling off. But I think I managed to be productive none-the-less.

See, I'm working on memorizing the Prelude and Gigue of the 4th Bach Cello Suite, and, historically, I have felt like I am bad at memorizing music. It's been this "defining characteristic" I've carried around for years and years. Last week a good friend of mine came to visit, and I was complaining to her about how bad I am at memorizing music, and she bluntly told me to "get over myself" and just try.

So for the last few days, I have been memorizing these two movements of Bach. My approach has been fairly simple: start at the last measure of the movement, and work my way backwards, measure by measure. Lo and behold, after 3 or so days, I have the last five lines of the Prelude and the second page of the Gigue memorized. While there are still many notes to memorize, this experience has been quite eye-opening.

For years I have thought I am bad at memorizing music, so I've just never tried. I had a bad memory slip at my senior viola recital at Boston University, but goodness, that was in December 2002. I've matured and grown a lot as a musician and person since then, and lo and behold, after just a few days, I am feeling confident in my ability to memorize. If only I had had the courage to try a few years ago! I guess the old adage of "you'll never know unless you try" holds true here... and every ten years is probably not often enough!

Of course it hasn't been tested in front of an audience, but I think I am making good progress for just a few days. :)

On a side note, I found this NY Times article on musicians and memorization compelling. What are your thoughts?

Happy practicing.