SCIENCE AND MUSIC

Unveiling Complex Musical Injury

Two male hands playing a piano keyboard
Two male hands playing a piano keyboard
By studiostoks on Adobe Stock

Introduction

Robert Schumann, born in Zwickau, Saxony in 1810, was a major composer and highly skilled pianist of the early romantic period. While developing his performance career, extensive diary entries described that his progress was interrupted by loss of control in his right hand’s middle finger. After unsuccessful interventions including use of a contraption designed for finger stretching, homeopathy, and soaking his hand in animal blood, he stopped playing piano repertoire and was limited to improvising¹.

Schumann suffered from a neuromuscular disorder known as Musician’s Dystonia, an injury that interferes with the careers of 1% of professional musicians it strikes. Generally…


Peering into a professional’s memorization for performance

Formally dressed woman playing grand piano.
Formally dressed woman playing grand piano.
Image by Николай Григорьев from Adobe Stock

Welcome back to our scientific exploration of musical memory. Last week we delved into the inclusive framework by Mishra (2005), which outlined the musician’s journey of memorization.

If you are a new reader or would like to revisit that article, click here

Now, you might have questions like “how do seasoned performers memorize versus their less experienced counterparts?” Today, we will begin to shed light on this by making clear distinctions through the lens of key interviews and a longitudinal case study (Hallam 1995,1997; Aiello, 2000b; Chaffin and Imreh, 1997).

Hallam (1995,1997) used semi-structured interviews to reveal differences in learning…


Tracing the musician’s path to playing without the score

Illustration of man and outline of brain filled with musical symbols.
Illustration of man and outline of brain filled with musical symbols.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Ever wonder exactly what is taking place in your head during the memorization of new musical pieces ? The following is a modified excerpt from my dissertation on memorization techniques of contemporary piano music written as part of fulfillment for the Masters program at the Royal College of Music, London, UK. Here, it introduces us to a broad scientific framework of musical memorization, which can equip us with an objective understanding of processes at work during memorization of a composition from first sight, to public performance.

A great detail of literature on memorization of music has emerged since Matthay and…

Stefan Bernhard

Pianist, teacher, and writer from New Orleans, La. Graduate from Tulane University and the Royal College of Music, London. www.stefanbernhard.com

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