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The Memory ProcessNeuroscientific and Humanistic Perspectives$
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Suzanne Nalbantian, Paul M. Matthews, and James L. McClelland

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780262014571

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262014571.001.0001

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Memory in Musical Form

Memory in Musical Form

From Bach to Ives

(p.359) 17Memory in Musical Form
The Memory Process

David Michael Hertz

The MIT Press

This chapter illustrates the impossibility of musical cognition without memory. Cognition in music depends on the psychological process of preparing for what is to come by remembering what has already happened. Ernst Hans Gombrich has described this process as “forward matching,” whereby each new musical event is compared and contrasted to past ones. The ability to recognize repetition and variation is the key to cognition in music. It is an ability that requires the matching of new musical events with past ones. In contrast to the visual arts, music, like poetry, depends on memory, since scanning backward and forward in time is not possible. While poetry establishes meaning within the larger culture of language, music, unique among the arts, relies chiefly on self-reference to its own structures to establish meaning.

Keywords:   musical cognition, memory, psychological process, Ernst Hans Gombrich, forward matching, musical event, repetition, variation

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