The Brain, Memory, and Oral Tradition in Music
Recent studies of the brain in various subfields have shown that memory is really a type of re-creation—piecing together many elements stored separately. Memory, creativity and their connections have been focal points in cognitive studies of music, but seldom have they been approached from the vantage point of music in oral tradition, which is the primary mode of transmitting music in the world. This paper argues that the oral transmission of music provides a fertile ground for learning about memory and creativity and their connections. Traditional musicians often know hundreds of tunes and are ready to perform them at a moment’s notice—but seldom in exactly the same way. Depending upon the particular oral tradition studied, greater or lesser emphasis is laid upon the ‘accuracy’ and the unchanging nature of a rendition vs. creative variation. After recounting some of these remarkable feats of memory and creativity, drawn from my own fieldwork, I suggest a number of ways in which this “re-creative” feature of oral transmission illuminates cognitive research.
KonferenssiESCOM 2009 : 7th Triennial Conference of European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
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- ESCOM 2009