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date: 22 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Performing reliably from memory requires two different types of memory organization: associative chains and content addresses. Associative chains develop spontaneously during practice, but have the disadvantage that when something goes wrong and the chain breaks, the performer must start over from the beginning. To avoid such embarrassment, experienced performers develop the ability to start from multiple locations in a piece. The hierarchical organization provided by the musical structure supplies addresses, making memory content addressable; for example, thinking “second theme” brings the music to mind. To develop content addressable access, the musician must attend to particular features of the music repeatedly during practice until they become performance cues. These are thoughts, like “second theme,” “listen,” “excitement,” that have been prepared during practice and come to mind spontaneously and reliably during performance, guiding the musician and providing places where playing can resume if things go wrong.

Keywords: memory, performance, performance cues, memory organization, content addressable access

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