I once debated with an intelligent and able amateur musician what I believed to be going on when I was playing from memory – which is most of the time. I claimed that I was playing by ear and monitoring accuracy with my memory. He claimed the opposite. Listening to Sergio della Sala’s talk at last year’s SLF I was interested to hear him suggest that our memories are not so much accessed as recreated and that the solidity of each memory is destabilised in the accessing.
As if there weren’t sufficient things to sustain the interest in memory as we know it, there is also the increasing phenomenon of outsourcing our memories to online and external data storage facilities – a kind of prosthetic memory. Dr. Susan Blackmore discussed the effect this trend might have on our memories last night on Radio 3’s Sunday Feature – Remember, Remember. One interesting application might be to help remove the distress caused by uncertainty in sufferers of dementia. You can listen again to the programme until Sunday 28th. Dr. Blackmore’s website also sports an article on the programme from the Radio Times
Returning to the memory monitors ear/ear monitors memory debate I’d say from, watching pupils over the years, that both processes are equally in evidence – although rarely in the same person.