The dreaded "memory-slip" - has it ever happened to you?
Recently, some good friends who were not regular symphony-goers attended a Pasadena Symphony concert in which I was playing in the violin section. Happily, they loved it! One of the things that really impressed them was that the soloist (Randall Goosby - incredible, go see him!) played the entire Brahms concerto from memory. It is an impressive feat - but I had to explain that performing by memory is pretty standard for a violinist, especially a soloist with orchestra. Just as an actor memorizes his or her lines, a soloist memorizes his or her music.
And it isn't just soloists actually, it's students, teachers, recitalists, etc. Some entire orchestras (Tafelmusik!) perform shows from memory. I still remember playing in the Disney All-American College Orchestra - we played same show, multiple times a day, all summer long. One night my stand partner said, "That's it, we have to make this interesting. We're ditching the music!" - and so we played it from memory, from then on.
So in certain situations, it can actually be very freeing and fun. But memorizing a piece also can be tricky, especially if the piece is long or has repetitive elements. I would argue that nearly anyone who has ever performed by memory has had some kind of "memory slip" at some point or another - probably a number of them! I've certainly had some memorable memory slips of my own, and even big-name artists will confess to such things happening to them at some point.
Playing from memory starts during the student days - to master a piece, most teachers will require memorization. Students play from memory when they perform in recitals, or for master classes, or even just give a "final performance" of a polished piece for their teacher. And it must be said, some musicians actually never read music - it's all "by memory"!
Have you ever had a memory slip while performing? Was it an epic moment that required everything to come to a halt? Or was it pretty easy to get back on track? Are you a rare unicorn who has never had a memory slip while performing from memory? Or perhaps you have not yet performed a piece from memory? Please participate in the vote, and then tell us your stories and experiences with memory slips!
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