Imagine being in a subway station memorizing the number (and perhaps names) of stops to your destination — an opera house let’s say. After you passed through the sliding train doors and entered the portal of the opera house (a couple of doors really), most likely the brain estimated each time that the usefulness, shelf life, of the information has expired, been proven correct each time and slowly diminished its recall ability. It is apparent that a narrative is easier to remember than a shopping list for the untrained memory.
Master memory is cultivated by mnemonic training — the cultivation of a multi-layered and often emotionally connected retrieval structure. Soloists are capable of remembering a tremendous amount of information based on several, mostly inexplicable and un-researched, mnemonic applications. Concert pianists, for example, can perform a 45 minute piece with 30,000 individual notes, that have to be performed in an absolutely particular order, with rhythmical and dynamic variability, passionately creating an emotional and formal narrative, from memory, live on stage.
“As with all things of value, cultivation and constant practice is key.”
And in a piece such as “Rach 3,” they also have to coordinate with a large body of musicians, also from memory. The research on the doorway effect is quite insightful and relevant for the career musician (concert pianists, for example) and the methodical pedagogue, and can be epitomized as such: The stage and the practice room must become the same room.
As with all things of value, cultivation and constant practice is key. In order to keep all that has been achieved behind the practice room door, one should attempt to create a comfortable and familiar environment in the practice room, gain authority and mastery of the music and the instrument and return to the same enjoyable and intimate environment on the stage. Imagine the door out of the practice room is the door onto the stage Matrix style. The concert performance is the tip of an iceberg — always keep that in mind and in sight.
• 1972 ~ I Am Woman, by Helen Reddy, was released by Capitol Records. The number one tune (December 9, 1972) became an anthem for the feminist movement. Reddy, from Australia, made her stage debut when she was only four years old. She had her own TV program in the early 1960s. Reddy came to New York in 1966 and has appeared in the films Airport 1975, Pete’s Dragon and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Reddy also had four million-sellers: I Am Woman, Delta Dawn, Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) and Angie Baby. She had a total of 14 hits on the pop music charts.
• 1992 ~ Billy Joel,American pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer, received an honorary diploma from Hicksville HS at 43
• 2000 ~ British actor David Tomlinson, who starred as father George Banks in the classic 1964 musical movie “Mary Poppins”, died at the age of 83.
• 2002 ~ Dolores Gray, a Tony-winning actress and singer, died of a heart attack at her Manhattan apartment. She was 78. Gray began performing in Hollywood clubs when she was 14, and at 15 she was discovered by Rudy Vallee and given a guest spot on his national radio show. She landed her first major theater success in 1947 as Annie in “Annie Get Your Gun” in London. In 1954, she won a Tony award for best musical actress in “Carnival in Flanders.” After signing a contract with MGM in 1955, Gray began to star in musical movies, including “Kismet,” and “The Opposite Sex.” She performed alongside Gene Kelly in “It’s Always Fair Weather” and with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall in “Designing Women.” Gray continued to perform in clubs, on stage, and on television variety shows, including the Bell Telephone Hour. She returned to Broadway for several productions, including “Destry Rides Again,” during which the stage curtain once caught fire as she sang “Anyone Would Love You.” As the theater’s firefighters and stagehands battled the blaze backstage, Gray kept singing, and was credited with keeping the audience calm until they could evacuate the theater. The show resumed after a 40-minute intermission.
• 2002 ~ Joe Derise, a musician, cabaret artist and former big band vocalist, died. He was 76. Derise sang with Tommy Dorsey at the age of 21 and performed as a singer, guitarist and arranger with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. He went on to form his own group, Four Jacks and a Jill, which performed around the country. Derise made several records and composed some of his own songs with the lyricist Marcia Hillman. His last major performance was at the Algonquin Hotel in New York in 1999.