Music & Memory

Music and memory; structure, function and survival

Hello Dear Reader,

Today will not be a blog in the traditional sense, but instead I would like to give you access to a link for a lecture of mine that was just finished a few weeks ago. It is an online accessible discussion of what I find fascinating about musical memory. It covers 3 main areas:

1) Is musical memory unique? (i.e. how is it different to other types of memory, such as verbal memory?)

2) How does musical memory work? (i.e. how do musicians remember hours of music for performance)

3) What happens when memory begins to fail, and why does musical memory often survive so well in these cases?

There are not simple answers to any of these questions; if there were then I would be out of a job! But it is fascinating to explore these questions as they can reveal interesting insights into the ways in which we process music and also how our minds work in a larger sense.

The link is to a safe site called Prezi, and the lecture is in the form of a multi-media series of slides. You will see sections of me talking in different areas of Goldsmiths campus where I work, including on the roof (don’t ask….I was very careful not to look down!), combined with different videos from sites like YouTube.


The videos include musicians talking about their memory preparation tricks, memory experts talking about their skills and the legendary Professor Oliver Sacks talking about the case of Clive Wearing, probably the worst case of memory loss (amnesia) ever recorded in science.

You can play the different parts of the lecture (and go back if you like) by using the control buttons on the screen.

Big thanks go to Fotis who helped me edit everything together and to a lovely media student, whose name I have sadly forgotten, who helped to film everything last year.

I hope you like it!


  • Caron Swann

    As a post grad Psychology student currently studying an MSc and also a budding singer, I find your blog fascinating. I am dyslexic and have working memory problem, however, I can remember all the lyrics to songs from years ago!

  • Sonia Dee

    Very interesting article which I linked from the earworm article on the BBC website. The book I am writing centres around music engulfing big life events etc. Not exactly scientific but I am glad to hear that if it goes to print, people will know where I am coming from!

  • vicky

    Dear Caron, Many thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words about the blog. They are much appreciated and I am so glad you find it useful and interesting on a professional and personal level. Best wishes, Vicky

  • Roy Nierenberg

    Vicky, what a wonderful lecture about musical memory. I found it after filling out the ear worm questionnaire. I have sent a link of it to my facebook friends, and I just came back from a chorus rehearsal where I mentioned it to several friends.

  • Aaron Wolf

    Your Prezi link doesn’t work anymore! It asks me to log-in to see it… I wanted to share it with someone else… Could you host this somewhere public actually, or maybe just make it a video playlist separate from Prezi or otherwise fix the link? Thanks

  • vicky

    Hi Aaron. I am afraid that I don’t have the rights to host it publically as it was a Goldsmiths project. It was probably suspended since I left that University. A shame, but thanks for letting me know. All the best, Vicky