8 mar. 2007

I don't have an eidetic memory in the true sense. I can't do any amazing memory stunts. I have memorized a large proportion Shakespeare's sonnets, Lorca's romancero gitano, and Gamoneda's Libro del frío.

I have noticed, however, that my memory is improving with age. Visual images and musical phrases are more vivid to my mind. I can picture someone's face in a great deal of detail--something I wasn't that good at when I was younger. I can look over class notes once and then give the class without looking at the notes at all.

The only part of my memory that is weaker now is the retrieval of proper names. I learn names very fast, in a class I have to teach say. But I could forget the names of people I know quite well. I once forgot Johnny Hodges' name for a few agonizing hours. I am also not good at matching up purely instrumental tunes with their titles, even though I am reasonably good at remembering lyrics to songs.

So memory is several things.

Learning something for the first time and retaining it for a short time. I am good at this.

Remembering a text learned long ago. There tends to be decay here. Some poems stick in my mind better than others. For example, I now only know about 10 sonnets by Shakespeare.

Relearning a text. I am good at that. I can rememorize another 80 sonnets with ease.

Retrieving a proper name. I stink at that.

Connecting a face to a name. I can do it short term very well, with medium-term decay.

Calling to mind a visual image. I can do this better than I used to.

Retrieving the title associated with musical composition. I am bad at that, though I never fail to identify "Bemsha Swing."