Why Do We Memorize Music?

Memorize music…?! Have you heard any murmurings at home about how students have to memorize music for their recital? Do your kids wonder why they’re put through this herculean effort? Well, those are good questions! Let’s look to Niccolo, Franz, and Clara for some answers!   A Romantic Goal–To Memorize Music You see, the practice of memorizing music for performance began during the Romantic Era (1820-1900). This was when Niccolò Paganini, Franz Liszt, and Clara Schumann were giving concerts around Europe. Before 1820, performers usually used sheet music in concerts and recitals. They weren’t expected to memorize music. This was mainly due to the fact that these performers had little time beforehand to prepare. New music was written and performed so quickly that memorizing it all in a short amount of time wasn’t realistic or expected. Instead, audiences were looking for the “next big thing”. The idea of reusing music was not a popular one. But beginning in the Romantic Era, music was written more slowly. Composers began writing “art for art’s sake” instead of for a strict deadline imposed by an aristocratic audience.   Paganini   Listen to Paganini’s music Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) was one of the greatest violinists of all time. He spent most of his adult life on tour performing his own compositions. His ingenuity and skill developed the way the violin was played. His music pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible on violin. And he was among the first to memorize music for his performances.     Liszt   Listen to Franz Liszt’s music Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was quite the lady’s man and rock star in his day. He was one of the greatest pianists in history and also quite...