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15 May, 2004

Another self-referential observation about memory

In 1992 I bought a tape of R.E.M.'s 'Automatic For The People'.  I listened to it quite a lot, and associate it with a fairly happy period of my life.
For various reasons, I didn't listen to it often from mid-1993 onwards; once per year until ~1999, if that.
Recently, I took advantage of a '3-for-2' offer to upgrade to a CD copy of the album.  The odd thing is that it is instantly familiar; I can remember most of the lyrics, and as one track ends, I can anticipate the beginning of the next track before a note is played - it's as if I last heard it yesterday, not five years ago, and it wasn't even a favourite then.

I have a poor memory for text: I can't quote lyrics, poetry, or lines from films or books. If I understand something, I can assimilate it properly, but if I need to simply memorise abstract information, especially as text, it's a problem. This might partially explain my (apparent) inability to learn languages, and my near-failure at 'A'-Level Chemistry.
In Polish, Saturday is 'Sobota', but dlaczego? It just is; it's not debatable or something to understand, it can only be memorised. Or not.
Usage helps, by setting a context; I don't struggle with "Dobranoc". It's the abstraction that's the problem. If I was working with organic chemistry on a daily basis, I'm sure I'd soon learn the structural differences between an aldehyde and a ketone, but as a frankly uninterested 17-year-old, it just wasn't going to happen.

Oddly, I am able to recall lyrics in the context of their song, just not in isolation. As I write, this sentence I'm listening to something familiar ('Easter', by Marillion) as a test, and can remember the lyrics word-perfectly, about a line ahead of h singing them. At this precise moment, the guitar solo is drawing to a close, and I don't have a clue about the next line... yes; I got it, but not until h was drawing breath for the first word.

Comments

Pozdrowienia z Polski!!!
referencing your entry in a somewhat circuitous way: I'm freshly back from hearing Easter, 21st Century, You're Gone, 80 Days and a few other songs by Marillion live on the Market Square in Krakow, Poland. Steve and co. will be playing here tomorrow, too, but unfortunately, or maybe FORTUNATELY, tomorrow I'll be in another Polish city to hear Tull perform live. What a lovely musical Spring we're having here in Poland!
Pozdrawiam serdecznie!
BTW, I should finally own up to dropping by here from time to time. Enjoying your reflections very much : )

Posted by huntinggirl at May 17, 2004 08:32 PM
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