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David Sawyer has posted on his website an essay titled “The Life and Work of Jin Nyodo”. According to David, “much of the information contained in this short essay comes from the biographical essays about Jin Nyodō in the book "Koten Honkyoku no Shåutaisei-sha Jin Nyodô no shakuhachi" Ed. Kamisangô Yûkô 1980.” The essay states that roughly by the end of his 5th year of playing the shakuhachi Jin “had played and memorized 60-70 gaikyoku pieces, from Kurokami to Yaegoromo”. I realize Jin was no garden variety student; rather an extremely ambitious, hardworking, prodigiously talented teenager with a flute playing samurai for a dad, for whom learning a piece meant playing strictly by listening, i.e. without a written score. It is stated that as a performer Jin’s gaikyoku renditions varied considerably, in part because he played from memory, suggesting perhaps that his memorization of a piece was not as exact as when one commits to memory the details of a written score. Still 60-70 pieces after only 5 years seems quite extraordinary. I’m curious if any Forum member has accomplished something like this purported feat of Jin Nyodo’s or known someone who has?
Okuda Atsuya teaches all the honkyoku in his repertoire from memory. That is about 50. I also know he has memorised quite a few more honkyoku not taken into his own repertoire and loads of other music as well.
His son Satoshi is the same. But as he is the heir to Seiha Ikuta-ryu, his memorarisation is more in gaikyoku - or.... since he is a koto and shamisen player perhaps jiuta sokyoku is a better word for it.
Yes, it can be impressive how much some people can memorise. I wonder if they hear the music differently....
I'll try to repost with the specifics, but there was a field study of folk poetry and ballads, etc. in Yugoslavia (if i'm not mistaken) where they tracked down these old guys who were the traditional "bards", they estimated that most of them knew from memory something in the ballpark of 500 pieces, each of which were fairly complicated. The investigators were also impressed with the degree to which different people remembered each piece with accuracy to the last word. I read reference to this in the context of Homer and Virgil and the oral transmission of extremely long involved epics and sagas etc. I'll dig up the specific references because its interesting.
I think verbal memory is different from memorizing music but I may be wrong.
I also recall reading that John Jackson, a much lesser known blues/country songster discovered and recorded by Chris Strachwitz (of Arhoolie records) allegedly had a repertoire of blues, gospel, folk, country, ragtime, and popular ballads and songs that went well into the hundreds.
The gist of the first study mentioned above was that verse and melody are easier to remember in detail, thus the degree of accuracy in orally transmitted material in pre-literate cultures.
Last edited by ABRAXAS (2009-03-24 13:12:29)