Memorizing solo piano music is one of the most tedious tasks I can think of. While I love the feeling of performing confidently from memory, this process can take awhile and taxes my patience. I have several favorite go-to tools for memorization, especially having helped many students with the process, but today I dug one out that I haven’t used in awhile: creating an “artistic” representation of a piece. I have my accidental sketchbook practice journal to thank for this idea.

This particular piece, No. 8, from Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes, has been tricky to grasp. Not only is the harmonic style a bit outside, incorporating unusual scale forms, but because of the constant sweeping scales and arpeggios, each measure takes up a lot of space, and it is difficult to see whole phrases because one phrase may take up several pages. I thought that it would help to be able to “see” the whole piece on one page.

Opening up my watercolor markers, I started swooping and slashing, trying to choose colors that intuitively spoke to me as representative of the harmonic and textural material in each phrase. The result is not pleasing from an artistic perspective- I am not equipped to make visual art; but, it does show the phrases, form, range, rhythm in an abstract way. As I work on solidifying the memorization, I will be able to use this page to jog my memory, filling in details as more connections are made. What I really like about this process is that it breaks me out of routine thoughts and encourages different ways of sensing and recalling the music.

In the name of vulnerability, I will bravely post my “art” below. If you like, follow the “score” while listening to Lera Auerbach perform the prelude. (Begin at 3:55) Be kind, please, and happy practicing!

Prelude No. 8 from 24 Preludes by Lera Auerbach

One thought on “Using visual art to aid memorization

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