Monday, March 28, 2011

The way the mind works?

I was listening this morning, on my Streaming Radio, to (what I was sure was) the last movement of a piano concerto, one that I really like. The radio station was AOL’s Piano Virtuoso channel. I’m usually fiendishly good at recognizing classical music compositions, but I couldn’t place this one, perhaps because I’m not quite as young as I used to be.

Suddenly, I was convinced that if I read the identifying information on the radio’s tiny display, I could figure it out. Now I must explain that the Piano Virtuoso channel displays more information about the current composition than most. It lists the performer, the piece, the key, the opus, and even the tempo markings. But it never, ever, identifies the composer! Still, I was certain – and I couldn’t imagine why – that looking at its information, I would identify the composer. So I looked.

While I waited for the data to snail across the screen, I asked myself why I thought that it might help. I could easily think of several concertos whose identifying info would tell me nothing at all. Here’s what I read on the display:

Harnoncourt, Piano Concerto #1 in A minor, op. 54, allegro...
As soon as I saw “A minor”, I knew: Robert Schumann. Now comes the interesting part. (Interesting to me, anyway.) Why had I been so certain that the displayed info was all I needed? In the back of my mind, that place where we sift through our memories to find something relevant, I must have almost made the necessary connection. I just needed a hint to boost that data from the back of my mind to my conscious thoughts. Bing!

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