Is memory located in the brain alone? I wonder. I believe that memory is located in all our body cells. One hears, sees, smells messages with one’s body. These messages are transmitted to the central processing centre, the brain, and then returned to the body cells for storage.
The other day I listened for more than two hours to Boris Berezowsky playing Liszt , at the end of which he played the Sonata in B minor. ‘Amazing’, said my wife, ‘no music score, he has all that music in his head.’ I shook mine.
Through listening and watching, I was actually feeling the music. And I was unable to believe that this enormous amount of highly complicated music, this torrent of notes, in all its nuances and variations in intensity, could be driven directly, in real time, just by the brain of the pianist. There cannot be sufficient time for such refined data traffic, I thought. Liszt’s music was already stored in Berezowsky’s body, arms, legs, hands, fingers and fingertips, legs and feet and erupted in an uninterrupted flow of feeling. Boris put our souls in immediate touch with that of Liszt at the very moment he heard the music in his head and wrote it down. Despite imperfections like Liszt’s musical notation and 150 years of intervening successive piano lessons and interpretations, we were in immediate touch with Liszt. Spell-bound, we were everywhere in time and place. All souls collectively. Liszt not dead anymore, but alive and well.
During the ovational applause, the Russian came back with a small sheet of paper which he put on the grand piano, for an encore. He said: “This little romance I do not yet know by heart, but I am going to play it for you from the heart.’
While studying a sonata, it enters into the brain for processing while one is practicing. An interactive process between brains, feeling, body and fingers. In that way you make the composition your own, as it enters your whole body, your cells, your heart. Finally, it is engraved in your cells.Your soul, your self, that is to say ALL your cells collectively, brain cells included. Think of all the near-death experiences documented so well recently, all over the world, and so convincingly, too. The body takes over while the brain is out of action.
Liszt also composed a sonata called ‘Après une lecture de Dante’ (after a reading of Dante). Sixteen minutes which changed my personal views about neurology. I was present in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw when Arcadi Volodis played this sonata. Also a Russian. In the beginning, we had glimpses of Dante’s Heaven. Then, his Purgatory and Hell filled the grand hall to its roof in the form of violent thunderstorms. Towards the end of the sonata the public underwent the heavy weather bodily, with all organs participating. It felt as if all 2000 of us were one mind and body.
Volodos played the same programme in the Musikverein in Vienna. Fortunately, Sony recorded it on CD and DVD. Please take a time-out of 17 minutes and undergo this sonata fantasia. I hope that it will make you think about the location of our memory.