oral transmission: motivation and memorization

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at internet.no
Sat Jun 14 08:59:10 UTC 1997

>The more I think about this, the more it sounds like a fascinating piece
>of urban folklore.  Did it really happen?  If so, when exactly?  Was it
>reported in the papers?  If anybody has seen solid evidence of this feat,
>I would be grateful to have the reference.  Maybe other Indology people 
>would be interested too, since it seems to put Truman Capote many notches
>above the Vedic sages in memorization powers.  Just think of all the
>metrical and other memorization helps they had, and he had... none (!) ...
>And the sheer size and density of our NYC phone books... it boggles the
>mind... Maybe Mr. Cowart can give us more information?

I think there is such a thing as photographic memory. Similar feats of
memorization were related about the Norwegian historian P. A. Munch (last
century), who allegedly got access to papers in the Vatican, but was not
allowed to copy them. Whereupon he learnt them by heart and copied them back
in his hotel room. He was also reportedly able to remember page upon page of
ordinary novels he had read in his youth. I discussed this phenomenon with a
psychologist, who said that the problem with such people was that they could
never forget anything, and therefore had various psychological discomforts.
As for music: Mozart reportedly heard a mass in the Vatican that was treated
as a "trade secret", so that the notes were not available to the public.
Mozart went home after hearing the mass and wrote it all down from memory.
He went back the next day to hear it once more, and discovered to his
chagrin that he had gotten one note wrong!

Any other memory lore out there?

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr.art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: L.M.Fosse at internet.no
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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