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Grael Britannia

The importance of song lines and poems

I don't supposed I'm the first to have wondered why, while learning long speeches can be "blooming difficult" (to get them lodged in one's memory), we have much less trouble remembering songs and their lyrics, even decades after we were first exposed to them.

It begs the question : Why should music and lyrics key into our memory so much better than mere words do?. "Key" might not be the best word, how about "embed","latch", or "resonate"?

So, when I found this article on "Music and deep memory", it stood out like a proverbial light in the dark.

It's an introductory article on the works of Ernest McClain. For example:

Each of McClain's books -- The Myth of Invariance, The Pythagorean Plato, and Meditations through the Quran -- is a set of closely-argued excurses through a body of literature as if through an underground mine, looking for the telltale glint of something sparkling in the walls. That sparkle is number, and McClain demonstrated over and over that numbers are not scattered randomly throughout ancient texts. There is a preponderance of multiples of very low primes -- notably 2, 3, and 5; and very often, when a number that cannot be so reduced does occur (say, 37), looking to the context with the small primes in mind will yield a plausible rationale. The books have been noted for the density of their presentation.

("Obscure," "hard to understand," "inaccessible," are terms that come up in the (positive!) reader reviews online.) This challenge to readers is only partly due to the mathematics. More challenging is the fact that once McClain has a numerical trope established, he frequently runs with it, employing it just as the ancients (he held) did: as an extremely abbreviated figure of thought, which could be adapted to many different situations. And yet, he insisted repeatedly, the mathematics involved was itself not difficult. "A child can learn it," he claimed, and he implied moreover that in the era of the pocket calculator, no one, not even the math-averse, had any excuse. (As of this writing, all three of McClain's books are available in pdf from his website, www.ernestmcclain.net , as are numerous essays. The shortest, most accessible, and least tendentious introduction to McClain's basic insights, however, may be the third and fourth chapters of Jay Kappraff's excellent popular mathematics book Beyond Measure.)

"A child can learn it" - that's an encouraging phrase :-)

"Ernest McClain"

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