Working memory capacity when managing both words and music

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Varun deCastro-Arrazola’s thesis argues that certain types of poetic sections (e.g., lines) are subject to constraints set by working memory; Fabb (2015) offers a different kind of argument but with a similar result. In this paper I consider songs, which are combinations of words and music, where music is also divided into sections which are subject to constraints set by working memory (Swain, Snyder, Ockleford etc). The two types of sectioning may reinforce each other but they can alternatively be independent. If working memory is subject to global constraints, does this mean that in a song, words and music must be constrained so that they place a reduced demand on working memory when combined, as opposed to when they are isolated as either a spoken poem or nonverbal music? In this paper I argue that working memory capacity for poetic sections is not reduced by also having to manage musical sections, and I discuss why this might be.
Period4 May 2018
Event titleCognition and Verse
Event typeWorkshop
LocationAmsterdam, Netherlands
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • working memory
  • music
  • poetry