Popular music and the memory spectrum

Authored by: Michael Pickering

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138237636
eBook ISBN: 9781315299310
Adobe ISBN:


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Popular music is a potent component of remembering, operating either as a fortuitous catalyst, bringing back unbidden memories, or acting as an intentional mnemonic vehicle of significant moments, occasions or episodes in people’s lives. Drawing on the scarce ethnographic research into music and memory in everyday life, this chapter maps out the major ways in which popular music figures in registering and referencing the past. It discusses the power of popular music as a means of evoking the past over the modern period, especially since the advent of its mechanical reproduction. This includes visual as well as aural media, and the expansion of personal and interpersonal uses of media through the internet and digital forms of exchange and transmission. The chapter also distinguishes between critical and regressive forms of nostalgia, and claims that transforming memory and remembering practices into sources and means of positive identification and creative renewal depends on the ways in which they are actively sustained and applied in the present. The vital concept in these processes is the mnemonic imagination. The significance of this concept for popular music and the past is outlined and explained in the final part of the chapter.

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