Johannes Brusila, Bruce Johnson and John Richardson, eds. 2016. Memory, Space, Sound. Bristol: Intellect. ISBN 978-1-78320-602-5 (hbk), 978-1-78320-603-2 (ePDF), 978-1-78320-604-9 (ePub). 231 pp.

Reviewed by: Michael Ahlers, Leuphana University, Lueneburg, Germany

[email protected]

Keywords: meaning; memory; music; sound; space

Memory, Space, Sound aims at combining multidisciplinary approaches to studying the ways in which, ‘sound becomes meaningful in relation to time and place’ (3). Here, the editors acquire authors coming from ethnology, anthropology and musicology, while adding the voices and approaches of musicians and historians. The book stems from a conference (Turku, Finland in 2013) and quite a few chapters deal with Nordic phenomena or histories, giving sapid insight into intercultural connections and power relations. For reasons of structuring and emphasis, the book separates the three intertwined theoretical constructs of memory, space and sound.

Starting off the first chapter, Yrjö Heinonen analyses a Finnish ceremony by drawing from different theories on tradition, cultural memories, or invented traditions. It is followed by an ethnographic piece focusing on authenticity and retromania (Lars Kajser), and a third based on a large survey on the use and meaning of cassette re-collections in Finland (Kaarina Kilpiö). Finally, there is an article on the use of music in memory making within social media (Paul Long, Jez Collins).

The second section addresses ‘spaces’ drawing together ‘framings’, semiotics, ecocritical research, and musicology. Sara Cohen’s work on the mapping and sharing of autobiographical music memories gives insight into the value and significance of music. The following chapter investigates social formations by analysing Serbian festivals as ‘micro-national’, ‘counter’, and ‘organic’ spaces. Morton Michelsen then examines the use of music, listening, and music programming in Danish music radio in order to develop a tri-partite model for discussing spatiality in relation to radio. The final section adds articles from audiovisual studies, auditory cognition, the composer’s perspective (James Andean), soundscapes (Jeffrey L. Benjamin), and film music and cinematic space via ‘aesthetic’ and ‘perception’ (Claudia Gorbman).

Despite the fact that most of the articles deliver interesting insights into phenomena and findings, some of the chapter’s academic quality is negotiable. Part one and two in general are a bit more inspiring than part three. It remains unclear why seminal readings on ‘music and meaning’ are not to be found inside this publication. Several articles touch on or focus on the bonds between music, space, sound and meaning. Yet for some readers, books such as Derek B. Scott’s book Musical Style and Social Meaning (2010) or the influential Performing Rites by Simon Frith (1998) could provide better theoretical backdrops to these issues. Nevertheless, Memory, Space, Sound is of interest to a number of scholars and students of various academic disciplines, in addition to music policy makers.


Frith, Simon. 1998. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Scott, Derek B. 2010. Musical Style and Social Meaning: Selected Essays. Farnham, MD: Ashgate.