The lifetime soundtrack
Music as an archive for autobiographical memory
Keywords:archive, autobiography, memory, music, soundtrack
The ability of music to trigger memories of one’s own life experiences is, for many people, an everyday occurrence. This article uses material from an in-depth qualitative study of adults’ memory narratives, which reveals the potential for music to encapsulate memories and associated affect on a scale that extends from singular moments to collections of memories situated within distinct temporal boundaries. The ways in which participants’ memories integrated with music that was personally meaningful not only confirmed that such manifestations are common, but that music itself becomes an effective representation of experience: music facilitates the development of a personal memory catalogue. Extending on existing arguments for the integration of memory and music within sociology and cultural studies, this article uses excerpts from research interviews to demonstrate how musical and para-musical elements of recorded music—lyrics, aesthetic sound, technology and entrainment—function in specific ways that enable music to act as an archive for memory.
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