‘Well-worn grooves’

Music, materiality and biographical memory


  • Iain A. Taylor Birmingham City University Author




music, memory, records, collection, materiality, biography


Recorded music, as both aesthetic listening experience, and as material culture, has a deep mnemonic resonance for a great many people. Starting from Csikszentmihalyi’s (1993) theorization on the significance of artefacts in the structuring of ‘well-worn grooves’ of consciousness, this article considers the biographical function of the metaphorical (and literal) ‘well-worn grooves’ of music-based artefacts such as records. Building upon existing arguments from material culture studies and popular music studies, this article uses excerpts from research interviews with self-identified ‘music enthusiasts’ to argue that an attentiveness to the complex and intertwined relationships between popular music listening, and its materiality, presents possibilities for looking beyond a broadly canonic understanding of popular music history, arguing for a greater attentiveness to the richness of individual music-based biographies as a means of exploring the relationship between popular music and the past.

Author Biography

  • Iain A. Taylor, Birmingham City University

    Iain Taylor is a Lecturer in Music Industries in the Birmingham Institute of Media and English at Birmingham City University. His research is concerned with the changing materiality of music and media. He leads the BCMCR’s  Materialities  research theme, exploring the ways in which the theoretical work and practice emerging from the Centre interact with and exist within the material world. He is an editor and lead designer for  Riffs: Experimental Writing on Popular Music (www.riffsjournal.org), a peer-reviewed postgraduate journal dedicated to exploring new possibilities for writing, thinking and talking about popular music.


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How to Cite

Taylor, I. A. (2020). ‘Well-worn grooves’: Music, materiality and biographical memory. Popular Music History, 12(3), 256–274. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.41832