Popular music and commemorative ritual: A material approach

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What makes a certain musical work a suitable piece for mourning or commemoration? How do certain musical artists and their music acquire commemorative meaning or qualities? This chapter approaches these questions by focusing on the entanglements of popular music, memory and commemorative ritual from a material perspective. The proposed analytical framework aims at furthering an understanding of commemorative rituals as embodied and mediating practices, creating and altering people’s experiences, emotions and memories. Roughly categorising such collective, ritualised settings as ceremonies, monuments and pilgrimages, the chapter highlights the role of music both as a physical co-presence and as a material anchor of memory. Concrete ethnographic examples illustrate the importance of myth and affect in the recollections and practices that constitute commemorations. It is argued that a study of the commemoration of any (musical) celebrity is a study of the lifeworlds of people. The various places, forms and practices that constitute such commemorations will help to understand how these are intertwined with local histories, values, anxieties and imaginations. Moreover, taking ceremonies, monuments and pilgrimages as the angle of analysis helps us to see the interconnectedness and overlap of places, people and practices, and demonstrates that they cannot be studied as separate phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage
EditorsSarah Baker , Catherine Strong, Lauren Istvandity, Zelmarie Cantillon
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781315299310
ISBN (Print)9781138237636, 9780367659929
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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