'He'll Have To Go': Popular music and the Social Performing of Memory

Nedim Hassan


Studies of music listening have often relied upon what people say and write about listening in order to discuss its significance to memory. While this approach has provided useful insights into connections between musical activity and memory, this article will make clear that such an approach often neglects what people do when listening and remembering. This account will present an ethnographic case study focusing on John, a 64 year old man who, on the surface, seems to have great difficulty with coherently elucidating his memories. However, it will be revealed that musical performing constitutes a valuable resource for John; enabling him to communicate his memories in ways that are powerfully affective and to construct a positive sense of self-identity. Thus, the article will provide an insight into the potential advantages of utilising ethnographic research to attend to performative elements of music-related remembering, but it will also explore some of the methodological difficulties that are involved with this approach.


musical performing; memory; identity; embodiment; ethnography

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