Rembrance of Things Past: Music, Autobiographical Memory and Emotion

Music is sometimes called the language of emotion, but it is not at all clear how music expresses, or is expressive of, the emotions
18 Aug, 2016

It sometimes happens that a piece of music becomes associated with an event from a person's life so that hearing the piece of music evokes memories of the original experience. The purpose of this paper is to examine this phenomenon empirically. More specifically, the study investigates what kinds of autobiographical episodes are triggered by music that respondents self-selected as examples of this phenomenon, what characterizes these instances, and what is the relationship between the emotions descriptive of the original experience and the emotions aroused by hearing the piece of music.

And before Swann had had time to understand what was happening, to think: "It is the little phrase from Vinteuil's sonata. I mustn't listen!", all his memories of the days when Odette had been in love with him, which he had succeeded, up till that evening, in keeping invisible in the depths of his being, deceived by this sudden reflection of a season of love, whose sun, they supposed, had dawned again, had awakened from their slumber, had taken wing and risen to sing maddeningly in his ears, without pity for his present desolation, the forgotten strains of happiness. Marcel Proust (1913/1956), Swann's Way, p. 496

By Hans Baumgartner, Pennsylvania State University

This article was published in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 19, 1992 p. 613-620, Association for Consumer Research.

Photo: Christian Brandt
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