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Sounds, sufferings, memories and emotions

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Social researchers have long known that playing music to people can evoke memories of their pasts and bring people into a different relationship with themselves as the sounds move them to make connections with an earlier period in their lives. It has been discovered in patients with dementia that it could revive people to hear songs they have loved, which can help to bring them back from a state of inner withdrawal. Some researchers have given people portable music listening devices so that they can listen to music that evokes memories from particular moments that they might be willing to share as part of an oral history or ethnographic project. This is to invoke processes that we can acknowledge ourselves as we realize the very special relationship we seem to have with music from our teenage years ‐ processes that have helped to shape a generational experience and sensibility. Hearing old tracks from the past can move us to make connections and can invoke emotions and feelings in us that we might not have felt for years. It can restore memories of times past as we feel the presence of the past through the mediation of the sounds. This article explores the significance of sound and voice memory for traumatic suffering in the form of an autoethnographic study of Amy Berg’s documentary Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015), transgenerational trauma, sexual trauma, feminism, therapy and the truths of memory.
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Keywords: Shoah; affect; cultural memory; gender in historiography; popular music; sound ethnography; transgenerational trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2020

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  • Empedocles aims to provide a publication and discussion platform for those working at the interface of philosophy and the study of communication, in all its aspects. This Journal is published in cooperation with the Section for the Philosophy of Communication of ECREA, the European Communication Reserach and Education Association.
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