The Heritage of Live Popular Music Making in Merthyr Tydfil 1955 to the Present Day: How Do Musical Memories, Mediated Through Technology, Impact Identity and Nostalgia?

The relationship of popular music to memory, identity and nostalgia is now well established in popular music studies, with academics such as Schulkind, Hennis and Rubin (1999) outlining how music, in particular from ones youth, can have strong nostalgic impact – evoking both general and specific memories of life events. Most importantly, the research of Schulkind et al. found a correlation between more general emotions and memory: suggesting the more emotion a song produced, the greater the likelihood it has to trigger associated memories. As I have documented in other published materials (for example Carr 2010, 2013, 2016), the relationship between music and emotion has been long contested from the time of Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904), with the polysemic nature of music meaning that a song with great emotional significance for one individual, will have little attachment for another, even if both individuals are from the same generation. More recent research from the likes of Janata, Tomic and Rakowksi (2007) and Barret, Grimm, Robins, Janata et al. (2010) have attempted to understand the means through which music can evoke memories and the conditions through which nostalgic responses occur. This paper proposes to build upon this research, although from a distinct methodological angle. As opposed to incorporating an ethnographic approach, where the researcher uses an often-anonymous community as the focus of their research, this project will overtly position the participants as `prosumers’ (consumers and producers) of a heritage based digital archive, which aims to establish an online collaboration and co-authoring space with the local community to accommodate and nourish collective musical memories in the town of Merthyr Tydfil, between the years 1955 to the present day. This multifaceted project, currently in its early stages of development, aims to investigate how memories of engagement with local, national and international popular music activity in the town, facilitates audiences and artists to negotiate their individual and shared identities and emotional responses, while also attempting to understand issues associated with articulating it. As the digital archive project develops, the community will learn how to engage with their musical history and prepare their own digital stories and materials (such as music files, newspaper cuttings, visual footage and photos). This emphasis on the interrelationship of emotion (including nostalgia) and memory, mediated through technology and musical activities such as performing, attending concerts and listening to music, is the focus of the project and the paper.


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Carr, P (2010). ‘National Identity Versus Commerce: An Analysis of Opportunities and Limitations with the Welsh Music Scene for Composers and Performing Musicians’, Popular Music History (5/3), pp. 265–285.

Carr, P (2013). ‘The Big Note, Xenochrony and All Things Contextual: Frank Zappa and the And’. Book chapter in Paul Carr (ed.), Frank Zappa and the And: Key Essays on the Contextualisation of his Legacy. Ashgate, 2013.

Carr, P (2016). ‘The Impact of Virtuality in the Creation and Reception of the Music of Frank Zappa, in Sheila Whitely and Shara Ramarran (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality, pp. 81 – 94.

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Schulkind, M.D., Hennis, L.K. and Rubin, D.C. (1999) ‘Music, emotion, and autobiographical memory: They’re playing your song’, Memory & Cognition, 27(6), pp. 948–955. doi: 10.3758/bf03201225.

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About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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