Film, Music, Memory

Film, Music, Memory

Berthold Hoeckner

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226649610

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Film, Music, Memory demonstrates that cinema has shaped modern culture in part by changing its cultures of memory. Such change has rested in no small measure on the mnemonic powers of music. With the advent of film, music became involved in a new technology of audiovisual media, placing cultural knowledge in individual and collective memory. Through the capacity to reproduce temporal objects in sound recording and film, technology had advanced a novel mode of exteriorizing memory. This so-called “tertiary memory” (Bernard Stiegler) no longer tied acts of remembrance to the human body and made them subject to its limitations. Instead cinema could retain the past and re-project it in ways that contributed to new forms of cultural consciousness. Film music was central to “cinematic experience” (Miriam Hansen), best understood by extending Walter Benjamin’s notion of the optical unconscious to that of an optical-acoustic unconscious. Focusing on examples from American and European cinema, the book’s three parts show how music partook in cinematic representations of memory through storage, retrieval, and affect which shaped characters’ memory in film as well as viewers’ memory of film. Individual chapters establish how film music aligned with recording technology to cue visual recall and create new forms of intertextuality; how the habitual consumption of movies fostered their replay through music; how musicians and listeners became a site for traumatic and nostalgic memory; and how music affected economic and racial trust in society by shaping trust in film as a medium.