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Film, Music, Memory

Film has shaped modern society in part by changing its cultures of memory. Film, Music, Memory reveals that this change has rested in no small measure on the mnemonic powers of music. As films were consumed by growing American and European audiences, their soundtracks became an integral part of individual and collective memory. Berthold Hoeckner analyzes three critical processes through which music influenced this new culture of memory: storage, retrieval, and affect. Films store memory through an archive of cinematic scores. In turn, a few bars from a soundtrack instantly recall the image that accompanied them, and along with it, the affective experience of the movie.

Hoeckner examines films that reflect directly on memory, whether by featuring an amnesic character, a traumatic event, or a surge of nostalgia. As the history of cinema unfolded, movies even began to recall their own history through quotations, remakes, and stories about how cinema contributed to the soundtrack of people’s lives. Ultimately, Film, Music, Memory demonstrates that music has transformed not only what we remember about the cinematic experience, but also how we relate to memory itself.

Author Information

Berthold Hoeckner is professor of music at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Programming the Absolute: Nineteenth-Century German Music and the Hermeneutics of the Moment.


"Hoeckner's book offersa set of meticulous and original readings of films across a wide spectrum of cinema and a thesis linking recorded film music with broader work on memory. Thisis a major intervention in film sound, opening ears to the work of memory that recorded and synchronized sound make possible within and between films as varied as Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinemaand Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. For film buffs and audio professionals as well as film scholars, Film, Music, Memorywill be a constant source of new inspirations."
— Sean Cubitt, author of Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies

" Film, Music, Memory is superb. There are no books in soundtrack studies that are remotely like it, as it approaches film music from the angle of memory and its representation in film. Hoeckner shows us how images and situations stick to music, and this stickiness is why music is so adept at recalling characters and ideas, but more importantly it is why music is absolutely crucial to cinematic representations of memory."
— James Buhler, author of Theories of the Soundtrack

"The musical evocation and manipulation of memories has become a recurring and increasingly popular theme in modern film scoring; this book is a striking and distinctive exploration of how music shapes notions of our past and our present as refracted through film. Drawing on a remarkable depth of knowledge, Hoeckner puts forward several innovative theoretical tools to provide us with a new manner of engaging with how music, media, and memory interact."
— Daniel Goldmark, editor of The Grove Music Guide to American Film Music

Audience: Professional and scholarly;