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". . . they call us by our name . . .": Technology, Memory and Metempsychosis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bennett Hogg


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Since “Civilization and Its Discontents” – and likely before – sound recording has been plausibly understood as a prosthesis of memory, characterised by Freud as the “faculty of recall”. However, as Freud himself was to point out in his theory of “screen memories”, human memory goes considerably beyond the straightforward mechanistic recall of stored sensory information. Making sense of memories and interpreting them, as they are “laid down”, and as they are “recalled”, involves the formation of novel connections between memorised materials themselves, as well as between such remembered networks and contemporary sensory, social, and cultural experiences. The commonplace model of sound recording as prosthetic memory, then, ends up as a rather superficial representation, often ignoring the creative and interpretive role played by imagination; a sound recording qua recording is always something that “has happened”, whereas phenomenologically speaking, a memory – because of the cardinal role played by imagination - is something that is happening. Imagination constantly and subtly reworks memory, modulating its emotional effect, re-evaluating the significance of particular memories, constructing narratives around them, drawing them into myth, and (usually unconsciously) bringing myth into them. Though etymologically quite distinct, much play has been made in recent theory of the (imagined) connections between “remember” (to call to mind) and “re-member” (to reassemble, reconnect that which was dismembered). Imagination, insofar as it re-members memories keeps them alive and active. Experientially speaking, to listen to a recording is less like the mechanistic model of recall than it is being present at an “event” unfolding here and now, informed by memory, but equally by imagination, and by cognitive and cultural frames, regardless of how familiar the music may be. To understand such an experience through a reductive model of memory badly misrepresents the cognitive ecosystem in which such events occur. If a conjoined ecology of memory, technology, imagination, and temporal persistence can allow for a creative rethinking of sound recording, might this lead to a position where metempsychosis, rather than memory, serves as a more appropriate imaginative model of sound recordings?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hogg B

Editor(s): Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard, Mads Walther-Hansen, and Martin Knakkergaard

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Oxford Handbook of Sound and Imagination, volume 2

Year: 2019

Volume: 2

Pages: 219-236

Print publication date: 01/09/2019

Online publication date: 01/08/2019

Acceptance date: 18/02/2016

Number of Volumes: 2

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Place Published: Oxford, UK


DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190460242.013.33

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780190460242