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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.

320 pages | 48 color plates, 44 halftones, 11 line drawings | 7 x 10 | © 2020

Cinema and Modernity

Film Studies

Media Studies

Music: General Music

Psychology: General Psychology


"Berthold Hoeckner’s Film, Music, Memory is an invigorating read which provides a detailed, critical, different and original dialogue on the manners in which film music plays a role in determining one’s’ experience of certain films or more simply the relation that music has to cinema and memory. With great criticality Hoeckner shows how cinema’s innate visualism is entwined with the auditory faculties of film music which allows for a representation of human memory to flourish."

Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics

"In this wide-ranging survey of the role of memory in film music, Berthold Hoeckner offers a variation on Walter Benjamin’s optical unconscious and argues that 'sound and music can store images and serve as acue for retrieving them.' Grouped around the notions of storage, retrieval, and affect, the seven chapters (plus introduction and coda) discuss films by Woody Allen or Alexander Kluge, Godard or Fellini, Chris Marker or Max Ophuls, etc—typically juxtaposing older films (from the 1940s and 50s) with more recent titles (from the past two or three decades). Hoeckner’s chapters discuss recording, flashback, replay,fixations, and other (simultaneously thematic and technical) phenomena that characterize film as an audiovisual medium."

Quarterly Review of Film and Video

"Film, Music, Memory convinces by skillfully demonstrating the theoretical implications of its titular 'triad' through the keen analysis of select examples from films. Hoeckner impressively guides his readers with though the issues arising from these films by navigating with commanding elegance the complex terrain between philosophy, psychology, cultural theory, musicology, as well as cinema and media studies. Not least, the book’s design is exquisite, with numerous figures and musical examples meticulously illustrating observations in the text."

MEDIENwissenschaft (translated from the original German)

"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

"Hoeckner's book offers a 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. This is 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 cinema and Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. For film buffs and audio professionals as well as film scholars, Film, Music, Memory will be a constant source of new inspirations."

Sean Cubitt, author of Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies

Table of Contents

Foreword: The Same Old Tune, but with a Different Meaning
Tom Gunning


Part 1 Storage

1          Record Recollections
2          Tertiary Rememories

Part 2 Retrieval

3          Double Projections
4          Auratic Replays
5          Panoramic Flashbacks

Part 3 Affect

6          Freudian Fixations
7          Affective Attachments




Kraszna-Krausz Foundation: Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards, Moving Image Category

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