Nostalgia: Sociology of Music (MUSI 660)

Nostalgia: a sentimental recollection.  It is a feeling that can be subtle, powerful, and certainly enjoyable.  Wisner (2014) identifies two types of nostalgia.  First, there is personal nostalgia, which is a yearning to relive your past emotionally and/or physically.  Second, there is false nostalgia, which involves a desire for a past that you have not lived.  For example, have you ever wanted to experience a particular historical period? In both cases, music is a powerful tool that can be used to help us produce feelings of nostalgia.

In terms of personal nostalgia, have you every been reintroduced to a song that you haven’t heard in years, and it immediately takes you back to a specific moment from your past?  For many of us, this can be a powerful moment that elicits detailed memories.  Music can also trigger feelings of false nostalgia, where you can perceive what you believe to be an ideal place in history.  Such feelings can certainly be drawn from music in film (which was discussed in an earlier blog), and previous research indicates that music incorporated into a film can enhance emotional responses from the viewer (Tannenbaum, 1956). The same soundtrack can evoke feelings of personal nostalgia and false nostalgia.  Which films bring up nostalgic moments for you?

I firmly believe a strong relationship exists between emotion and music.  Especially music that was important to us in our youth.  According to Stern (2014), our brains experience rapid neurological development between the ages of 12 and 22.  I know this fact does not come as a surprise to many of you, but the music we listen to during this time in our lives is strongly embedded into our memory.  It is no surprise that many of us will continue to enjoy the music of our youth well into adulthood.  The music industry is aware of this, and it is no wonder that you can usually find a classic rock radio station in any major metro area of the United States.  Rock ‘n’ roll has been used as a marketing tool towards baby boomers for decades.

While contemplating this topic, I find it interesting how music, nostalgia, consumerism, and neurological development can be combined into one sociological discussion.  For your weekly assignment, please do the following:

This week, your topic choices are:

  • Nostalgia
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Identity

This week, I chose to write about nostalgia, but you can address any of the above topics. The readings are short and interesting. I encourage you to read all three of them.

  1. Choose one of the topics and post a thread (500 words minimum) by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, November 10th. Do not attempt to summarize the entire article.  Instead, try to expand on a particular topic (or topics) within the chapter that is/are of interest to you.
  2. By 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 12th, please post a response (200 word minimum) to TWO threads created by your classmates.


Stern, M. J. (2014, August 12). Neural nostalgia: Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers? Retrieved from

Tannenbaum, P. H. (1956). Music background in the judgment of stage and television drama. Audiovisual Communication Review. 4(92). doi:10.1007/BF02717069

Wisner, R. A. (2014). Nostalgia. In Thompson, W. F. (Ed.), Music in the social and behavioral sciences: An encyclopedia (Vols. 1-2) (pp. 816-817). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.



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