Tuned to the nation's mood: Popular music as a mnemonic cultural object

Motti Neiger, Oren Meyers, Eyal Zandberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the concept of sonic memory via the investigation of popular music that constitutes a radio playlist. Our case study focuses on the songs aired on Israel's Memorial Day for the Holocaust and the Heroism during the state's first decade of local-commercial radio broadcasting (1993-2002). The critical analysis sought to understand what makes certain songs so identifiable with the national mourning ritual and the ways in which such songs gain the authority to symbolize and shape social memories. The article deconstructs the songs' commemorative authority through three primary questions: (1) What is one permitted to sing about when addressing the Holocaust in popular music? (2) Who is permitted to sing or write about it? (3) How are those individual artists permitted to sing about the Holocaust within the context of popular music? The findings suggest that the authority of the songs as 'cultural objects' is derived from a complex combination of their quiet tone and slow tempo, the biographies of their creators and performers, and their lyrics, written by poets who embrace a philosophical-existential point of view. Beyond this analysis, the article seeks to understand the power and efficacy of popular music as a cultural object.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-987
Number of pages17
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 291/07). The authors wish to thank the composer Kiki Keren-Hoss, and the culture and music scholar, Ariel Hirschfeld, for their insights regarding the analysis of the musical characteristics of the songs analysed.


  • Holocaust commemoration
  • collective memory
  • cultural memory
  • popular culture
  • popular music
  • radio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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