Narrative Time and the Popular Song

Negus, Keith. 2012. Narrative Time and the Popular Song. Popular Music and Society, 35(4), pp. 483-500. ISSN 0300-7766 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Drawing from Paul Ricoeur’s work on how the uncertainties of temporality are given coherence through narrative, this essay explores how popular songs mediate the human experience of time. It develops this idea via a brief illustrative study of how “Waterloo Sunset” refashions an ordinary experience of time through a narrative that celebrates the cyclical repetition of a moment, and suggests a more general tendency for pop songs to humanize the paradoxes of the “triple present” and to harmonize the tensions between phenomenological “lived time”, “cosmic time” and “clock time” (categories drawn from Ricoeur). The essay outlines ways that a cyclical popular song aesthetic resonates with a broader series of temporal experiences understood in relation to concepts of ritual, accelerating social time and plotless biography. In arguing for the importance of time and temporality in the study of popular music and self-identity, the essay is deliberately exploratory, seeking to open up a series of issues with the intention of complementing existing approaches to the relationships between music, identity and social life.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Popular Music Research Unit
Research Office > REF2014


October 2012Published

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Date Deposited:

15 Feb 2013 14:42

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 09:57

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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