Music's contribution to the formation of self-identity through regressive listening




Gingoyon, Megan

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The purpose of this study is to determine how we as listeners use music as a means of expressing and forming our self-identity. How does music contribute to who we are, and how we express ourselves? What is it that makes music so important and personal to us? In order to help me find an answer to these questions I took courses on the history and rhetoric of popular music in the United States. What I have learned is that what enables us to do these things is something that Theodor Adorno has termed “regressive listening,” which he defines as the regression to a state of primitivism while listening to music. Regressive listening involves a theme of repetitiveness that results in the loss of one’s identity, as we grow accustomed to only listening to the type of music the culture industry imposes on us. After taking these classes however, I have learned, that there is a different, but positive definition of regressive listening, the regression into our memories while listening to songs that are the most meaningful to us. This type of regressive listening helps cause the formation of one’s identity. When we listen to a certain song, we relate it to our past experiences. This, in turn, helps us to solidify our sense of identity and gives us a sense of who and what we want to be like in the future.


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