Music generated narratives: Elaborating the da capo interview technique

Martin Cortazzi, Nick Pilcher, Lixian Jin

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


This paper shows how we played researcher-selected extracts of music to participants in “the Da Capo technique,” to elicit narratives of their learning experiences. Previously, we used music alongside other techniques in an interview about learning; here we explore the Da Capo technique as a standalone technique to study its potential for narrative recall. To do this, we played 10 one-minute long extracts of classical music (five “Western” and five “Chinese”) to 20 participants (10 “Western” and 10 “Chinese”). After hearing each piece, participants were asked if the music recalled for them any experiences of learning. When it did so, we explored this further in dialogue and narrative recall. As expected, some narratives related to experiences of studying, academic success, and of particular times and places associated with learning. However, in many cases the music elicited narratives of learning which, surprisingly and in multiple dimensions, related to physical learning, culture, the family, and particular emotions such as sympathy, and of aspects of character, such as optimism and honesty. We provide details of using the technique, where particular music elicited learning experiences and where they did not. We provide further evidence of the value of using music either as a stand-alone method in the qualitative researcher’s toolkit, or as an additional and complementary tool. We discuss the merits, limitations, and potential applications of the Da Capo technique.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)2357-2380
Number of pages24
JournalQualitative Report
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Interviewing
  • Music
  • Narratives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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