Da capo: A musical technique to evoke narrative recall

Nick Pilcher, Martin Cortazzi, Lixian Jin

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article proposes the use of recorded music chosen by researchers to elicit participant accounts of life experiences, a technique we name 'da capo recall.' Fifteen mainland Chinese students who had studied in the UK were played seven contrasting extracts of classical music. They were asked how each extract reminded them of anything salient on their undergraduate degrees. We relate major points of narrative research to music and discuss: the method and procedure, the participants' responses and how the technique can be used. In this education context, participants gave rich accounts about studying, exams, graduating and other life experiences with affective dimensions. For many, the music returned them to 'the experienced present' of their studies, analogous to a da capo replaying of a section in music. Musical key and tempo influenced the nature of the memories evoked. We envisage the da capo technique's use within interviews to explore memories, experiences and emotions amongst learners, professionals and in other fields. We show the potential of the da capo technique to evoke a range of narratives that have added value given to them specifically through the use of music.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-502
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese
  • interviewing
  • music
  • narratives
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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