A psalm is always a memory: nostalgia and sacrality in contemporary ritual-musical appropriations of the psalms

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This article discusses the role of biographical memory in three contemporary ritual-musical appropriations of the psalms in Dutch and Flemish contexts. We observe that, in performances of psalms, participants (intend to) either forget or recall different biographical memories. Nostalgic narratives of religious, cultural and individual change and continuity inform both the way that they interpret their experiences of these psalm performances, and their motivations for attempting to forget or recall particular memories related to the psalms. By using the notion of sacrality — that which is set apart, non-ordinary — we show that particular non-negotiable desires and non-ordinary experiences recur multiple times in these nostalgic narratives. Analysis of these desires and experiences leads us to conclude that contemplative experiences are desired by many, but experienced by only a few. We suggest the combination of Aleida Assmann’s theory of forgetting and remembering with the notions of nostalgia and sacrality as a way to successfully overcome the unproductive dichotomy between religious and cultural heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalMemory Studies
Issue numberonline
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jun 2023

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