Throughout history, from ballads to requiems, music has played an important social role in reflection on mortality. Not only do musicians articulate their angst and thoughts about death, but, in so doing, they enable listeners to explore their own feelings. While the relationship between music and mental health can be examined from a number of perspectives, two broad approaches can be taken: artist-centred approaches and listener-centred approaches. The first analyses the life and work of artists, focussing particularly on the ways in which they explore death and angst in their music. The second looks at the ways in which the life and work of an artist is interpreted by listeners. Within these general approaches, a complex set of questions emerge – often at the interface of both approaches. How is the music used by listeners in their reflection on mortality? How is music used to manage mental health? Does reflection on the life and work of an artist contribute to suicidal ideation? Is the reception of music altered by an artist’s suicide? Using both these approaches and drawing particularly on the work of Émile Durkheim, this discussion demonstrates the significance of popular music analysis for death studies, focussing particularly on the issues surrounding popular music’s relationship to suicidal ideation.
Partridge, C. (2020), "Suicide, Angst, and Popular Music", Coward-Gibbs, M. (Ed.) Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead (Emerald Studies in Death and Culture), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 189-208. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-83909-037-020201020
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