Literature’s listening spaces

Representations of music listening in two contemporary novels




Literary descriptions of music are – of course – pure fi ction. However, such narratives are also windows into the phenomenological and sociological workings of music in modern society. Many novels share detailed descriptions of music in their fi ctional worlds, and this article examines what two contemporary novels reveal about modern-day music listening as both a cultural and private practice. The article will analyse the nature of ‘listening spaces’ represented in A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010) and Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (2005). Both novels have been published within the fi rst decade of the 21st century and describe Western popular music. Music experienced by fi ctional characters can be valuable empirical data, because novels represent different listening situations varied by geography, epochs and genres, and they depict characters with different demographics, lives and musical/cultural backgrounds. This enables scholars to collect and compare multi-faceted datasets. The aim of this article is to use literary descriptions to ask qualifi ed questions about sociological and phenomenological aspects of contemporary music listening practices. The analysis will focus on the atmosphere of listening (Böhme, 2017) – and especially the fi ctional listeners’ bodily presence in musical spaces – in dialogue with sociological studies of music listening by especially Tia DeNora (2000), David Hesmondhalgh (2013) and Even Ruud (2013). The analysis indicates how fi ction articulates a connection between music, body (in space and place) and mind (emotions, temporality and memory).

Author Biography

Therese Wiwe Vilmar, Aarhus University

PhD fellow, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University


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How to Cite

Vilmar, T. W. (2021). Literature’s listening spaces: Representations of music listening in two contemporary novels. SoundEffects - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience, 10(1), 56–70.