Formal Reminiscence Space and Memory in Sufjan Stevens's Storytelling

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Cora Suzanne Palfy


Storytelling can be a vehicle for bonding and closeness, particularly between the narrator and their rapt audience, whether in traditional spoken storytelling or musical narrative. One of the ways a listener is drawn into a musical story is by triggering their memory, and, in his sung narratives, Sufjan Stevens creates a specific formal space for enacting moments of remembering with his audience. Through recurring thematic cues and a deliberate formal space I call the"reminiscence space," Stevens subtly pulls the audience in to remember events of the story with him. The reminiscence space promotes a participatory act of remembering between artist and audience, which psychological literature demonstrates can increase feelings of connectedness, intimacy, and community. Three songs by Stevens are analyzed as a case study for the way in which remembering together is used to create intimacy between the audience and Stevens.

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