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Music Generated Narratives: Elaborating the Da Capo Interview Technique

Cortazzi, Martin; Pilcher, Nick; Jin, Lixian


Martin Cortazzi

Lixian Jin


Qualitative researchers draw on multiple, creative ways to elicit participant narratives. Our previous use of playing researcher-selected music to participants to elicit narratives at the end of a traditional interview, in what we call the ‘Da Capo’ technique, suggested it had significant potential to reveal nuanced narratives to complement those generated by existing approaches. This paper relates how we explored the ability of the ‘Da Capo’ technique as a standalone method to generate participant narratives. To do this, we played 10 one-minute long extracts of classical music (5 ‘Western’ and 5 ‘Chinese’) to 20 participants (10 ‘Western’ and 10 ‘Chinese’); after hearing each piece participants were asked if the music recalled for them any experiences of learning. Where it did so, we explored this further in dialogue and narrative recall. As expected, some narratives related to experiences of studying, academic success, and of particular times and places associated with learning. However, in many cases the music elicited narratives of learning which, surprisingly and in multiple dimensions, related to physical learning, culture, the family, and particular emotions such as sympathy, and of aspects of character, such as optimism and honesty. We provide details of using the technique. We show how particular music was effective in eliciting learning experiences with participants, but we also indicate when for some participants it did not elicit such experiences. We provide further evidence of the value of using music either as a stand-alone method in the qualitative researcher’s toolkit, or as an additional and complementary tool. We discuss the merits, limitations, and potential applications of the Da Capo technique.


Cortazzi, M., Pilcher, N., & Jin, L. (2018). Music Generated Narratives: Elaborating the Da Capo Interview Technique. Qualitative Report, 23(10),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 21, 2018
Publication Date Oct 7, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 23, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 7, 2018
Journal The Qualitative Report
Print ISSN 1052-0147
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 10
Keywords narratives, music, interviewing,
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Music Generated Narratives: Elaborating the Da Capo Interview Technique (118 Kb)

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