Music and cremation rituals in The Netherlands: A fine-grained analysis of a crematorium’s playlist

Doris van der Smissen, Margaret Steenbakker, Martin Hoondert, Menno van Zaanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Although music is an important part of cremation rituals, there is hardly any research regarding music and cremations. This lack of research has inspired the authors to conduct a long-range research project, focusing on musical and linguistic aspects of music played during cremations. This article presents the analysis of a playlist consisting of 25 sets of music, each consisting of three tracks, used in a crematorium in the south of the Netherlands from 1986 onwards. The main objective is to identify the differences and similarities of the 25 sets of musical tracks regarding content and musical characteristics. Consequently, we aim to provide insight in the history of (music played during) cremation rituals in the Netherlands. To analyze the musical characteristics of the sets, the authors use both a qualitative approach (close reading and musical analysis) and a computational analysis approach. The article demonstrates that a combination of a close reading and musical analysis and a computational analysis are necessary to explain the differences in properties of the sets.
The presented multi-method approach may allow for comparisons against musical preferences in the context of current cremations, which makes it possible to trace the development of music and cremation rituals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Scholarship in the Humanities
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Crematorium
  • Music
  • Playlist
  • computational analysis


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