Musical media in Dutch crematoria, 1914–present

Janieke Bruin-Mollenhorst, Martin Hoondert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article examines music during funeral rituals in the Netherlands in the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. Throughout this period not only music, but also socio-cultural attitudes towards death have changed. Using the concept of mediatization, this article explores interrelated changes between musical media in crematoria and changes in cremation rituals. In the first half of the article the history of music during cremation rituals is explored through literature study and diachronic research of newspapers, revealing how, at the beginning of the 20th century, the musical repertoire reflected the strong influence of social groups on funeral rituals in the Netherlands. Although the advent of recorded (mechanical) music in the second half of the 20th century could have easily broadened the musical repertoire, the opposite happened: the repertoire became fixed in standard combinations of three musical pieces. This reflects how, related to the process of professionalization, funerals became standardized within the context of the socio-cultural avoidance of death. The second half of the article, using the results of a survey and interviews, shows how from the end of the 20th century music has become an increasingly important element of the ‘personal funeral’, as music during funerals has become one of the most common vehicles for the expression of personal meaning. Zooming in on the contemporary highly advanced audio-visual systems in Dutch crematoria the article concludes with the thesis that funerals in the Netherlands are not only facilitated by but also increasingly shaped through musical media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-31
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • music
  • media
  • funeral
  • Netherlands
  • crematoria


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