Sites of memory are ambiguous places. They would
not if we knew better what to expect of them, if
we all agreed on what memory is. But we don't.
So the ambiguity remains, which I would like to
explore. Or perhaps should I say, to be honest,
that it is my own ambiguous relation with these
sites that I wish to fathom. What do these
places offer? Intimacy to be shared among
thousands or universality, provided we can make
it ours? What do they relate to? Generations,
genders, ethnic groups, social classes?
are visitors looking for? Which personal, local
or universal history are they striving to
recapture? With what intent? What is the nature
of the interplay that takes place between sites
of memory and those who remember?
Such places appear more like frames, empty
vessels waiting to be filled with our personal
longings, desires, fears and griefs. Places of
infinite possibilities one can invest at will.
they do not have a life of their own nor an
intrisic value, they only assume shape through
our own passions. Or do they? However hard we
try to make sense of their materiality, the
stakes are elsewhere. The purpose of this paper
is to investigate them.
Rock music is a particularly fit context for
this investigation. Forty years old today, rock
music has, belatedly, come of age. And as many
forty-year-olds, it has started to inquire about
its roots and explore its memory. A Rock &
Roll Hall of Fame has recently been set up in
Cleveland to celebrate the seminal artists who
can boast 25 years or more of musical activity.
It is hosted by the Rock & Roll Museum which
opened in 1994 and was intended both as a
teaching tool and a place of entertainment.
organises field trips to the sites where the
music (and the legend) was born: New Orleans,
the Mississippi Delta, Jamaica etc. Twenty five
years after the original, a Woodstock II
Festival took place in August 1994 while the
legendary Sam Phillips Sun Studios of Memphis,
where Elvis Presley recorded his early hits,
have recently been rebuilt. More telling perhaps
is the increasing number of courses on rock
history offered by American and European
universities. Rock music has definitely set out
for its past. Among the various places of rock's
memory currently available, I chose Graceland, a
microcosm whose study may yield a few
interesting facts about the relationship America
has with its memory.