Title

Pressed between the Pages of My Mind: Tangibility, Performance, and Technology in Archival Popular Music Research

Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

American Culture Studies/Popular Culture

First Advisor

William Schurk (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Vivian Patraka (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Donald McQuarie (Committee Member)

Abstract

Acknowledging the unique ontological nature of sound recording, this project seeks to outline a framework for working with archival sources in popular music scholarship. The proposed theoretical lens combines influences from cultural studies, historical audience studies, and performance studies in order to encourage a broader appreciation of the popular music archive and the identity-making cultural practices surrounding the popular music archive. Such an endeavor requires the acknowledgement of three theoretical considerations: technology, performance, and tangibility.

To illustrate the breadth of readings that this approach to the popular music archive can yield, each chapter uses source material from the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives at Bowling Green State University. Chapter Two analyzes the contents of rock promotional materials and argues that these technologies of representation code rock music according to semiotic markers of masculinity, whiteness, and mythic America. Chapter Three argues that themes of inclusion and exclusion in punk fanzines work to unite individual, localized scenes into a translocal scene that transcends time and geographical boundaries through shared narratives and common values. Chapter Four examines the construction of audience identity through teen-oriented artist biographies and argues that such technologies of representation police (female) fan behavior through narratives of “proper” fandom. Chapter Five explores themes of physical separation and reunion through the American Top 40 Long Distance Dedication segment and argues that the format’s affective qualities are inextricably bound to physical embodiment and common physical vulnerability.

The project concludes with a revisiting of the concepts of tangibility, performance, and technology in the age of the digital archive through brief case studies of the iPod, the play count, and the ubiquity of Auto-Tune in contemporary popular music. Ultimately, the project makes a case for an active music archive: taking technology, tangibility, and performance into consideration allows for archival scholarship in popular music to be as lively as the music itself.