Event Title

“How Come You Have To Be So Loud?” Wildness, Danger, and Sonifications of the Other in Surf Guitar Performance Practice

Presenter Information

Roger Landes, Texas Tech University

Start Date

27-3-2015 4:00 PM

Description

The soundtrack to the film Pulp Fiction has as its main title theme guitarist Dick Dale’s “Misirlou,” an instrumental surf tune recorded in 1962. The use of a very dated surf guitar warhorse for director Quentin Tarantino’s hip and ruthless crime flick might seem strange but there are good reasons why the pairing worked, having to do with the tune’s associations with ‘exotica’ music, but also with Dale’s style, which is rife with auditory symbolism and semiotic function.

Guitar performance practice in instrumental surf music makes use of numerous gestures that function as sonic memes—many created to represent the surfing experience, while others are appropriations from Othered cultures. Certain theoretical concepts borrowed from the emerging field of sonification can shed light on these sonic memes, providing a new way of analyzing information embedded in music.

The guitar style pioneered by Dick Dale contains numerous sonic memes that communicate concepts of transgression. Through its use of mimetic gestures based on the experience of surfing, as well as its blatant appropriations from Othered cultures, these sonic memes sonify the values surfing culture chose for itself: “wildness,” “intensity,” “danger,” “freedom,” and “sexual license.”

For the past half century the rock and roll history conventional wisdom was that the five years between the death of Buddy Holly in February 1959 and the advent of The Beatles in the United States in February 1964 represented a terrible drought in American popular music that was filled with cookie cutter girl groups and teen heartthrobs like Fabian and Neil Sedaka. But this reveals a distinctly east coast bias in the media of the time and in the works of subsequent rock historians. While it may have seemed like it on the eastern seaboard, there really wasn’t a drought. Creativity was raining in southern California.

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Mar 27th, 4:00 PM

“How Come You Have To Be So Loud?” Wildness, Danger, and Sonifications of the Other in Surf Guitar Performance Practice

The soundtrack to the film Pulp Fiction has as its main title theme guitarist Dick Dale’s “Misirlou,” an instrumental surf tune recorded in 1962. The use of a very dated surf guitar warhorse for director Quentin Tarantino’s hip and ruthless crime flick might seem strange but there are good reasons why the pairing worked, having to do with the tune’s associations with ‘exotica’ music, but also with Dale’s style, which is rife with auditory symbolism and semiotic function.

Guitar performance practice in instrumental surf music makes use of numerous gestures that function as sonic memes—many created to represent the surfing experience, while others are appropriations from Othered cultures. Certain theoretical concepts borrowed from the emerging field of sonification can shed light on these sonic memes, providing a new way of analyzing information embedded in music.

The guitar style pioneered by Dick Dale contains numerous sonic memes that communicate concepts of transgression. Through its use of mimetic gestures based on the experience of surfing, as well as its blatant appropriations from Othered cultures, these sonic memes sonify the values surfing culture chose for itself: “wildness,” “intensity,” “danger,” “freedom,” and “sexual license.”

For the past half century the rock and roll history conventional wisdom was that the five years between the death of Buddy Holly in February 1959 and the advent of The Beatles in the United States in February 1964 represented a terrible drought in American popular music that was filled with cookie cutter girl groups and teen heartthrobs like Fabian and Neil Sedaka. But this reveals a distinctly east coast bias in the media of the time and in the works of subsequent rock historians. While it may have seemed like it on the eastern seaboard, there really wasn’t a drought. Creativity was raining in southern California.