“Other Sounds: Music Instruments, Genre, and Identity in the ‘Fully Amplified Musical Age’ ”
This dissertation is a study of music instruments in 1960s popular music organized around the theme of “electrification.” New electrical technologies for tone production, timbral modulation, and amplification prompted radical shifts in the instrumentation used in the popular music of this period, leading musicians to borrow instruments from other cultures, such as the harpsichord and sitar, and to engage novel technologies, including synthesizers and effect pedals. Nonetheless, electricity became a ubiquitous feature of popular music rather late relative to other domains, such as domestic appliances and transportation. The adoption of electrification, like any new technology, is based on a balance of both technical considerations and social contexts. Why did electricity come to feature prominently in the production of popular music when it did and in the ways that it did? My principal objective with this project, then, is to account for the various socio-cultural agents responsible for the eventual widespread availability of electrical instrument technologies (including instrument designers, manufacturers, and retailers), the diverse sounds arising from their use in the hands of amateur and professional musicians, as well as the myriad meanings ascribed to them by musicians, critics, and fans alike. In order to account for the sounds, techniques, and gestures that emerged as a result of this process of electrification, I develop an interdisciplinary musicological perspective informed by studies of technology, genre, and identity.
Supervisor: David Brackett