Instruments as Technology and Culture: Co-constructing the Pedal Steel Guitar Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Miller, Timothy D.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • Through a case study of the pedal steel guitar, an instrument that emerged in the mid-twentieth century United States, this dissertation theorizes instruments as technological objects that exist within constantly evolving, mutually influential relationships among instrument makers, players, and listeners. Placing the instrument at center, I investigate how the refinement of the pedal steel's mechanisms and techniques have both responded to and shaped the aesthetic and commercial priorities of country and other popular music since the 1950s. I also show the relationship between individual musicians and their instruments to illuminate the intersections of technology, culture, and human agency. My analysis of the pedal steel guitar illustrates that instruments are co-constructed objects, not only embodying the ideas of makers and musicians, but also influencing their use through the cultural knowledge embedded in their design. In doing so, I offer new means to account for the role of musical technologies in performance practice and genre formation, and new insight into the impact of instruments on the embodied experience of individual musicians. Beyond its applications to the study of music, my analysis of instruments reveals how individual users embrace, reject, manipulate, and reinterpret the function and significance of technology, and thus negotiate their own places in the collective of society.
Date of publication
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  • In Copyright
  • Katz, Mark
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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