Making music in Muscle Shoals Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Reali, Christopher Michael
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is a unique site for studying the complex intertwining of music, race, and the American South. Exploring this region reveals how and why the music recorded in Muscle Shoals became integral to the cultural framework within 1960s and `70s America. Making Music in Muscle Shoals utilizes an integrative framework that draws upon musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, and complementary disciplines such as American and African-American studies as it examines this northwest Alabama music industry. By combining the musical analysis of key soul recordings, original interviews, and previously overlooked archival materials, this work constructs a multifaceted interpretation of the Muscle Shoals sound as a sonic product of time, place, and specific people, imbued with cultural meaning. The period considered, 1960 to 1975, includes the ascension, dominance, and decline of soul music on the pop music charts, as well as Muscle Shoals' transition from soul mecca to pop music hit factory. This dissertation relies upon two methodologies: (1) musical analysis, (2) ethnographic research, and two case studies. In the first I foreground the contributions of the all white studio musicians to identify the musical elements that characterize the so-called Muscle Shoals sound. My conclusions challenge the often narrowly-focused associations between race and soul music, and revise the place of Muscle Shoals within the narrative of an authentic (black) Southern musical past. This dissertation, therefore, provides a model for the study of people, music, and place. Ultimately, Making Music in Muscle Shoals fills lacunae within the larger narrative of popular music studies by assessing salient musical characteristics and interpreting the long-lasting cultural effects of this Alabama community.
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  • In Copyright
  • Neal, Jocelyn
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2014

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