Signifying DIY: Process-Oriented Aesthetics in 1990s Alternative Rock and Hip-Hop Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Jones, Brian
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music, Musicology Graduate Program
  • This dissertation posits and demonstrates a framework for analyzing how sound recordings convey meaning in rock--considering how listeners experience recordings, not only as fixed products, but also as sonic evidence of implied actions. I call this framework process-oriented aesthetics, and I define it as a sensibility in which musical meaning is conveyed in a record's sonic foregrounding of its own production process. In this sensibility, recordings sonically evoke what I call a production myth--a real or imagined backstory, nurtured through the surrounding discourse, that adds meaning to the musical sounds. Production myths encourage listeners to aestheticize practices of musical creation and help facilitate intellectual and creative engagement in listening. The effects of process-oriented aesthetics rely upon the interplay between the nuances of recorded sound and the assumed (or imagined) circumstances of their production. I investigate these aesthetic sensibilities in the music and discourse of 1990s alternative rock and hip-hop. Alternative rock in the 1990s harbored an enduring tension between the small-scale, non-commercial values of its indie roots and the music's eventual mass-mediated popularity. I use process-oriented aesthetics as a way to address the slippery connections between musical style and 1990s alternative authenticity. I single out three musical trends in alternative music after grunge: lo-fi, hip-hop sampling, and artists' use of vintage instruments and media. Even as artists and fans of these genres embraced the alternative-culture ideals of marginal eclecticism, they did so in a self-consciously mediated space. They all, in some way, responded to the generalized angst surrounding alternative rock's massness by aestheticizing the mediated processes of musical production.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Zak, Albin
  • Katz, Mark
  • Vandermeer, Philip
  • Garcia, David
  • Neal, Jocelyn
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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