Date of Degree

6-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Music

Advisor

Anne Stone

Committee Members

Phil Ford

David Grubbs

Amy Herzog

Subject Categories

Cultural History | Film and Media Studies | Hip Hop Studies | Intellectual History | Musicology | Music Theory | Social History | Women's Studies

Keywords

riot grrrl, 1990s, popular music, zines, sound reproduction, music criticism

Abstract

This dissertation examines the matter of authenticity with respect to audio recordings. In the early 1990s, the term “lo-fi” (“low-fidelity”) emerged as a label used to categorize many different types of popular music, indicating widespread fascination with what I call audio quality, the perceived character of an audio recording. I define audio quality as the relationship between content and mediation, which varies greatly by circumstance. My archival research of zines, press releases, and correspondence examines this relationship in three case studies: Wu-Tang Clan, Bratmobile, and Elliott Smith. I posit the lo-fi format as a critical structure that emerged in the years around 1990, through which writers ranging from vernacular critics to professional theorists examined the notion of audio quality with fresh ears. Through this structure, writers and artists transformed the relationship between content and mediation into its own type of content, which I call audio quality. This work is based on research of artifacts archived at the Riot Grrrl Collections at NYU, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the San Francisco Public Library.

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