Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Music

Advisor

Amy Herzog

Committee Members

Mark Spicer

Landon Palmer

Stephanie Jensen-Moulton

Subject Categories

Film and Media Studies | Music | Musicology | Performance Studies

Keywords

popular music, documentary film, rock stardom, psychogeography, creative work, trainwreck

Abstract

Rockumentaries are commodities that construct authoritative interpretations of popular music history, shaping how we come to know, value, hear, consume, and identify with popular music and those who create it. The arguments rockumentaries make, and the ways they make them, are the subject of this dissertation. Rather than position rockumentary as a genre, I investigate it as a set of representational tendencies to be examined in relation to stardom, authenticity, fandom, the culture industry, and the music(ians) these films represent. My introduction argues that rockumentaries operate according to what I call the offstage pattern, a dialectical structure in which onstage and offstage spaces constitute one another as spectacular and intimate, respectively. The offstage pattern exploits our desire for privileged access to stars and the industries in which they work, selling us the idea that there exists some more real, more authentic reality that the rockumentary will uniquely allow us to see and hear. In my three chapters I take a thematic approach to rockumentary production, developing analytical methods rooted in the work I understand rockumentaries themselves to be performing. Specifically, I investigate how rockumentaries (de)mystify musical work, represent “trainwrecks,” and make psychogeographical arguments. Throughout, I focus especially on the ways rockumentaries use music in constructing their arguments, how they encourage us not only to listen to this, but listen like this.

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