Biblioteca de la Guitarra y Cuerda Pulsada

Biblioteca de la Guitarra y Cuerda Pulsada

Drive, lonesomeness, and the genre of bluegrass music

This dissertation suggests how discursive ideas central to a particular genre of American popular music can resonate in recorded sound. My focus is on bluegrass music, where concepts of "lonesomeness" and "drive" permeate written histories, performer interviews, fan discussions, pedagogical traditions, and other such modes of discourse for a genre. I propose that these two themes or "tropes," along with the vigorously contested idea of bluegrass itself, provide an important means by which the genre is sustained; moreover, they can be heard in the music down to the most subtle sonic detail. Given the dual nature of this project—an examination of both musical sound and the ideas relating to it—my sources for the dissertation are of two types: (1) studio and live concert recordings taken from the genre's roughly sixty-year history, and (2) accounts of bluegrass from those who actively participate in its production and reception (found in articles, interviews, pedagogy, fan discussions, etc.). In order to forge analytic and interpretive connections between the two types, I draw from music theory, popular music scholarship, ethnomusicology, and folklore studies. In doing so, I address questions regarding musical structure, genre ontology, analysis, interpretive listening, and affective and aesthetic expression. Rather than attempt to provide concrete answers to disciplinary questions, though, this project invokes such questions in order to understand a musical genre through the study of the sounds and concepts that shape...

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