White boys, white noise: Masculinities in 1980s alternative guitar rock

Bannister, Matthew (2007) White boys, white noise: Masculinities in 1980s alternative guitar rock. In: Experience Music Project's 2007 Pop Conference, 19-22 April, 2007, Seattle, Washington.

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Abstract or Summary

To what extent do indie masculinities challenge the historical construction of rock music as patriarchal? This paper examines indie guitar rock in the 1980s as the culturally and historically specific production of white men, through textual analysis of musical and critical discourses, providing a study of masculinity and ethnicity within the context of indie guitar music within US, UK and New Zealand "scenes." The paper argues that past theorizations of (rock) masculinities have tended to set up varieties of working-class deviance and physical machismo as "straw men," oversimplifying masculinities as "men behaving badly." Such approaches disavow the ways that masculine power is articulated in culture not only through representation but also intellectual and theoretical discourse. By re-situating indie in a historical/cultural context of art rock, I show how masculine power can be rearticulated through high, avant-garde, bohemian culture and aesthetic theory: canonism, negation (Adorno), passivity, voyeurism and camp (Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground), and primitivism and infantilism (Lester Bangs, Simon Reynolds). Drawing on my own experience as an indie musician, I survey a range of indie artists, including the Smiths, the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, and the Go-Betweens; from the US, R.E.M., the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr, Hüsker Dü, Nirvana and hardcore; and from NZ, Flying Nun acts, demonstrating broad continuities between these apparently disparate scenes, in terms of gender, aesthetic theory and approaches to popular musical history. The result raises some important questions about the degree to which alternative cultures can critique dominant representations of gender.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Keywords that describe the item:masculinities, 1980s, alternative rock
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Divisions:Schools > School of Media Arts
ID Code:1916
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Deposited On:11 Mar 2013 20:58
Last Modified:11 Mar 2013 20:58

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