This article explores how two groups of American popular musicians have engaged with sound reproduction technologies—country artists and radio in the 1920s–40s and hip-hop DJs and video since 2000—to create an unintended but lasting cultural heritage for their musical traditions. Neither the radio broadcasts made by country artists nor the amateur videos of DJs were intended to be permanent. We argue that the practitioners of these traditions have acted as accidental archivists—shaping the development of their respective genres in the process of preserving them—and suggest how these archives may be of use to public historians.
Preserving Heritage, Fostering Change: Accidental Archives of Country Music and Hip-Hop
Mark Katz is the Ruel W. Tyson Jr. Distinguished Professor of the Humanities and the director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music and Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ, and is co-editor (with Timothy Taylor and Tony Grajeda) of Music, Sound, and Technology in America: A Documentary History of Early Phonograph, Cinema, and Radio.
David VanderHamm is a PhD candidate in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation focuses on the social construction of virtuosity across musical genres of the twentieth century, with an emphasis on musical embodiment and technological mediation.
Mark Katz, David VanderHamm; Preserving Heritage, Fostering Change: Accidental Archives of Country Music and Hip-Hop. The Public Historian 1 November 2015; 37 (4): 32–46. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2015.37.4.32
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