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‟Original Artyfacts”: Rethinking Object Biography in Popular Music Studies

Articles

<10.4000/volume.9428>
KeywordsTriple Keywords
Biography
Life histories
Memoirs
History--Biography
Biographies
Spacetime
Space of more than three dimensions
Space and time
Space-time
Space-times
Time and space
Space-time continuum
Context (Linguistics)
Grammar, Comparative and general--Context
Situation (Linguistics)
Erudition
Learning and scholarship
Scholarship
Humanities
Behavioral sciences
Social studies
Social science
Social sciences
Human sciences
Sciences, Social
Cult
Cultus
Worship
Concepts
Concept formation
Notions (Philosophy)
Novellas (Short novels)
Stories
Metafiction
Fiction
Novels
Fiction--Philosophy

Abstract

This article makes the case for rethinking object biography in popular music studies. By object biography, I am referring to a particular methodological and analytic approach to material culture that begins from the premise that objects—that is, commodities, goods, artefacts, and so on—have social lives that follow their own unique trajectories across time and space. While object biography has been influential in popular music studies since Appadurai’s and Kopytoff’s foundational essays in The Social Life of Things (1986), I propose that its potential as a methodological and analytic tool has not yet been fully realized to date. This article sets out to rethink object biography in the context of recent trends in scholarship, particularly with regard to the so-called “material turn” in the humanities and social sciences. Using the 1972 reissue compilation album, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, as my example, I aim to show how this cultural object has assumed different identities over time, from a “cult” object that circulated within niche communities of fans and collectors in the period of its initial release to its emergence as a brand in the 1980s and beyond. Ultimately, I argue that object biography allows us to attend to the inherent mutability of things as they circulate over time, which in turn opens up new ways to approach music’s cultural objects, especially its audio media.

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