Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Popular Music and Culture


Dr. Norma Coates

Second Advisor

Dr. Jay Hodgson


This thesis explores rhetorical and sonic manifestations of realism in recorded popular music from the acoustic era onwards. With reference to timbre, I investigate the commercial origins of fidelity, and describe, through various examples in history where arguments over what is “real” or is not “real” arise most articulately, how those records were made. By addressing the sounds themselves, I address how fidelity∕realism is a fluid standard that guides and shapes modes of aesthetic record production and consumption. I demonstrate how rhetorical analysis is useful for identifying ideologically maintained understandings of recorded sounds, but maintain that if musicologists are to understand recordings and the sounds they contain as artifacts of aesthetic consumption, which I propose we do, then we must investigate beyond how sounds are rhetorically social to examine how social relations express themselves materially. As such, I propose a method of analysis that considers both the rhetorical and material aspects of timbrai processing through the purview ofveridic recording practice, which acknowledges the processes and considerations made toward the material construction of timbral rhetoric.



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