‘Total trash’. Recorded music and the logic of waste

Roy, Elodie (2020) ‘Total trash’. Recorded music and the logic of waste. Popular Music, 39 (1). pp. 88-107. ISSN 0261-1430

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0261143019000576


This article introduces three situated moments – or plateaux – in order to partially uncover the particular affinities between popular music and the ‘logic of waste’ in the Anthropocene Era, from early phonography to the present digital realm (with a focus on the UK, United States, and British India). The article starts with a ‘partial inventory’ of the Anthropocene, outlining the heuristic values of waste studies for research in popular music. The first plateau retraces the more historical links between popular music and waste, showing how waste (and the positive discourses surrounding it) became a defining element of the discourse and practices of early phonography. It aims to show how recorded sound participated in (and helped define, in an emblematic manner) a rapidly expanding ‘throwaway culture’ at the turn of the 20th century. The second plateau presents a more global panorama of the recording industry through a focus on shellac (a core, reversible substance of the early recording industry). Finally, the third plateau presents some insights into the ways in which popular music may ‘play’ and incorporate residual materialities in the contemporary ‘digital age’. I argue that the logic of waste defined both the space and pace of the early record industry, and continued to inform musical consumption across the 20th century – notably when toxic, non-recyclable synthetic materials (especially polyvinyl) were introduced.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W300 Music
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2021 13:17
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 11:04
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/46384

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