ON THE BOUNDARIES OF MULTIVALENT MUSICKING: A STUDY ON THE POLITICS OF COMMUNITY-STUDIOS
This dissertation is an ethnographic project about the politics of community-studios—recording studios that prioritize working with artists from “underserved” communities (poor, black and Latinx youth) as well as women and non-binary artists; and that exist to provide these groups with free and low-cost recording services and education. I pursued my fieldwork from 2013–2019 at community-studios in Upstate New York, Pittsburgh, PA, Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a hip hop education program in Brooklyn, NY. The dissertation begins by outlining the sociotechnical history of community-studios as modern assemblages, detailing the conditions that enabled the studio to become a social intervention for a host of socioeconomic, racial, and gender disparities. It then presents the dissertation’s central premise that the demands of honoring the proposed commitments of multivalent recording studios require its stakeholders to shift between constructing such spaces as either “professional” studios on the one hand or radical community resources on the other. These stakeholders are comprised of the funders, musicians, and other community members who bring such spaces into being, as well as the sound engineers who operate each studio and work closely with the third group, the artists. Using the concept of “boundary-work” to describe the process through which stakeholders arrive at a particular framing of their space, the dissertation then considers not only what is at stake for members of a community when they frame their spaces in terms of the logics that govern either successful commercial studios (like time-based productivity and protection of trade secrets) or radical community spaces (like publicly accessible knowledge), but also how these decisions are reflected in every level of the studio’s operations, from the kinds of sonic interventions prioritized by the engineers to the lyrical stylings of their clients. Ultimately this project highlights both the organizational dissonance inherent to operating a sustainable community-studio, and the importance of community-studios in illustrating how a studio can serve civic needs beyond providing space for tracking and mixing songs, particularly in an age when any artist can produce professional mixes on a laptop and in a bedroom.
Sociology; Gender studies; audio engineering; community-studio; gender and technology; hip hop; media activism; sound studies; African American studies
Pinch, Trevor J.
Lynch, Michael E.; Kline, Ronald R.
Science and Technology Studies
Ph.D., Science and Technology Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis