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Gulgas, Sara (2017) LOOKING FORWARD TO THE PAST: BAROQUE ROCK’S POSTMODERN NOSTALGIA AND THE POLITICS OF MEMORY. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the mid-1960s, baroque rock music blended the sound of string quartets, harpsichord ostinatos, and contrapuntal techniques with rock instrumentation. This contemporary representation of the distant past presents an ironic anachronism that is humorous in its novel affect while allowing this dissonance to alert the listener about constructions of memory and the perception of time. Some of the biggest names in rock and roll were influenced by the Early Music revival but took a non-linear approach to history rather than undertaking “historically
informed performance.” They cultivated what I call postmodern nostalgia: a symptom of crisis and progress that is simultaneously reflexive in its detached interpretation of history and imagined in its participants’ ability to reference a past they have not themselves experienced. Through close examinations of artist interviews, album critiques, publicity materials, and musical analysis, I argue that baroque rock artists utilized stylistic representations of the past not out of a desire to return to a simpler time (as is often the narrative associated with nostalgia), but to react against modernism, mainstream society, and traditional norms. Even though baroque rock artists were engaging with the canonization of baroque music, they were influenced by their own modern-day conceptions of the past. Viewing the movement through the lens of memory politics, hipness, and postmodernism, my research shows that baroque rock artists re-imagined hipness with sounds of the distant past in order to question the truth of nostalgic memory. This study includes backward and forward-looking approaches to history as it documents the cultural, social, and historical implications of an overlooked subgenre that is mentioned but in passing in popular music scholarship. Its significance lies in its examination of music’s power to reconstruct sounds of the distant past through an ironic interpretation of historical memory. Memory politics is applied to popular music not to point out that profit can be made by catering to the aesthetics of nostalgia, but rather to question why one is nostalgic at all.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gulgas, Saraseg80@pitt.eduseg800000-0002-4980-3571
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCassaro, James
Committee MemberRoot, Deane
Committee MemberZazulia,
Committee MemberBell,
Date: 25 June 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 February 2017
Approval Date: 25 June 2017
Submission Date: 1 April 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 260
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: postmodernism, nostalgia, popular music, memory politics, baroque rock, hipness
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2017 20:13
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2017 20:13


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