Pathology, Fandom, and the Society for American Music

I recently presented my paper at the Society for American Music Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My panel–“Noise, Silence, and Musical Embodiment”–featured presentations from Will Cheng, Sara Ballance, and Megan Murph.

Here’s a short abstract for my paper titled “Pathology, Fandom, and the Origins of Air Guitar”:

In the 1980s, people used the term “air guitar” to describe gestures that rock, heavy metal, and punk fans performed in imitation of music idols. Rather than viewing air guitar as a byproduct of certain music genres, I argue it emerged from longstanding performance practices that featured imaginary instrument playing, such as minstrelsy, ventriloquism shows, hypnotism demonstrations, and musical pantomimes. My archival research connects air guitar with performance practices in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which used simulations of instruments to construct certain ideas about music’s capacity to affect, animate, and overpower the body.

The full conference program may be found here.