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parsed(2024-03-05) - pubdate: 03/24
pub date: 1709618400
today: 1718427600, pubdate > today = false

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How the Cassette Made Music Shareable

March 5, 2024 | Trade paperback
ISBN: 9781478025597
Reader Reward Price: $32.36 info
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Well into the new millennium, the analog cassette tape continues to claw its way back from obsolescence. New cassette labels emerge from hipster enclaves while the cassette's likeness pops up on T-shirts, coffee mugs, belt buckles, and cell phone cases. In Unspooled, Rob Drew traces how a lowly, hissy format that began life in office dictation machines and cheap portable players came to be regarded as a token of intimate expression through music and a source of cultural capital. Drawing on sources ranging from obscure music zines to transcripts of Congressional hearings, Drew examines a moment in the early 1980s when music industry representatives argued that the cassette encouraged piracy. At the same time, 1980s indie rock culture used the cassette as a symbol to define itself as an outsider community. Indie's love affair with the cassette culminated in the mixtape, which advanced indie's image as a gift economy. By telling the cassette's long and winding history, Drew demonstrates that sharing cassettes became an acceptable and meaningful mode of communication that initiated rituals of independent music recording, re-recording, and gifting.

About this Author

Rob Drew is Professor of Communication at Saginaw Valley State University and author of Karaoke Nights: An Ethnographic Rhapsody.

ISBN: 9781478025597
Format: Trade paperback
Series: Sign, Storage, Transmission
Pages: 232
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Published: 2024-03-05


"Offering a comprehensive history of the cassette from its origins in post-World War II taping technologies to the recent revival of the music cassette as a hipster artifact, Unspooled is the first book to give an extended account of the various ways that cassettes have transformed musical culture. This wonderfully engaging, clear, and witty book will appeal to a wide audience of music fans and critics interested in mixtapes, cassettes, and cassette culture and will become a classic in many fields."

"Rob Drew is one of my favorite writers on music, and I wish more people knew about his work. This is the definitive cultural history of indie music's tangled but fascinating love affair with the audiocassette."

"Any readers who have ever received or created a mixtape will appreciate this narrative. A solid blend of history and nostalgia about cassette tapes that's perfect for Gen Xers."

"The story of the cassette tape Drew and Masters tell is compelling: how a lo-fi, accident- and deterioration-prone, and more-or-less parasitic audio technology not only achieved market dominance but captured a permanent place in the imaginations and practices of music-makers, labels, distributors, and fans the world over.  Unspooled and High Bias show readers that the peculiar technology of the cassette tape exemplifies the inherent contradictions of popular music perhaps better than any other medium."

"Divided into six sharp chapters, Unspooled walks readers through the rich history of music nerds who used cassettes in ever-evolving ways. By following the chronology, Drew provides a detailed exploration of the cassette in terms of format, medium, and artifact."

"Drew's detailed yet concise narratives flow together well to create a more comprehensive history of audio cassettes. Joining Drew on his trips to the musical past is a nostalgic adventure, whether or not the terrain is familiar."

"Rob Drew comes at the subject from the only place you can approach tapes - love.  . . . It's great little book and all the richer for the stories it tells."

"Because it reveals the importance of the cassette in supporting underrepresented and underserved artists and artworks, Drew's book provides a valuable resource for a variety of researchers active in, for example, popular music and gender studies, as well as culture, technology, and media scholars."

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