Online Discussion: Popular Music Books in Process

The resurgence of the compact cassette as a significant format in popular music is a fascinating phenomenon that underscores the nostalgic and intimate connection many have with physical media. In a virtual session titled “Popular Music Books in Process” held on March 18, 2024, three authors delved into this topic, providing insights into the cassette’s historical impact and cultural significance.

Marc Masters, in his book “High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape,” published by the University of North Carolina Press in October 2023, examines the transformative role of the cassette in how people created, consumed, and shared music. His exploration reveals the cassette’s ability to democratize music production and distribution, allowing for a more personal and hands-on approach to music (High Bias Book).

Rob Drew, through “Unspooled: How the Cassette Made Music Shareable,” published by Duke University Press in 2024, traces the cassette’s journey from its origins in office dictation machines to becoming a cherished medium for personal expression through music. Drew’s work highlights the cassette’s unique role in fostering intimate connections between people through the sharing of mixtapes and curated playlists (Duke University Press).

Jerry Kranitz’s “Cassette Culture: Homemade Music and the Creative Spirit in the Pre-Internet Age,” published by Vinyl-on-Demand in 2020, offers a comprehensive look at the global network of cassette distribution that thrived among musicians and enthusiasts in the 1980s and 1990s. Kranitz’s book provides invaluable insights into a grassroots movement that prefigured today’s digital culture of music sharing and collaboration (Amazon).

Moderated by Tom McCourt, a retired professor with a rich background in communication and media studies, the session offered an engaging discussion on the enduring appeal of cassettes. The conversation not only celebrated the medium’s historical significance but also pondered its place in the current era of music streaming, suggesting that the tactile and personal nature of cassettes offers a counterpoint to the ephemeral nature of digital music.

This discussion underscores the complex relationship between technology, music, and culture, highlighting how older formats like the cassette tape continue to resonate with audiences seeking a more tangible and personal connection to music.


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dabodab is a blog about various things DiY and the creative people and activities surrounding them. I am Briyan Frederick (aka Bryan Baker), probably best known as the publisher of GAJOOB and a founder of Tapegerm Collective read more.

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It is basically the sound of a man having a nervous breakdown. But I generally do some of my best work when I’m hovering on the edge of insanity.Jim Shelley
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