Air Guitar & Karaoke Intersections

Dan Crane should be credited with inventing “aireoke,” which involves miming the instrumental parts of popular music tracks in a karaoke-style format. According to him, he invented it in the basement of .45 Special in Oulu. But karaoke has always had an embodied dimension. Last night, during the events for the Air Guitar World Championship, a group gathered to do late night karaoke, which looked like this:

This video demonstrates how problematic certain distinctions can be: listeners / musicians, consumers / producers. Indeed, a lot of what takes place in karaoke is music interpretation–selective reproductions of the original that highlight and diminish certain elements. Although people don’t necessarily approach karaoke as a dramatic act of interpretation, they bring these sensibilities to karaoke in a more subconscious and fluid way. There’s a kind of translation that takes place, where a person converts certain ideas and feelings about a song into something social that others can see and hear. Karaoke involves animating music, bringing it to life. You can’t study music in isolation–it always exists in embodied contexts within certain experiential situations.

Unsurprisingly, air guitarists are particularly adept at gesturally representing popular music. Using hands and arms to highlight riffs and fills, they create their own elaborate stories, layered onto the music itself.


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