Karaoke and White Supremacy

There’s an academic article that I’ve always wanted to write on white supremacy and karaoke. The breaking news yesterday about alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous performing “America the Beautiful” at One Nostalgia Tavern in Dallas, while Richard Spencer and others give Nazi salutes in the crowd, comes as little surprise and warrants a little analysis of […]

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The Scriptive Air Guitar

What types of behavior does the air guitar script us to perform? Historian Robin Bernstein theorizes the idea of “scriptive things,” which are parts of material culture that prompt certain ideas about how people should make use of them (Racial Innocence 2011). “Scriptive things” are kind of like movie scripts, in the sense that they call […]

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1886, 1889, 1909: Air Instruments, Insanity, Trance

In Flint, Michigan, a hypnotist makes a volunteer from the audience play the “imaginary banjo in accompaniment to his own and the audience’s enjoyment.” Here we see the origin of two common tropes in air guitar coverage today: air guitar as bodily trance and air guitar as lack of control of one’s rational capabilities. (via the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer 2/7/1889) […]

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1911: “Game of Dumb Instruments”

This comes via Virginia Enterprise (5/12/1911) in a section on household games. Interestingly, the game description constructs a divide between foreignness, “dumb instruments,” and noise, on the one hand, and domesticity, real instruments, and music, on the other. Here’s an earlier version of this same game that attributes it to a Dutch origin (from the Red Cloud Chief […]

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1982 in Milwaukee: Blackface, Air Bands, and 15,000 Spectators

35 groups competed in an air band contest, sponsored by PBR and WQFM. The top seven bands went on to compete at Summerfest (also in Milwaukee), where the performance attracted approximately 15,000 fans. Here’s a newspaper clipping from the Milwaukee Sentinel (7/16/82): The article goes on to describe that the Air Supremes’ male performers modeled stage […]

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