Dissecting Airistotle: Towards a Vocabula(i)ry for Analyzing Air Guitar Choreography

Musical gestures are an important part of the way we hear sounds. My 99-year-old grandmother taps her toes, when she hears Perry Como. My father—a guitar player—twitches his fingers, when he hears Jimi Hendrix. I bob my head when I hear Chance the Rapper. We all do this somewhat subconsciously, organically. Yet we all do this somewhat persistently.

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Bakhtin, Carnival, and Air Guitar

In Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World (this version translated by Helene Iswolsky 1984), he develops a theory of “carnival” in the medieval period. The concept comes from his analysis of a tradition called the Feast of Fools, during which burlesque performances, bodily-rooted humor, laughter-inducing spectacles, and other forms of play took place. These disorderly carnival activities contrasted with the […]

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Thinking Through Parody

When speaking to Ice T about his thrash metal band, Body Count, The Guardian’s Paul Lester asked: “Is there an element of parody to what you do, or are you deadly serious?” Somewhat cryptically, Ice responded: “Absolutely. Body Count is 100% grindhouse over-the-top. It’s what you wish you could do but can’t. You wish you […]

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Why Do We Air Guitar?

Why do our fingers twitch when we hear “Purple Rain”? Why, when we sing along with the radio, do we raise an imaginary microphone to our face? In an academic paper on “air instruments,” Godoy, Haga, and Jensenius offer one explanation. Listening to music, they argue, involves producing “musical imagery” in our brains. This is […]

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