My dissertation focuses on how popular music genres form and stabilize. In particular, I examine the 1950s genre of “exotica” through a historicist and genealogical lens. Exotica was a type of popular music in which artists arranged standards and original songs in an “exotic style” by adding animal sounds, Latin percussion and rhythms, and a variety of non-Western instruments. During the 1990s, a nostalgic impulse generated the “lounge music” revival in which easy listening post-war styles such as exotica were hailed as an antidote to mainstream “alternative” music. Participants in the lounge revival tended to emphasize the weirdness of this music, often portraying it as a generic anomaly that was in direct opposition—generationally and aesthetically—to other styles of the 1950s. My dissertation reconsiders this retrospective narrative by situating exotica in a relational network of circulating sounds and styles. Broadly, I explore how musical boundaries are constructed and how these boundaries can be reevaluated thereby allowing new connections to emerge.
Supervisor: David Brackett