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This talk retraces shellac’s cultural and economic construction as a ‘perfect’ phonographic resource (1890s–1950s) in the British colonial context. It explores the tension arising between shellac as an unreliable and deeply imperfect organic material and the industrial rhetoric of sonic perfection and fidelity, emphasising the practices and discourses which contributed to its (artificial) standardisation and cultural desirability in the first half of the 20th century. The talk further attends to the global shellac supply chain as being intermittently activated and deactivated, obscured and revealed, drawing attention to its endurance and contemporary resonances. This talk discusses – and extends – some of the research carried out for the book Shellac in Visual and Sonic Culture: Unsettled Matter (Amsterdam University Press, 2023).

Elodie A. Roy is based at the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities, University of Glasgow. Her main research interests lie with the media-cultural history of phonography (with an emphasis on its visual and material culture); the changing shapes of memory and heritage practices in the digital age (with an emphasis on digital archives); alternative media and subcultural practices (notably fanzines).

At this event

Gavin Williams

Lecturer in Music

Event details

Saint Davids Room
Strand Campus
Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

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