Rockumentary: style, performance, and sound in a documentary genre

by Michael Baker

Institution: McGill University
Department: Department of Art History and Communications Studies
Degree: PhD
Year: 2011
Keywords: Communications And The Arts - Cinema
Record ID: 1922505
Full text PDF: http://digitool.library.mcgill.ca/thesisfile104569.pdf


Rockumentary: Style, Performance, and Sound in a Documentary Genre is the comprehensive study of an audio-visual genre concerned with the nonfictional representation of rock music and related idioms. Sparked by the explosive rise in popularity of rock music in the 1960s, rockumentary follows a trajectory tracing the broader history of documentary practice, at times serving to reshape that history and at others providing the clearest examples of documentary's limits and potentials. It both captures and contributes to histories of documentary film and popular music generally, and rock music and rock culture specifically. It is noteworthy for its visual style, innovation in the area of film sound technology, and the complex industrial interactions which in part foster its development. Moreover, rockumentary serves as an early and ongoing example of the negotiation of the presence of stars and staged spectacles in the context of nonfiction film and video. It is the site where the anxieties about sound and the documentary image—an unease which runs throughout the history of cinema and has specific implications within the context of nonfiction film—are particularly acute, and the various conceptual and sociological issues surrounding film as a mediation of live experience versus a wholly constructed entity are crystallized most concretely. This dissertation presents rockumentary as an audio-visual genre with both artistic relevance and commercial appeal, and poses questions about the role of pleasure as a means of differentiating the corpus from other nonfiction film and video genres. Through textual analysis, reception studies, and documentary research, this dissertation contributes to film, media, and popular music studies, and lays the foundation for the study of nonfiction representations of popular music in contemporary moving images and new media. Rockumentary: Style, Performance, and Sound in a Documentary Genre est une étude approfondie d'un genre audio-visuel dédié à la représentation non-fictive de la musique rock et de ses idiomes. Née de l'explosive croissance de popularité de la musique rock dans les années 60, le rockumentaire évolue en bordure de l'historique plus large de la pratique documentaire, se trouvant parfois à la remodeler et parfois à démontrer les limites et le potentiel du genre. Le rockumentaire contribue à l'histoire du documentaire et de la musique populaire en général, ainsi qu'à celle de la culture et de la musique rock. Il se démarque par son style visuel, son innovation dans le domaine de la technologie sonore cinématographique et par les relations industrielles complexes qui ont favorisé son développement. En outre, le rockumentaire met en évidence les tractations entre la présence de prestations misent en scène et de vedettes dans le cadre de films et de vidéos de non-fiction. Le rockumentaire est un lieu où les angoisses liées au son et à l'image documentaire – un malaise qui traverse l'histoire du cinéma et qui a des implications précises dans le contexte du cinéma…