The following is an abstract of my recently published (Montezuma Press, 2013) thesis:
ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS
Wax Without Honey: The LP as Post-WWII American Zeitgeist by
Anders Michael Larsson
Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences
San Diego State University, 2013
This thesis explores the importance of a sound-reproduction medium – the Long Playing phonograph disc. I place this technology within the context of the zeitgeist that led to its American popularity in the years immediately following the Second World War. I show in this thesis that it was not simply a coincidence that the LP flourished during this time, but actually inevitability. The LP was the medium that best embodied and facilitated the ideals--and perhaps most importantly, the desires—of Americans in the mid-century. Additionally, I posit that the LP was not a result of a time, place, and people, but rather an expression of that time, place, and people.
This thesis is a unique—if humble—contribution to the fields of Cultural Studies, Sound Studies, and Complexity Studies. Though I do explore some of the mechanical aspects of the LP and its network of associated technology, my thesis is not an exhaustive technical history or exploration of mid-century sound-reproduction technology. Instead, I posit that the LP was the most effective mid-century medium for representing post-war Americans, and that by examining why this is true, we can better understand another time and culture, as well as our own.
I examine hi-fi technology, music genres especially associated with the LP like exotica and space music, and social rituals surrounding these phenomena. Throughout my thesis I point to an assemblage of technology, desire, space, and humanity that constitute what we call the post-WWII era. By seeing how the assemblage works as a whole, we can locate and reflect upon past understandings of space, difference, and desire. In doing so, we can aim to find recurring patterns, and perhaps better understand what informs our own lives today. I have chosen one medium of particular importance to a time, place, and people in my thesis to achieve this.