Another side of shellac: Cultural and natural cycles of the gramophone disc

Elodie A. Roy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Shellac discs were quickly eclipsed by the new “Vinylite” LP records after the 1950s and, eventually, discontinued entirely. Yet the hyper-plastic medium lived on, generating a number of widespread and enduring resonances in twentieth-century affective and material cultures. This chapter is about these lives and afterlives of shellac, focusing especially on marginal and deregulated (but not necessarily demonetized) markets since 1950. This chapter argues that repurposing shellac records may ultimately be seen as an act of unlocking, transforming, and liquidating recorded sound. Shellac can thus be interpreted as an allegory of the passages between solid and liquid modernities, where modernity is understood in terms of ceaseless material renegotiations. The chapter explores two main perspectives on material reshapings of history, power, and cultural memory. To study waste and its infrastructures prompts us to examine process-based aspects of culture, considered as an intricate entwinement of natural, historical, geological times. In doing so we may also release “a vitality intrinsic to materiality.” Indeed, this chapter deploys infrastructural analysis “as a political, deconstructive gesture of investigation into the scars, textures, and structures of the contemporary as it dynamically incorporates the past (without ‘resolving’ it).”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAudible Infrastructures: Music, Sound, Media
EditorsKyle Devine, Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780190932633
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


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