CH-Scene: Communication Theories and Musical Communities

INLS 180 Final Project For Dr. Gary Marchionini
Butch Lazorchak
December 4, 2002

    “The communication of a significant difference, then (and the parallel communication of a group identity), is the ‘point’ behind the style of all spectacular subcultures....Once we have granted this initial difference a primary determination over the whole sequence of stylistic generation and diffusion, we can go back to examine the internal structure of individual subcultures. To return to our earlier analogy: if the spectacular subculture is an intentional communication, if it is, to borrow a term from linguistics, ‘motivated’, what precisely is being communicated and advertised?”
- Dick Hebdige. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. [1]

“We had our chance, you know. We had our chance to make a deal with the devil. We danced with him, we flirted a little, maybe we even led him on. But I’m not so sure we ever took his offer.”
-Gavin O’Hara, The Independent, May 10, 2000. [2]


            Chapel Hill, North Carolina is a relatively compact university town which comprises one-third of the Research Triangle, a central North Carolina community which also includes the cities of Durham and Raleigh [3] . In the decade that quietly began in a Raleigh recording studio on December 18, 1989 [4] , the Research Triangle developed one of the United States’ most active local music communities, a cultural community that garnered national press attention, substantial record sales and lasting influence. Despite the regional sociogeographic spread of the community, it historically has been referred to as the Chapel Hill Scene due to the central influence of activities in that town. (We will refer to the cultural community as the “CH-Scene” from here on).  

            Musical scenes have developed and faded in the United States throughout the country’s history, but this tendency has become more prevalent in the years since the Second World War. Significantly, as a regional reaction against a dominant mass culture, but for a variety of other social and economic factors as well. This is especially true when considering the development of rock and roll music, where the idea of a musical “scene” as a coordinated, geographic representation of cultural meaning has gained increasing parlance, even as other regional expressions of culture become homogenized [5] .

            Politically and economically, rock and roll emerged in a particular temporal context, variously described as late capitalist (the consumption society) and post-modern. [6] Socially, the audience that both creates and consumes rock music (that is, the cultural community around which the creation and consumption of rock music revolves) has been characterized as adolescent, a term Barry Shank has used to define a demographic community that had previously been categorized as youth, and which “vaguely represent[ed] the period of years between the onset of puberty and the coming of familial responsibilities associated with full-time employment and children.” [7] He goes on to say that:

Rock’n’roll scenes situate an important signifying practice of adolescence, which must not be reduced to simply a biological stage of individua development....This condition is characterized by an awareness of extended cultural possibilities combined with insufficient power to act on these possibilities. [8]

            This definition of adolescent encapsulates the condition of the university student, positioned in the transitional period between parental protection and control and the realities of their own familial responsibilities. The university years are an exploratory period when adolescents assay a variety of cultural roles, and musical scenes arise locally as significant efforts on the part of their participants to define their own space within the dominant culture. This expanded conception of adolescence as a construct not only of age but of socio-economic and social power (or lack thereof), is an important consideration in our discussion of musical communities.

            I have noted the basic theoretical underpinnings of musical communities with a great deal of brevity, but I assert that the triad of post-modernism, late-capitalism and adolescence are the conceptual foundations of musical cultural communities. And from these assumptions we move to our main consideration: what can music scenes tell us about the way people communicate? Or conversely, how can an analysis of human communication mold our understanding of musical communities?

            All musical communities are interesting because they embody a localized historical impulse and represent a particular flowering of the creative urge, but we can also study them for what they can tell us about how people communicate, and especially how subcultural manifestations adapt their own methods within a broad communicative structure. Music scenes, like other subcultural representations, create their own mythologies by appropriating symbols from the dominant culture and using them in their own manner, as Hebdige says, “to recreate the dialectic between action and reaction which renders these objects the tensions between dominant and subordinate groups can be found reflected in the surfaces of subculture—in the styles made up of mundane objects which have a double meaning.” [9]

            The analysis of a variety of communication theories helps us understand how musical communities come together; how their ideals, styles and beliefs are propagated internally; how they choose to represent themselves to the world outside the scene; and how they respond to the attention that the outside world (especially through mass media processes) reflects back to them. Communication theory also helps us understand how and why music scenes form protected cultural spheres around themselves, attempting control of the threatening the forces of corruption and co-optation on the outside.

            There are three different ways in which communication takes place in relation to a musical scene, and I will look at each in turn: the diffusion of information and communication from actor to actor within a musical scene; the communication methods and modes a musical scene chooses when attempting to communicate with the world outside it; and the way that the world outside presents a reflexive picture back to the musical scene [10] .

            The CH-Scene took flight at a particularly important instance in the history of communication. A number of important efforts leading to the development of the World Wide Web were taking place concurrently with the establishment of the CH-Scene. [11] The CH-Scene was one of the first musical scenes to explore the possibilities provided by the World Wide Web and its associated electronic networking attributes, which include Usenet newsgroups, electronic mail, and Listservs. But while these new tools changed some of the physical structures of communication, many of the theoretical aspects of communication remained the same.

            The technological changes only hastened the development of a community self-awareness within the CH-Scene. This self-awareness (manifesting itself in self-protective behaviors) differentiated the CH-Scene from other musical scenes: the CH-Scene attempted, with varying degrees of success, to control the terms of engagement with the wider world of the music industry and the mass media universe.  Musical scenes in other localities had based their communities on strong social or political beliefs, mostly notably the Washington D.C. and Athens, Georgia musical scenes of the 1980’s [12] . The CH-Scene incorporated elements of both of these cities’ attributed social systems, but also developed some of their own, spurred in part by a reaction to the media frenzy which accompanied the rise of the Seattle rock scene in late 1991 and early 1992 [13] , and that scene’s eventual co-optation.

            This paper gathers background knowledge on a variety of classic communication theories and ideas, and utilizes the CH-Scene as a test-bed for “trying on” a number of these theories.  This research is at the service of a much larger and longer-term project which involves devising a documentation strategy for the CH-Scene. There is no single theory which fits all instances of communication in a musical scene, and I have made attempts to incorporate a cross-disciplinary analysis of various streams of communication theory in this brief study.  I am not conducting a full exploration of any individual path of inquiry, but this paper suggests a number of exciting directions for future pursuit, and is useful for noting communicative aspects of musical scenes that can be expanded upon in subsequent research.

Part One: Communication within the Scene

            Music by its very nature is a communicative device [14] , but musical scenes consist of activity beyond that which could be categorized as simply musical.  Information is exchanged in a variety of ways, and each particular type of information exchange has its own rules, methods and purposes. As mentioned above, part of the purpose of a musical community is to help its members develop their own cultural identity within the dominant cultural paradigm. [15]

            Members of subcultural communities carve out their own space in many ways but my key consideration is how the CH-Scene developed its own cultural attitudes through the communication process. This communication process is not limited to the use of speech or language: “Verbal language is being displaced as a communicational mode by image, in many sites of public communication: whether in school textbooks, in newspapers, in reports produced in institutions of all kinds, in the electronic media, and in the information and communication technologies in general.” [16] The task of interpreting these symbolic images has come to fall under the science of semiology, also known as semiotics:  

In his Course in General Linguistics, first published in 1916, Saussure postulated the existence of a general science of signs, or Semiology, of which linguistics would form only one part. Semiology therefore aims to take in any system of signs, whatever their substance and limits; images, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex associations of all these, which form the content of ritual, convention or public entertainment: these constitute, if not languages [italics author supplied], at least systems of signification. [17]

            Thus, semiotics allow us to look at the rich modes of communication within a musical scene without being limited by the properties of language alone. Once freed from this limitation, the quantity of available information multiplies rapidly. Shank argues that not only do musical scenes produce large quantities of semiotic information, but that in order for a musical scene to transcend its locality, it must overproduce information:

A scene itself can be defined as an overproductive signifying community; that is, far more semiotic information is produced than can be rationally parsed. Such scenes remain a necessary condition for the production of exciting rock’n’roll music capable of moving past the mere expression of locally significant cultural values and generic development—that is, beyond stylistic permutation-toward an interrogation of dominant structures of identification, and potential cultural transformation....Through this display of more than can be understood, encouraging the radical recombination of elements of the human in new structures of identification, local rock’n’roll scenes produce momentary transformations within dominant cultural meanings.” [18]

            This overproduction and “radical recombination” took place in the CH-Scene through a confluence of fluid interpersonal networks, access to mass media, and traditional entrepreneurial spirit. Semiotics proffers incredibly rich possibilities for analysis of some of the important symbolic artifacts of the CH-Scene and how they were used in communication.

            Another vein of inquiry involves the work of Everett Rogers. Rogers wrote the pioneering work on the diffusion of information, and his theories are important for understanding how information is communicated in musical scenes through interpersonal networks.  Key terms from Rogers are his definitions of diffusion, communication and innovation. Diffusion, he states, “is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. It is a special type of communication, in that the messages are concerned with new ideas.” [19] He defines communication as “a process in which participants create and share information with one another in order to reach a mutual understanding.” [20] Finally, an innovation is “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption.” [21]

            He also proposed that the medium of interpersonal exchange was the most important factor leading to the rapid acceptance of new innovations. Rogers’ theories can be aptly applied to one important site of overproductive signification within the CH-Scene, the University of North Carolina student radio station, WXYC. [22]     

            Rogers introduces the concept of homophily, which he describes as “the degree to which pairs of individuals who interact are similar in certain attributes, such as beliefs, education, [and] social status.” [23] There is a greater degree of homophily on a university campus than there is in the world at large, but an even greater degree of homophily within a self-selecting cultural group.  The staff of WXYC tended to show a high degree of homophily in terms of  political affiliation, cultural awareness, socioeconomic status, openness to new ideas, and other cultural factors. Many of the core musicians of the CH-Scene were affiliated with the radio station at some point. [24] Paul F. Lazarfeld and Robert K. Merton confirm these ideas by their observation that “the positive correlation between the statuses of close friends...are, to some significant but unknown extent, the products of an underlying agreement between the values harbored by friends.” [25] Homophily and friendship are important factors in considering how innovative ideas would spread more rapidly among the WXYC population.

            Rogers believes that the most effective communication takes place among two individuals who are homophilous, who share a mutual subcultural language. There needs to be some degree of heterophily between the participants in order for some information transfer to take place. Ideally they would be homophilous on education, social status, etc., but heterophilous regarding the innovation in question. [26] The radio station staff was a largely homophilous population that acted out a dialectical discourse through informal means, allowing the participants to negotiate ultimate opinions on a number of musical, political and social issues.  This homophily allowed rapid innovative decisions—about the relative worth of different recording artists, for example—to diffuse rapidly through the group. 

            Another Rogers’ construct, the opinion leader, plays an important role in the diffusion of information at WXYC.  The opinion leaders at WXYC often held elected office, but the general anti-authoritarian sentiment of the WXYC staff meant that the elected leaders had to provide influential direction without exerting strict control. The opinion leaders also fit firmly into the Rogers category of early adaptors of an innovation, especially in regards to their ability to convey “a subjective evaluation of the innovation to near-peers by means of interpersonal networks.” [27]

            The music director and staff members acting under their auspices (the "music department") were the most influential individuals at the radio station.  They were responsible for choosing the music that would go into the station’s regular rotation, writing descriptions that would be placed on the album or CD, and controlling the initial ideological construction of the station’s musical sound.  This gave the music department staff a great degree of power and authority,  and a model of information diffusion emanating from their office would be described as top-down diffusion.

            There are a number of illuminating artifacts found at WXYC that feature elements of both formal and informal communication.  The descriptions attached to the record and CD covers are both formal (the written descriptions originating from the music office) and informal (the subsequent staff commentary), but both types of communication exemplify how consensus was built concerning particular artists, and how ideas were concretized by their movement from the verbal realm to their being captured in text. This captured text formed the institutional opinion concerning a particular musical release. [28]   Artists whose work was deemed especially important by the staff members would generate larger amounts of exchange on the covers, and this textual exchange would spill back into the verbal in a continuously iterative pattern. For examples of these artifacts of communication, see appendices one, two, three, four and five.

            The fluctuation in messages from album to album allows us to examine paradigmatic changes relating to the consideration of an artist’s stature within the CH-Scene. Appendix four is a cover of the album Foolish by the CH-Scene band Superchunk.  When this album was released in December of 1993, Superchunk was well-established in the CH-Scene, and the somewhat blasé tone employed by the album reviewer suggests that the band may have lost some of their novelty. The descriptions of the songs are tongue-in-cheek archetypal descriptions relating to previous material created by the band ("the catchy one," "the midtempo rocker," etc.).  Linguistically, this type of utterance is known as an implicature [29] .  The reviewer's description raises an implicature, namely that Superchunk’s music is no longer as important as it once was to the CH-Scene, and that it can be dismissed with a diminishing shorthand. Also interesting is how the reviewer notes the maturation process of the band by denoting changes in the tempo of songs (now slower than previously) and increased introspection in the lyrics (now more introspective versus an earlier externally directed discourse).  Here, the implicature is that slower tempos and increased introspection equals creeping adulthood, which leads to a movement away from the “scene” as community and on to adult responsibilities. This particular communicative note also implies a knowledge of previous Superchunk recordings, which further implies a knowledge of scene history and Superchunk’s central place in that history. Compare the somewhat resigned tone of the Foolish CD to that found on the band’s next recording. Here’s Where the Strings Come In. The enthusiasm has returned in the description of the music, representing the band’s symbolic return to the fold. The variety of information discerned from this one artifact exemplifies the richness that the study of semiotics brings to cultural analysis.

            Another informal communication artifact at WXYC is the DJ notebook (see appendix six). While the diffusion of information in the CD and album covers is a top-down communication, the DJ notebook represents a bottom-up method of communication. In this forum, any member of the staff has the opportunity to present whatever information they feel is pertinent, whether it related to the operation of the station or not.  These notebooks were read by all staff members, and staff members with responsibility for particular technical areas could respond to individual problems presented in the notebook. The DJ notebook was another method for concretizing ideas that may have been ruminating in an individual’s mind, and presenting them informally for the group to discuss.

            In other instances, the notebook included informal efforts at persuasion emanating in a top-down manner. While much of the communication in the DJ notebook was ephemeral, on occasion the importance of the communication would rise to the level of essential documentation on CH-Scene attitudes and ethics:

You should approach every time you go on the air with pride. What we do, considering what it is, is as recognized as it could be at this time. You are a large part of that. I spent most of the convention leaning against a wall not saying a word. Similarly, our mere presence is respected. [30]

            This quote is a reprinted version of an informal note written by then-Music Director Randy Bullock upon his return from a music convention in 1992. He is elucidating some essential philosophical tenants of the CH-Scene in an informal manner and in an informal medium. However, his words were rescued from the informal medium (the DJ notebook), and offered up for reevaluation five years later when placed prominently in a newsletter celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the radio station.          

This rescue process represents another incidence of the concretization of CH-Scene attitudes. Bullock’s words, with their strong message of CH-Scene ethics, were reintroduced in a forum that spoke both internally to the new generation of WXYC staff members (reinvigorating them with the ideals of the forefathers), and externally to a larger community (purposefully propagating CH-Scene values with the authority of historical precedent).

            We consider one last example of internal communication in the form of the electronic Listserv [31] .   As mentioned earlier, the rise of the CH-Scene paralleled the development of the World Wide Web and its accompanying forms of electronic networking and communication. The Listserv, a subscription-only electronic mailing list where each subscriber received copies of all messages sent to the list, was one of the most immediately popular forms of electronic networking, and the CH-Scene quickly developed its own version.  The Listserv created for facilitating the discussion of Triangle area music was named CH-Scene and was mirrored in the electronic newsgroup world (Usenet) as (both of which are still active today).  The Listserv symbolizes a closed community: potential members must decide whether to join or not, whether to be “in” or “out."  The newsgroup world is an open forum,  allowing anybody to be “in” whether they are transient or habitual.  There are positives and negatives of each mode of enfranchisement. A Listserv, with its insular nature, prevents outsider viewpoints from coming in, while a newsgroup is open to anyone, including participants who have no interest in maintaining decorum or considering the accepted terms of debate (including dealers in internet spam). [32]

            In any event, the CH-Scene Listserv was a new forum for communication which encouraged a more thoughtful consideration of CH-Scene issues, and allowed participants opportunities to carry on dialectical discussions in a manner similar to that which they had already been practicing in an analog way on the cover of record covers and in the DJ notebook. Electronic mail simply made it easier to transmit the information floating around in the verbal world to the written world.  In addition, the networked world was merely an extension of the types of asynchronous communication that was already taking place in the CH-Scene. Appendix seven is an example of an electronic communication spiral, where the comments of each participant become layered on top of the next, creating an atmosphere of dialectical information sharing which helps participants form opinions.

            The first archived post to the newsgroup is from April 21, 1994, though the archived conversation doesn’t really kick in until June of that year. The first archived post at (the current official archive site) from June 8, 1994, coincidentally enough, reminds the systems administrator to turn on the archiving functions of the Listserv. [33]  These preserved postings are fertile ground for content analysis.

            The Listserv and newsgroup brought the concept of the DJ notebook out into the wider world, marking a transition from an internal dialogue amongst members of the scene to a conversation which also involved the external world.  However, the communication emanating from within the CH-Scene in these electronic forums was like a stage whisper: the insiders had a dialogue which was overheard by outsiders, but the insiders were capable of controlling the terms of the discussion.  The technologically-aware CH-Scene moved freely into these electronically networked environments, and used them as further attempts to control how they were represented in the wider world.

            The Listserv is a transitional concept between interpersonal communication within the CH-Scene, and the communication with the world outside the CH-Scene.  We will now move on to the consideration of this second type of communication.

Part Two: Outward Communication

            Barry Shank's book Dissonant Identities, while largely focused on the music scene in Austin, Texas, illuminates universal attributes of musical scenes. While North Carolina is not Texas, the cultural similarities between the two scenes allow Shank's ideas to resonate in a way that makes his work highly applicable to considerations within the CH-Scene:

The immediate project of rock’n’roll bands in the scene in Austin is the construction of an incomplete identity that its audience can recognize and return. Because this identity is constructed through the allusive combinations of personal and musical characteristics from each of the band members through the songs and performance styles in a fashion that escapes their conscious intentions, sincerity [my italics] remains the primary aesthetic value, the central element in every evaluative system, operating in the widest variety of musical styles. [34]

            Similarly, sincerity is one of the chief exports of the CH-Scene, represented by an informal mode of dress (street clothes on stage), confessional song lyrics, casual performance methods and associated scene rhetoric. Shank suggests that “the vocalization of sincerity has indicated a singer who can be trusted and, therefore, the possibility of an audience who can accurately interpret and properly respond to the performances,” [35] an idea reflected in the confessional nature of song lyrics such as Superchunk’s genre-defining “My Noise” from their self-titled 1990 debut album (“It is my life, it is my voice, it is stupid, it is my noise”). [36]

            The way expressions of sincerity are considered within a scene is an important consideration in analyzing the social construction of that scene.  But the CH-Scene expressions of sincerity were also directed outwardly, and became one aspect of the personae that the scene wished to present to the world. This sincerity is emblematic of deeper social and political trains of thought that run as an undercurrent through the CH-Scene.  Shank explicitly expresses these sublimated social and political ideals as the greater truths serviced by expressions of sincerity:

While traditional sincerity demands the absence of outside influence or adulteration, one of the most significant messages of punk was that such are the conditions of commercialized cultural practice that no popular music is free from artifice...punks and postpunk musicians in Austin struggled to recuperate sincerity through a purification of the expressive impulse. The lessons of punk in Austin reinforced a utopian romantic urge for a cultural marketplace free of deceit, where a sincere expression, a pure representation, could arise from some essence of the performer untainted by the polluting structures of capitalism and then could be distributed through direct channels to a populace longing for it...the result was an insistence on the personal responsibility for and significance of the music one made, the music one listened to, the music one bought and sold. [37]

            This sincerity was transmitted outwardly in many different ways, but perhaps the most important manifestation was the economic/political decision by many of the CH-Scene artists to remain “indie.” Superchunk was the most notable example, in that they signed themselves to their own record label, Merge, rather than with a major label, despite being heavily courted. This “indie” versus “major” debate was an intense theoretical battleground during the developing stages of the CH-Scene, and the decision to remain “indie” carried strong symbolic, as well as economic and political, motivations.

            This idea of sincerity was related to a vein of utopian nostalgia which ran through the CH-Scene, despite their clear-eyed economic and political motivations. The CH-Scene was “nostalgic for all those idealistic, absurd, amateurish, imaginative projects of alternative modernity and the virtual realities of ordinary imagination.” [38] Svetlana Boym furthers considers that this type of nostalgia is “based on mimicry; the past is remade in the image of the present or a desire future,” [39] and that “this type of nostalgic narrative is ironic, inconclusive and fragmentary.” [40] One artifact of communication especially illuminating for the purpose of this paper is the seven-inch, forty-five revolutions-per-minute phonograph record (the "seven-inch" from here on). See appendix eight for a typical example of the form.

            The seven-inch was in the process of extinction as a musical format until rescued by the punk and indie rock movements. The nostalgic impulse—the idea of re-inventing a dead (or near-dead) object and giving it a new life, and a new meaning—is a recurring symbolic element in musical subcultures.  This is related to rock music's sense of its own history, and the constant reinvention that takes place as contemporary artists build on past musical styles and borrow significant historical chunks for their own purposes.  When the seven-inch is considered as a physical artifact, we can note that CH-Scene was one of the last generations to have grown up with the seven-inch as a significant part of their early music consumption experience, and the psychological resonance this physical object held as a signifier of innocent childhood imbued it with a profound importance. In addition, after the introduction of the compact disc in 1986—with the resultant decade-long battle between analog purists and digital acolytes—both the seven-inch and twelve-inch vinyl records signified a bulwark against the forces of impersonal mass production represented by the compact disc [41] .

            There were additional reasons the re-appropriation of the seven-inch took place. The format was relatively inexpensive to produce while still implying a financial commitment on the part of the artist, the financial commitment signifying one aspect of personal sacrifice for the art. Also, the records could be played again and again, but their limited temporal length forced the listener to concentrate on a single message, a significant factor in explaining the powerful impact of singles over the course of rock history.

            This leads to a broader consideration of recording artifacts within the CH-Scene. While the seven-inch was one representation of the idea of nostalgia-as-sincerity which ran as an undercurrent to the CH-Scene, recordings in general had other philosophical overtones. William Howland Kenney, in his ruminations on musical recordings in American life, reflected upon the ideas of historian Daniel Boorstin, who interpreted the profound changes that the phonograph introduced into American culture:

Boorstin’s prescience about the cultural impact of the phonograph matched that of his entire synthesis of the impact on American life of what he called ‘mass-producing the moment.’ His ideas concerning the cultural impact of the media included the potentially useful notion of ‘consumption communities’ that he likened to fellowships of consumers that transformed mass-produced consumer goods into vehicles of community. He thought of these taste subcultures as quick to form, nonideological, democratic, public, vague and rapidly shifting, indeed, representative of all that was new about consumption-driven societies. [42]

            The CH-Scene incorporated these consumer goods (musical recordings) as “vehicles of community.” Lawrence Grossberg recognized that there had always been tension between the “art” aspect of music creation, and the “economic” aspect of music creation, and this tension met at the point where records and compact discs are manufactured. [43] Still, the creation of musical artifacts was an important output of many music scenes, and the CH-Scene was no exception.  One significant difference was the mode of communication chosen for a great variety of musical representation.  Significantly, in the CH-Scene and other alternative musical cultures of the early 1990's, the mode was the seven-inch record. 

            The combination of all the factors above made the seven-inch record a potent tool of communication. First ironically reappropriated (ironic nostalgia as previously suggested by Boym), the artifacts later became emblematic of indie rock. The powerful, repetitive nature of the messages presented by the format of the seven-inch record are especially important when considering the mass media aspects of the CH-Scene

            Individual recordings are profound artifacts of musical scenes, but in terms of controlling the communicative process, “mass media channels are often the most rapid and efficient means to inform an audience of potential adopters about the existence of an innovation, that is, to create awareness-knowledge.” [44]   The CH-Scene had several effective means of presenting their ideals through mass media channels to the outer world, with radio the most important.

            College radio stations were originally established at universities as communication-study laboratories, but by the time the CH-Scene was developing, the stations had gained a great deal of autonomy from university communication departments, and were now seen as providers of important musical alternatives to increasingly centralized commercial radio stations.   In addition, college radio in general was achieving a resurgence during this period, largely through the awareness of underground music scenes generated by Nirvana's success, and its championing of alternative microcultures.  The Triangle region had more than its share of college-radio outlets. In addition to the aforementioned WXYC, there was WXDU at Duke University, WKNC at North Carolina State University, as well as smaller, jazz-oriented stations at North Carolina Central University in Durham and Shaw University in Raleigh. 

            The Triangle-area college radio stations, while occupying low-wattage positions at the left of the radio dial, were still influential in presenting the area’s more adventurous music listeners with musical options.  As the CH-Scene became increasingly self-aware, the importance of presenting the work of their own musical community became one of their tantamount concerns. [45] Thus, the musicians and theoreticians of the CH-Scene had the ability to propagate their ideas fairly widely within the Triangle geographic region, and with the development of the World Wide Web, throughout the world. [46]

            But while mass media tools are the most effective for creating “awareness-knowledge,” as Everett Rogers noted, the most successful innovative communication ultimately comes back to interpersonal communication.  Rogers described the mass media-to-interpersonal communicative flow as the two-step flow model.  In it, he proposed that the flow from mass media sources to opinion leaders was largely a transfer of information, “whereas the second step, from opinion leaders to their followers, also involves the spread of influence...The two-step flow model helped focus attention upon the interface between mass media and interpersonal influence.” [47] This two-step flow model can also be an iterative process, especially in terms of the college radio experience.  The design is a circle: opinion leaders at the radio stations determine the music that should be played on the radio; the mass media broadcasts that information to the CH-Scene population, many of whom are staff members of the radio station; these staffers communicate amongst themselves in interpersonal ways, including interaction with station opinion leaders; these discussions influence the decisions made by decision leaders in terms of which artists they choose to represent on the radio station; repeat.

            A humorous artifact of this circular communication process, as well as an example of self-awareness on the part of CH-Scene musical artists, is the Superchunk CD single entitled The Laughter Guns (see appendix nine and ten). This CD single features an un-credited fifth track consisting of a forty-minute WXYC radio broadcast in which a trio of DJs deconstructs Superchunk’s latest material.

            There is a circular path to this communication, and this artifact operates at a number of levels of meaning.  One level of meaning involves characterizing the tone of the DJs’ discussion of the serious qualities of the music.  The DJs turn tradition on its head; stereotypically, it has been European classical music’s exclusive domain to get treated with the serious regard that the DJs apply to the music of Superchunk. Pop music is generally dismissed as unworthy of such a serious treatment.  Here it is the opposite: the DJs are “trying on” the language of post-modern criticism, but there is also a sense of their own self-awareness, a self-awareness that gives them an “out” should they be held accountable for taking the whole process too seriously.  Still, a consideration of the importance of the music was a significant aspect of the CH-Scene aesthetic, in that the participants felt the music was meaningful enough to be taken seriously as art and as cultural representation. 

            Another level of meaning is represented by Superchunk's decision to place the entire forty-minute recording on one of its own recordings. This decision represents the band's awareness of the importance of WXYC in the process of developing consensus, but also its own self-awareness. The inclusion of the track is done in a knowing manner: they acknowledge that there is something ridiculous about the seriousness with which the WXYC members take their music. While Superchunk may be serious about the process of making music, it is likely that they don’t take themselves and their art as seriously as the DJs are taking it, and they also recognize that there is an element of “play” taking place. The inclusion of this discussion on the CD gives Superchunk the same sort of “out” that the DJs have.  The band can “float” the idea of a serious discussion of their music in a public forum (including it on their CD, but keeping its existence somewhat secret), while reserving the ability to deny any serious intent by ridiculing the DJ's over-enthusiasm.

            This particular artifact highlights several of the levels of communication mentioned earlier: interpersonal communication within the staff members of WXYC leading to the development of consensus relating to musical artists, and the transmission of that consensus through mass media channels to a wider world.

            The Laughter Guns record and the issues it raises leads us into the third aspect of communication that we will consider: how CH-Scene external communication was interpreted by forces on the outside, and then reflected back to the CH-Scene community.

Part Three: Reflexive Communication and Co-optation

            Before we get to the ultimate example of reflexive communication, co-optation, let us first look at two examples of reflexive communication directed back towards a musical scene, the first positive, the second negative.

            In 1992, the New York band Sonic Youth was one of the most influential bands on the alternative music scene. The band toured heavily, and made frequent appearances in the Triangle, but their symbolic role as alternative music theoreticians was at least as important as their commercial role.  Thus, when their album Dirty appeared in the 1992, the song entitled “Chapel Hill” [48] was analyzed within the wider alternative music universe as a “shout-out” to the CH-Scene (first and third verses below):

Back in the days when the battles raged
And we thought it was nothing
A bookstore man meets the CIA
And we know
Throw me a cord and plug it in
Get the Cradle rockin’
Out with the redneck pig old men
And it’s gold

Lookin’ away it’s another day
And of course we love you
But radical man meets the CIA
And we said no
We’ll round up the Durham H.C. kids
And the Char Grill killers
Jesse H. coming to our pit
All ages show

            The song was inspired by the still-unsolved murder of Internationalist Books owner Bob Sheldon on February 21, 1991 [49] .  The lyrics paint a complex picture of both regional and national political struggle, while acknowledging the positive regenerative role of the CH-Scene (“the Durham H.C. kids and the Char Grill killers”) in affecting future change. The lyrics are inclusive, aligning the CH-Scene with the wider alternative music movement spearheaded by Sonic Youth and others.  It also presents another example of the universalizing possibilities of music; it proposes that if North Carolina senator Jesse Helms would join everyone in the “pit,” [50] he’d be infused with a spirit of youthful brotherhood, and would conceivably work to prevent horrible incidents of violence like the one perpetrated on Bob Sheldon from happening in the future.

            The flip-side of the positive reinforcement of scene culture presented reflexively by Sonic Youth is the widespread misinterpretation of the lyrics of the Superchunk song “Slack Motherfucker:”

You haven’t moved from that spot all night since you asked for a light little smokestack!
Wasting my time I’d like to see you try and give it back yeah!
I’m working
But I’m not working for you
Slack Motherfucker!
You like sitting down?
I’ll kick that stool right out from under you
You ran out, sitting outside
Well I can do the same thing too [51]

            Originally released as a seven-inch in 1990, the song became an instant classic. However, it was almost instantly misinterpreted as a “call-to-arms” for the indolent, an anti-work diatribe against a corrupt boss similar to David Allan Coe's country hit "Take This Job and Shove It." A closer reading of the lyrics reveals that the "slack motherfucker" of the title is not the first-person protagonist, but actually a lazy co-worker. The protagonist is decrying the co-worker's laziness, rather than celebrating it, and in the process condemning the co-worker's poor work ethic and lamenting the time wasted covering up for their indifference to work. 

            This misinterpretation added fuel to an early 1990's media attempt to negatively stereotype that new generation of youth as “generation x” or “slackers.” “In his 1991 film Slacker, Richard Linklater...created a seemingly endless cast of endearing drifters and dreamers who, unwilling to reduce themselves to an unfulfilling career in telemarketing or the fast-food industry, simply hang around the college town of Austin, Texas...Recognizing that the economy is stacked against them, these young adults have decided either to create their own opportunities from scratch or, in some cases, to refuse to participate at all.” [52] The subtle nuances of Linklater’s characterization became lost in translation, and “slackers” became a euphemism for indifference, disengagement and impassion. This characterization couldn’t have been less apt for the CH-Scene. 

            While sharing an appetite for excess found in almost all music and university cultures, the denizens of the CH-Scene could more accurately be characterized as industrious, creative, self-aware and hard-working.  They published their own magazines, started their own companies, booked their own tours, marketed their own tee shirts, opened their own restaurants and worked exceptionally hard at doing so.  Still, the label stuck. [53]

            Stephen Burt, in an article on the poet Philip Larkin, wasn’t the first to make the mistake, but his literary reading is emblematic of the problem which soon faced the CH-Scene: “...Every college radio rock DJ in America was familiar with Superchunk’s ‘Slack Motherfucker,’ not only because it’s a great song (and it is), but because you couldn’t play it on the air before midnight. In making the record, Superchunk was doing—in a very safe, jocular and self-assured way—what the 1977 punks were doing much more threateningly and in earnest: joining, or conjuring into existence, a social context of youth and confrontation in which calling somebody a 'slack motherfucker' was standard, even laudable.” [54]

            In fact, by all accounts, the members of the band Superchunk were much more industrious than your average member of a rock band: operating their own label, booking their own tours, controlling every aspect of their marketing and merchandising themselves. They were far from lazy. Still, this devaluation of the CH-Scene’s industriousness by popular media negative labeling diminished the contributions of the CH-Scene (and other important cultural scenes), and was ultimately a significant factor leading to the decline of the CH-Scene.

            More importantly, the idea of “negative labeling” introduces the idea of co-optation as a reflexive form of communication with unwelcome connotations. Musical scenes have stages of development similar to the stages of development in any fad or trend: discovery of the potential fad, promotion by the discovers and/or original consumers, labeling, dissemination, eventual loss of exclusiveness and uniqueness, and death by displacement. [55] The CH-Scene, despite the efforts of the principles to control the terms of the debate through their own self-aware projection of principles, eventually fell prey to the machinations of mass media culture. The arc of the CH-Scene followed closely the path laid out by Rolf Meyersohn and Elihu Katz in their widely-cited paper on the developmental stages of fads. “Beginning in the minority, the fad is ‘discovered,’ then is labeled, and ultimately reaches the mass audiences...But after a time the innovation will cross the boundary line of the groups who adopted it and pass into other groups, in the process losing some of its distinguishing characteristics.” [56] The “discovery” and “labeling” phases of the lifecycle of the fad are analogous to the idea of co-optation in musical culture. “Discussions of co-optation usually focus on the techniques by which rock and roll has been exploited and transformed by the economic system and the various ‘ideological state apparatuses,’ especially the mass media.” [57] This co-optation was something that the CH-Scene had been attempting to control all along, but despite being media and self-aware, the process of co-optation could not be held off:

Squirrel Nut Zippers are probably selling more records in a week than every other band from Chapel Hill combined, ever,” says Ben Folds from a tour stop in San Antonio. “And we’re doing a lot better than people back home know—maybe better than anyone from there has ever done before. But somehow it seems so ... anticlimactic. Maybe if it were Superchunk or Archers of Loaf, that would be another story. But instead, it’s the Zippers and us. So it’s pretty funny. [58]

            By the time the CH-Scene bands Squirrel Nut Zippers and Ben Folds Five made the national album charts and “crossed-over” into popular media awareness, the original idea of the CH-Scene had run its course. As Ben Folds makes clear above, even the successful bands who arrived at the end of one cycle of scene prominence were confused by their own success; the pioneering bands’ conflicted views of success kept the media carpetbaggers at bay long enough for their potential moment of mass success to pass by.

            However, as Grossberg points out, the very idea of co-optation is “raised and answered at specific moments within the rock and roll culture,” and that it is the fans themselves who make the decision whether an artist or scene has been co-opted. [59] This complicates the idea of co-optation.  He goes on to say that:

Co-optation is the mode by which rock and roll produces itself anew, rejecting moments of its own past and present in order to all the more potently inscribe its own boundary...It is not necessarily an alteration of the aesthetic or ideological constitution of the text, but the production of new affective alliances with in the rock and roll culture...Rather than a cycle of authentic and co-opted music, rock and roll exists as a fractured unity within which differences of authenticity and co-optation are defined in the construction of affective alliances and networks of affiliation.

            In other words, co-optation is an iterative cycle, similar to the cycle of fads. However, once the fans have made the distinction that an artist has been co-opted, a new cycle begins.  Superchunk were able to hold off the forces of co-optation, and designed a cultural space where they could grow (or grow old) in a way that best suited them and their audience.  The Squirrel Nut Zippers are an example of the morality play of co-optation, in that they made the deal with the devil, and the deal turned out to be one they would not ultimately win. An excerpt from an interview with former member Tom Maxwell opens a window into the mind of the co-opted:

Most of my songs were about leaving the band and the disappointment of fame. ‘A Johnny Ace Christmas’ was written to be interpreted as a lover leaving, but anybody who knows about Johnny Ace understands that he committed suicide backstage Christmas Eve! ‘The anticipation’s better/than the real thing anyhow’ pretty much summed up my feelings about making the ‘big time.'" [60]

[1] Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, (New York: Methuen, 1979), 102.

[2] Gavin O'Hara, "Running With the Devil," The Independent Online, 10 May 2000, (Accessed 28 Oct. 2002).

[3]  "The 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park is the largest research park in the United States, and is home to over 140 organizations. RTP has around 42,000 full-time employees entering the Park each day. Recognized internationally as a center for cutting-edge research and development, the Park is owned and developed by the private, not-for-profit Research Triangle Foundation. The Research Triangle itself is named for the Triangle formed by the three universities: Duke University at Durham, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh." The Official Home Page of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA, 2002. (Accessed 20 November 2002). For an informal, insider definition on which this tri-city scene concept is based, see Ross Grady, "Where the Hell Chapel Hill Is," (Accessed 22 November 2002).

[4] O'Hara, (Accessed 28 Oct. 2002).

[5] Will Straw, "Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular Music," Cultural Studies Volume 5, Number 3 (October 1991), 373. Straw analyses ideas originally presented by Barry Shank on the differentiation between the idea of a musical "community" and a musical "scene" and determines that "scene" allows more room for exploratory musical activity , and is less rooted in tradition than a "community."

[6] Lawrence Grossberg, "The Politics of Youth Culture: Some Observations on Rock and Roll in American Culture," Social Text 8 (Winter 1983/1984), 106. Grossberg does a compelling job defining the late capitalist and post-modernist subtexts of rock music: "The dominant moments of this post-war context have been widely described: the effects of the war and the holocaust on the generation of parents; economic prosperity and optimism; the threat of instant and total annihilation (the atomic bomb); the cold ware and McCarthyism with the resulting political apathy and repression; the rise of suburbia with its inherent valorization of repetition; the development of late capitalism (consumption society) with its increasingly sophisticated technology for the rationalization and control of everyday life; the proliferation of mass media and advertising techniques and the emergence of an aesthetic of images; the particular redistributions of social knowledge as a result of both television and increasing education opportunities; the attempt and ultimate inability to deal with the fact of the baby boom; the continuation of an ideology of individuality, progress, and communication (the American Dream); and, to echo Sontag, an increasingly receding threshold of the shocking."

[7] Barry Shank, Dissonant Identities: The Rock'N'Roll Scene in Austin, Texas, (Hanover, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994), 133. Shank's work focuses on musical culture in Austin, TX, but despite the regional differences, many aspects of the Austin experience are applicable to the Chapel Hill experience. While leaning more towards a focus on the psychological aspects of personal representation and musical performance, Shank's work is an incredibly useful document for analyzing the cultural experience in North Carolina, and I will reference it often. As an example of the parallels between the two communities, insert "Chapel Hill" in place of "Austin" and "North Carolina" for "Texas" in the following and note the similarities: "Music scenes develop in Austin out of a confluence of factors. For decades, the university served as the sole tolerated center of negotiated difference...The university still guarantees a large population of young people, a potential pool of musicians and fans eager to investigate the possibilities of musical performance...Austin's reputation as a liberal oasis in a conservative state, as a refuge for those Texans different enough to consider themselves artists, continues to attract individuals who are not wholly comfortable with the dominant enunciative positions in Texan culture. Once in Austin, many of these individuals have entered into a musical dialogue with the dominant construction of identity in Texas...Many talented individuals now come to Austin simply because so many others already have; an atmosphere of toleration has been institutionalized to a certain extent. Often young people move to town simply 'Because it is where music is.'" Page 118. In future references to Shank's work I will assume that these parallels have already been sufficiently clarified.

[8] Ibid., 133.

[9] Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, (New York: Methuen, 1979), 2.

[10] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, Volume II, (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 15. "One of the peculiarities of the small societies we study is that each constitutes a ready-made experiment because of its relative simplicity and the limited number of variables required to explain its functioning...We find our experiments already set up but we cannot control them. It is therefore natural that we attempt to substitute for them models, or systems of symbols, which preserve the characteristic properties of the experiment but which (unlike the experiment) we are able to manipulate."

[11] Robert Cailliau, " A Little History of the World Wide Web from 1945 to 1995", 1995, (Accessed 17 Nov. 2002).

[12] Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001), 377. A capsule description of some of the Washington D.C. scenes ideals as represented by one of its leading bands, Fugazi: "In response not only to a corrupt music industry but to an entire economic and political system they felt was fraught with greed for money and power, the band developed a well-reasoned ethical code. In the process, Fugazi staked out the indie scene as the moral high ground of the music industry; from then on, indie wasn't just do-it-yourself, it was Do the Right Thing." Athens, Georgia, in the wake of the success of R.E.M. in the early 1980's, became representative of the idea of the "college town" and its associated music and arts communities.

[13] Charlie Bertsch, "Making Sense of Seattle," Bad Subjects 5 (March/April 1993), (Accessed 20 November 2002).

[14] Alphons Silbermann, The Sociology of Music,  (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1963),  38. "...We may briefly say that music is chiefly a social phenomenon: social because it is a human product, and because it is a form of communication between composer, interpreter and listener." This triad is also echoed in the language of semiotics through the ideas of sign, object and interpretant. See Thomas A. Sebeok, An Introduction to Semiotics, (London: Pinter Publishers, 1994), 5.

[15] Kip Lornell and Anne K. Rasmussen, "Music and Community in Multicultural America." In Musics of Multicultural America: A Study of Twelve Musical Communities, ed. Kip Lornell and Anne K. Rasmussen, (New York: Schirmer Books, 1997), 18. Lornell and Rasmussen approach the development of musical communities through ethnicity, but they also universalize their findings to include communities not pre-determined by ethnicity: "...we believe that the agents that are at work for an ethnic group in their construction of community through music and dance are at work for any community, however self-identified...But are the fundamental processes of choosing ways to dance, which clothes to wear, how to worship, what to eat, or when to sing really that different for Thai Americans of Los Angeles and the thousands of Americans who gather each weekend at go-goes? We suggest that the answer is no. Participation in music, whether as a player or a listener, implies making choices, choices that are sometimes made in the light of ethnicity and heritage but at other times may be made according to a political, social, professional, or artistic agenda." See also Grossberg, 109: "Rock and roll locates its fans as different even while they exist within the hegemony. The boundary is inscribed within the dominant culture. Rock and roll is an insider's art which functions to position its fans as outsiders."

[16] Gunther Kress, "Sociolinguistics and Social Semiotics." In The Routledge Companion to Semiotics and Linguistics, ed. Paul Cobley, (New York: Routledge, 2001), 67.

[17] Roland Barthes, Elements of Semiology, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967), 9. Barthes preferred the term semiology, but the term is generally regarded as interchangeable with the term semiotics. I will use the term semiotics.  See Sebeok, 106.

[18] Shank, 122.

[19] Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, Third Edition, (New York: The Free Press, 1983), 5.

[20] Rogers, 5.

[21] Rogers, 11.

[22] For information on WXYC's mission, see The station has a stringent hiring policy, which tends to weed out all but the most committed music fans, most of whom bring an already developed musical eclecticism. Musical eclecticism also correlates to people with subcultural political and social tendencies.

[23] Rogers, 18.

[24] WXYC staff during this period included members of the bands Polvo, Spatula, Joby's Opinion, Minerva Strain, June, Squirrel Nut Zippers and many others.  See

[25] Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, "Friendship as Social Process: A Substantive and Methodological Analysis." In Freedom and Control in Modern Society, ed. Morroe Berger, Theodore Abel, and Charles H. Page, 18-66. (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1954), 25. An important corollary to this idea is found on page 33: "As processes of mutual or unilateral accommodation of originally conflicting values run their course, these cases also contribute to the pattern of value-homophily rather than to that to heterophily...Not only does intimate social interaction precipitate a deposit of new common values, but it also converts originally disparate values into common values."

[26] Lazarsfeld and Merton,  23. The concepts of homophily and heterophily were originally proposed by Lazarsfeld and Merton, but Rogers clarified the definitions a great deal.  See Rogers, 19.

[27] Rogers, 249. "The early adopter is respected by his or her peers, and is the embodiment of successful and discrete use of new ideas. And the early adopter knows that to continue to earn this esteem of colleagues and to maintain a central position in the communication structure of the system, he or she must make judicious innovation decisions."

[28] "Only alphabetic cultures have ever mastered connected lineal sequences as pervasive forms of psychic and social organization. The breaking up of every kind of experience into uniform units in order to produce faster action and change of form (applied knowledge) has been the secret of Western power over man and nature alike." Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, (New York: Signet, 1964), 88. See also Floyd Merrell, Peirce's Semiotics Now: A Primer,  (Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, Inc., 1995), 183. "If the universe is a book to be deciphered, then presumably it must be written in symbols. Once written, it is timelessly there, to be experienced and known along converging and diverging time lines." However, both the interpreters of Peirce, and presumably McLuhan himself, would agree with this passage from Merrell, 182: "This timeless classical image of temporality/timeless[n]ess has been shattered in our century. Rather than a timeless backdrop against which time and change play out their drama, it is becoming increasingly evident that the universe is most adequately qualified in terms of irreversible processes, of signs incessantly becoming other signs."

[29] Frank Parker, Linguistics for Non-Linguists, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1986), 21.

[30] Randy Bullock, Signal To Noise Newsletter, (March 1997), 12.

[31] Like Kleenex, Polaroid, Coke and other universally identifiable brand names, the term "listserv", while a brand name itself for a particular type of software, has come to be recognized as the descriptor for a type of electronic mailing list in which all subscribers received copies of each piece of electronic mail sent to the entire group. However, as it is a brand name, I will capitalize it.  "The listserv freeware program developed by Eric Thomas for IBM VM- and CMS- operating systems is by far the most popular program for distributing information to large numbers of people over the Internet...[however,] since version 1.8, listserv is available only as a commercial product..." Gary Wiggins, "CHMINF-L: The Chemical Information Sources Discussion List," Journal of the American Society for Information Science 46 (1995), 616.   For more information on the Listserv product itself, see

[32] Wiggins, 616. "Occasionally, a subscriber has asked that a gateway be provided between CHMINF-L and the Usenet newsgroups that are read by many. To date, these requests have been resisted, partly out of concern that opening the list to a more general audience might so dilute the quality of CHMINF-L as to destroy its utility."

[33] While there may be an archive of earlier CH-Scene listserv messages found somewhere, the search for them is beyond the scope of this paper. The earliest archival material mentioned here are archived messages from the newsgroup. This newsgroup, as mentioned in the text, was a "mirror" of the CH-Scene Listserv, and apparently began operation after the CH-Scene Listserv. Ibiblio maintains the "official" archives of posts to the CH-Scene Listserv, and their archive only begins on the day that the systems administrator turned on the archiving function, making their archive less inclusive than the archive. Newsgroup archives were once maintained by a company called DejaNews, but are now maintained by Google.  The url for the earliest archived message ("test") to can be found at

[34] Shank, 146. Mark Mazullo makes a distinction between sincerity and authenticity based on the definitions provided by Lionel Trilling and chooses authenticity to describe essentially the same types of things as those described by Shank.  See Mark Mazullo,  Authenticity in Rock Music Culture (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1999), 6.

[35] Shank, 147.

[36] "Inarticulateness, not poetry, is the popular songwriter's conventional sign of sincerity." Simon Frith,  Sound Effects, (New York: Pantheon, 1981), 35. The lyrics come from David Sprague,  " Superchunk," (Accessed 22 November 2002).

[37] Shank, 147.

[38] Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia, (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 325. Boym is representing the view of the Russian artist Ilya Kabakov with this quotation, but it resonates as a universal. 

[39] Boym, 354.

[40] Boym, 50. "Linda Hutcheon has suggested that nostalgia bears a 'secret hermeneutic affinity' to irony; both share a double structure, an 'unexpected twin evocation of both affect and agency-or emotion and politics." Boym, 354.

[41] It's curious that a community as open to new technology as the CH-Scene would find the introduction of the compact disc as a threat, but we can consider several hypotheses as to why this is so.  One important consideration is the economic impact of the major record companies' unilateral decision to stop manufacturing vinyl records.  If a consumer was going to continue to purchase recordings by new artists, they were going to have to do it on compact disc.  Thus, the embrace of vinyl technology represented an economic rebellion against the activities of the major record companies on the part of independent artists.  In addition, compact discs were widely perceived to be "cold" and impersonal, a quality that I attribute to their physical plasticity.

[42] William Howland Kenney, Recorded Music in American Life: The Phonograph and Popular Memory, 1890-1945,  (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999), xv.

[43] Grossberg, 115. "But if temporality has replaced spatiality in defining the rock and roll audience, then the music requires widespread dissemination to be shared among the members of its appropriate audience. The musical product must be reproduced as  and object (e.g., a record or concert) if it is to be available to those whom it addresses. The music must voluntarily enter into various systems of economic practices and hence, accept its existence as apparently mass art."

[44] Rogers, 17.

[45] "Each new medium affects the relationship between distance and intimacy that is at the core of nostalgic sentiment. In the early twentieth century, Russian avant-garde poets hailed the radio as a revolutionary medium that would provide a universal understanding and bring the world into everyone's home. It turned out that the radio was used by democratic politicians and dictators alike, who loved to promote their own messages of 'progress," the bright future, as well as of community and traditional charisma. Radio technology brought back oral culture, yet the community of radio storytellers and listeners was decentered, transitory and not at all traditional." Boym, 346-347.

[46] WXYC has touted itself as the first radio station to offer a live internet simulcast of an off-air signal, having begun streaming that way on November 7, 1994. In one instant, the audience for CH-Scene music became international. See "WXYC Simulcast",  (Accessed 24 November 2002).

[47] Rogers, 273.

[48] ©1992 Sonik Tooth,  BMI. The original album does not include song lyrics.  These were found at (Accessed 2 November 2002).

[49] Jon Elliston, "Bob Sheldon's Legacy", The Independent Online, 21 February 2001, (Accessed 10 November 2002). It is possible that the band became aware of Sheldon's death through a Village Voice article on the murder.

[50] The "pit" that the band is referring to is the swirling mass of bodies in the front of the stage that often formed at hardcore rock shows.  However, considering Helms' widely publicized disparaging comments  related to Chapel Hill, the "pit" in question could also be interpreted as the central community "pit" at the University of North Carolina.

[51] ©1990 The Songs All Sound the Same Music,  BMI. (Accessed 11 November 2002). There is no official site for the lyrics, but these are presumed accurate.

[52] Geoffrey T. Holtz, Welcome to the Jungle: The Why Behind "Generation X," (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1995), 193-194.

[53] "Late one night, when all the shows had ended and the after-parties were in full swing, a reporter from Spin magazine was holding court, dissecting our local culture, trying to find its essence. 'What is the Chapel Hill sound?' he implored partygoers. 'Pffft!' Someone opened a beer can right in his face. 'That is the Chapel Hill sound,' came the response." Gavin O'Hara, "Running With the Devil," The Independent Online, 10 May 2000, (Accessed 28 Oct. 2002).  This possibly apocryphal anecdote originally appeared in Spin Magazine and has been widely quoted since.

[54] Burt, Stephen, "High Windows and Four-Letter Words: A Note on Philip Larkin," Boston Review 21, No. 5 (November 1996), (Accessed 28 October 2002).

[55] Rolf Meyersohn and Elihu Katz, "Notes on a Natural History of Fads," American Journal of Sociology 62 (May 1957); 594-601. Quoted in Diana Crane, "Diffusion Models and Fashion: A Reassessment." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 566 (November 1999), 15.

[56] Rolf Meyersohn and Elihu Katz, "Notes on a Natural History of Fads," American Journal of Sociology 62 (May 1957), 600-601.

[57] Grossberg, 114.

[58] David Menconi,  "Stealing the Scene," News and Observer,  Sunday April 27, 1997. (Accessed 28 October 2002).

[59] Grossberg, 115.

[60] Scott Thill, " Interview with ex-Squirrel Nut Zipper Tom Maxwell," (Accessed 25 November 2002).



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