Tracy McMullen

Tracy McMullen is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Humanities at USC. Her manuscript-in-progress, Replay: Repetition and Identity Compulsion from ABBA to Zizek examines live musical re-enactment as a cultural practice. She is also a saxophonist in the jazz and experimental music traditions and can be heard on the Cadence jazz label, among others.



"In the Beginning, You Are There: Cloning Genesis and the Return of the Urbane"

Since 1993, the Genesis “clone” band, The Musical Box, has been re-vivifying classic Genesis concerts from the 1970s “Peter Gabriel era” for enthusiastic audiences in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Generally considered the “most authentic” of tribute bands because of their devotion to detail (including use of the original instruments, video slides, costumes, and props), The Musical Box takes its accuracy several steps further by re-performing Gabriel’s exact introductions and banter as well as his every movement (as gleaned from bootleg videos), including times he went off mic to check on equipment. I contextualize this desire for a literal return to Genesis within the contemporary discourse around progressive rock in the UK in the 1970s. This was the era when British rock journalists often aligned progressive rock with a particular English sensibility and nationalism that could fight off the “Afro-American invasion” of rock and soul music flooding the UK. Embedded in these characterizations are contestations over meanings of “the city.” Urbane, a variation of the word urban that appeared in 16th century Britain, initially attributed a type of upper-class, educated, white sophistication to city living. By the 1970s, of course, urbane had long ago been overtaken by contemporary understandings of the urban.<

My paper examines these contestations and links them to the desire to recreate Genesis with the utmost precision in the 21st century. How does this nostalgia for the musical urbane function in the 21st century? And what is the relationship between this strict re-enactment as a memory practice and that of an African-American-based signifying and versioning tradition that has generally characterized popular music's approach to memory since the 20th century?