Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. David J. Hartmann

Second Advisor

Dr. Douglas Davidson

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan Morris


Blues musicians, Blues history and criticism, music and technology, Blues music, digital sociology, music and technology-social aspects


This dissertation explores the impact the rapid evolution and implementation of technology has had on blues musicians and the music they created and shared with their audiences over the past sixty years. The past 150 years have seen the conversion of nearly all musical participation as live, unmediated and with close proximity of performer to audience, to an experience that is increasingly recorded, digitally mediated and often listened to in isolation from others.

While a great deal of live music is still performed around the world on a daily basis, the impact of the largescale cultural shift move to what might be seen as its polar opposite, the phenomenon of the ubiquitous solo “consumer” listening to recorded music through headphones, surprisingly remains largely unexamined. What potential social consequences occur with this shift from communal to private listening? What other interactive and more participatory possibilities might technology make available? This raises questions of the purpose of live performance, its social impact, and by extension the purpose of art. If live music continues to be increasingly replaced by recorded music, how many musicians are really needed? What will the future demand for live music generally? And will there be a resultant shift from performing artist to musical technicians?

While much of the history is known, though at risk of being forgotten with further distance in time, the role of technology has not been fully examined in blues music from the standpoint of the blues musician. This study attempts to give voice to the remaining living blues artists who lived through this time of great transition and hear from them directly about their experiences with the introduction of technology into the world of blues music and the effects on them, their artistry, and their social relationships.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access