The Beatles and McLuhan: Understanding the Electric Age

The Beatles and McLuhan: Understanding the Electric Age

by Thomas MacFarlane


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In the 1960s, The Beatles would address like no other musical act a radical shift in the cultural mindset of the late twentieth century. Through tools of "electric technology," this shift encompassed the decline of visual modes of perception and the emergence of a "way-of-knowing" based increasingly on sound. In this respect, the musical works of The Beatles would come to resonate with and ultimately reflect Marshall McLuhan's ideas on the transition into a culture of "all-at-once-ness": a simultaneous world in which immersion in vibrant global community increasingly trumps the fixed viewpoint of the individual. By engaging with recording technologies in a way that no popular act had before, The Beatles opened up for exploration the acoustical space precipitated by this shift. In The Beatles and McLuhan: Understanding the Electric Age, scholar and musician Thomas MacFarlane examines how the incorporation of electric technology in The Beatles' art would enhance their musical impact. MacFarlane surveys the relationship between McLuhan's ideas on the nature and effects of electric technology and The Beatles own engagement of that technology; offers analyses of key works from The Beatles' studio years, with particular attention paid to the presence of cultural metaphors embedded in the medium of multi-track recording; and collates these data to offer stunning conclusions about The Beatles' creative process in the recording studio and its cultural implications. This work also features the first published transcriptions ever of the complete filmed conversation between John Lennon and Marshall McLuhan on their respective ideas, as well as an interview between MacFarlane and McLuhan's son and executor, Michael McLuhan, on his father's and the Beatles' legacy. The Beatles and McLuhan will interest scholars and students of music and music history, recording technology, media studies, communications, and popular culture.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810884328
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/26/2012
Pages: 194
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas MacFarlane teaches courses in Music Theory and Composition at New York University while also working as a composer and a writer. He is author of The Beatles' Abbey Road Medley: Extended Forms in Popular Music (Scarecrow Press).

Table of Contents

List of Figures vii

Acknowledgments ix

Preface: Every Sound There Is xi

Part I Living in Acoustic Space 1

Chapter 1 Notes from the Electric Age 3

Chapter 2 Who Is McLuhan? 13

Chapter 3 Mapping Acoustical Space 27

Part II I'd Love to Turn You On 39

Chapter 4 The Simultaneous Worlds of Sgt. Pepper 41

Chapter 5 Mystery Tours in the Global Village 59

Chapter 6 Revolution: Splitting the Definitive 77

Part III We Are All Together 99

Chapter 7 The Poetry of Sound 101

Afterword: Cliché as Probe 113

Appendix A Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono (December 20, 1969) 117

Appendix B John Lennon and Yoko Ono Meet Marshall McLuhan (December 20, 1969) 123

Appendix C Interview with Michael McLuhan, MPA (March 23, 2012) 143

Bibliography 159

Index 165

About the Author 169

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