Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)


Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Joanna Zangrando

Second Advisor

Philip Hardy


Contrary to traditional reckoning, Rock and Roll between Elvis Presley and Punk Rock was not a revolutionary genre. It has for years been accorded mythical status, but as my thesis attempts to illustrate, such an aggrandizement of its place in history overlooks and overshadows the complex operational dynamic by which it empowered and was empowered by its audiences. My goal is to relocate Rock from its lofty place as a harbinger of cultural of social and cultural change and place it in the more modest position of that of a historically locatable event within American popular music industry.

Insofar as a disruption of traditional modes of listening to music had occurred at least since the advent of recorded music in the late I 800's, rock's status as a "revolutionary" phenomenon is called into question. My grounds for this assertion are implicit in the course of rock music history as fans, critics, and performers of Rock and Roll sought relentlessly to elevate the status of their popular idiom to the status of art. While rock music may have derived from a particular musical heritage, one of its key characteristics was that it could not continue to carry full weight and import of this heritage to new young consumers. Ultimately, rock and roll referred far more to an ideology or means of empowerment than simply to a style of music. The elements which comprised rock and roll were simultaneously musical, social, economic and political. Therefore, rock needs to be viewed from a time specific point of reference, and with respect to the ever-increasing rate of technological, and social change. The re-valuation of art which characterized rock culture was more of an extension of prior practice than the beginning of a revolution. As Rock criticism and analysis itself often prided itself in its dis-inheritance of what was acceptable in the past, it was only natural to think of it as a new "kind" of art form, when in fact it was merely a site of conflict in the continuing dialogue in the struggle for the popular against art.