Federico Boni

«I sing the body electric»: The cultures of the electric guitar

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The article is a brief account of the social and cultural significance of the electric guitar. It addresses the technological (electromagnetic) development of the instrument, and it takes up some contextual issues central to understanding the electric guitar’s development as an icon in contemporary culture. Focusing on the body-instrument nexus (the «body electric»), the essay tries to understand how the main approaches to the instrument’s audio quality (based on the loudness and the potential roughness of the sound) entail different ideas about the place of the body in musical performance, the ways in which music articulates racialized, sexualized, and gendered identities, and the position of electrified music in contemporary social and political life. At the end of the article the argument is made that, despite narratives of rebellion and freedom, the electric guitar promotes traditional gender roles


  • Electric guitar
  • guitar heroes
  • electricity
  • body
  • performance


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