Throughout the semester, this blog will continue the graduate-student, profiling tradition. In addition to creating a public of ideas, it is our hope that these features will provide insight into the depth and versatility of Trent’s Public Texts program. For those looking in from the outside world, a public needs strangers – welcome aboard! Now that we’re all paying attention (and according to Michael Warner, even sleeping through this post counts), it’s on to today’s piece – Alex Headley – better known to myself as me!
Before you accuse me of narcissism, it’s important to clarify – my deadline was tight and I was the only interviewee available. There’s a fine line between laziness and pragmatism and we don’t need to find it: certainly not here! So now that you’re assured and I’m assured, we can reboot this whole process. I’m stepping inside the Public Texts Studio; it all begins now.
My name is Alex Headley and I’m a first-year, thesis student , mainly interested in the digitization of music. Specifically, my focus is on how music artists are forging distinct online identities to combat the problem of internet anonymity. My ideas were inspired by artists like Radiohead, Trent Reznor and Beck, who, in recent years, have all used Web 2.0’s interactive platform to invite fans into the actualization of recordings. By making audiences participants, I feel these artists have strengthened their fan-base; their listeners now have a deeper investment in the commodity being produced.
I wasn’t always heavily into music. It’s hard to be passionate when life begins in your father’s minivan, listening to Chris de Burgh mixtapes. But mixtapes don’t last forever, and on a 1991 drive to Cleveland, my father – finally tired of “Patricia the Stripper” – did the unthinkable, and turned on the radio. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blasted through the speakers like a welcome punch in the face. The sound was angry… dangerous… urgent… apathetic… alien… immediate… foreign… all around me. I didn’t understand a word, but I felt every second of it! It was the pleasure of being pissed off… it was exhilarating!
The moment began a love of undercuts, plaid, cardigans and convenience-store loitering that, sadly, lasted years. It seems silly now, but back then, Kurt Cobain was the start of a life that didn’t belong to my parents, a life that was different from their understanding of success and failure, a life that, somehow, was just mine.
Eventually, my haircut grew out, but my love for music remained: Sinatra, Plaskett, The Beatles, Adele, Dylan, Pearl Jam, The Beach Boys, Weezer, Buckley, Marley, Waits, Alanis, Stones, Hip, Sexsmith, Young, Rheostatics, Cooke, Domino, Charles, Elvis, Janis, Hendrix, Vampire Weekend… the list goes on and on.
Since that fateful Ohio car-ride, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience music as a performer, songwriter, recording artist, promoter, listener, and reviewer, but most importantly, as a fan. Through Trent’s Public Texts MA program, I am adding to my many hats by examining music through an academic lens. So far, the experience has been just the right touch of trying and rewarding. The hat is a comfortable fit.