Steel Guitars in Seattle: (Re)Centering Hawaiian Technology and Indigenous Musical Practice in the Birth of the Modern Music Industry
Few instrument innovations changed the sound of popular music as profoundly as that of the Hawaiian steel guitar. However, most of us are not aware of the instrument’s role in shaping the soundtrack of modernity, let alone the instrument's indigenous origins. In this talk, John Troutman will draw from his forthcoming book on the history of the Hawaiian steel guitar in order to contemplate the instrument’s emergence in the Islands, its rise to fame along the theatre circuits of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s, and the forces that conspired to mute the indigeneity of modern American music.
About the Speaker
John Troutman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Texas at Austin and his master’s degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. He has received multiple fellowships and grants from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His research agenda focuses on the historical significance of music in American life, particularly in the lives of indigenous peoples. His first book, Indian Blues: American Indians and the Politics of Music, 1879-1934, was favorably reviewed in journals that span the disciplines of American Studies, History, Musicology, Anthropology, Folklore, and American Indian Studies; among other accolades it won the Western History Association’s biennial W. Turrentine Jackson Award for a "first book on any aspect of the American West." The University of North Carolina Press will publish his second monograph, Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music, in May. The book chronicles the history of the Hawaiian steel guitar, from the cultural and political context that produced it in the Islands in the 1880s, to its role in shaping the sounds of modern music in North America and throughout the world.
Co-sponsored by the Comparative History of Ideas Program, American Indian Studies, and: