Music ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2019


The Tiny Desk concert series features live video-recorded performances of artists at the desk of NPR Music’s Bob Boilen, the series’ main host. This thesis interrogates NPR Music’s values and the ways artists both manifest and queer those ideals in performance. I argue, in light of the 2016 election, performers challenge NPR Music’s taste system through two modes of subversion. The first mode considers vocalities of outrage specifically in the performances of Saul Williams and the Drive-By Truckers. These performers shift their social positions in expressions of outrage through vocality—as the embodied materiality of the voice and its constructed meanings (Freya Jarman-Ivens, 2011). The second mode considers acts of gaiety (Sara Warner, 2012), which sustain struggles for social change. These musical acts are shown in the performances of Common and Troker, who use moments of unexpected release to further engage their audience.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Music

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ana R. Alonso-Minutti

Second Committee Member

Kristina Jacobsen

Third Committee Member

David Bashwiner




NPR Music, Tiny Desk, alternative, taste, NPR, vocality

Document Type


Included in

Music Commons