Vinyl: Materiality and paratexts

Ryan Alexander Diduck for Fact magazine in The broken record: vinyl, matter, memory and meaning

In the late 1980s, cultural theorist Gérard Genette dedicated a book-length study to the significance of what he termed ‘paratexts’ to literature: things like book titles, dust jacket design, epigraphs, prefaces: all the items that accompany the text, but aren’t the text themselves. To Genette, these fringe elements contain powerful cues about how the text is to be read. He claims that paratexts occupy “a privileged place of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an influence on the public, an influence that–whether well or poorly understood and achieved–is at the service of a better reception for the text and a more pertinent reading of it.” Album art, record sleeves, inserts, stickers, especially liner notes, and even the weight and colour of the pressing – all the other complementary ephemera that go along with records are music’s paratexts.

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