Moby, Minstrelsy and Melville

Book chapter


Osborne, R. 2018. Moby, Minstrelsy and Melville. in: Beaven, Z., O'Dair, M. and Osborne, R. (ed.) Mute Records: Artists, business, history New York and London Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 169-182
Chapter titleMoby, Minstrelsy and Melville
AuthorsOsborne, R.
Abstract

In 1999 Mute Records released Play by Moby. Daniel Miller has admitted that the label was not in ‘great shape’ at this point and nor was Moby’s career. The performer had had chart success in the UK with his 1991 single ‘Go’, which was released by the Mute sub-label Rhythm King. His left-turn turn from electronica to hardcore punk with Animal Rights (1996) was poorly received, however, confusing fans and record company alike. Play was therefore an unexpected triumph. By 2016, it had sold more than 12 million copies, making it the world’s highest-selling electronica album. For Miller, this turnaround was ‘like the cavalry coming over the hill’, safeguarding Mute for the twenty-first century. This chapter explores the phenomenon of Play but in a tangential manner. It traces three overlapping stories. It explores ‘Blackface’ minstrelsy, the most popular form of entertainment in the US from the mid-1840s until the end of the nineteenth century. It addresses the work of the author Herman Melville, whose quest was ‘the absolute amidst its relative manifestations [...] the delicate and shifting relationship between its truth and its illusion’. And it examines Moby and the music he recorded and sampled for Play. This album, through its use of sampling, bears hallmarks of minstrelsy. It also raises questions about truth and illusion.

Research GroupMusic group
LanguageEnglish
Page range169-182
Book titleMute Records: Artists, business, history
EditorsBeaven, Z., O'Dair, M. and Osborne, R.
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Place of publicationNew York and London
ISBN
Hardcover9781501340604
Paperback9781501365478
Electronic9781501340635
Electronic9781501340611
Electronic9781501340628
Publication dates
Print27 Dec 2018
Online20 Mar 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited25 Jan 2019
Output statusPublished
Copyright Statement

The full text is a non-final version of the chapter and is not to be cited. The final print version published by Bloomsbury Academic is available via https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/mute-records-9781501340604/

Additional information

Hardback: Published 27-12-2018
Paperback: Published 25-06-2020

Web address (URL)https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/mute-records-artists-business-history/ch12-moby-minstrelsy-and-melville
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501340635.0018
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