Live to Tell: Remediating Historical Performance in the Popular Music Biopic



popular music biopic, popular music performance, remediation, authenticity and authentication, mediatization, performance in film


This article explores some of the procedures through which popular music biopics remediate, reactivate, authenticate and in some cases newly create the aura of key performances in the history of popular music. Biopics are not intended as mere story-tellers but as sensory remediators of musical performance. Historical musical events are “re-performed” for a new composite audience, part of which is familiar with the music, and part experiencing it for the first time. For the performative potential of a past musical event to be reactivated, its affordance is updated using current production values. In order to accomplish this, biopics deploy an array of constructive devices. Though the focus is on the contemporary renaissance of the biopic genre, with two recent cases analysed in detail—Walk the Line (2005) and Get On Up (2014)—the starting point for this survey is a less recent example, The Buddy Holly Story (1978). 10.5429/2079-3871(2017)v7i1.4en

Author Biography

Maurizio Corbella

Maurizio Corbella obtained a Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of Milan, Italy (2010), where he worked as postdoctoral research fellow from 2011 to 2015. In 2016 he taught as adjunct lecturer at the Universities of Kiel, Milan and Vienna. In 2015 he carried out a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study performance in musical biopics at Kiel University. He has published articles on film music and popular music in international journals and collections.



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