WNUR Underground Archive Project

beyond quality

Moving beyond the attempted quality descriptions of music directors, we arrive at the less used, and more objectively informative terms of the Voyant-produced list. In this observation, I would like to take specific terms on an individual basis to project meaning on the entire collection and answer questions like "what were possible prerequisites for addition to the WNUR stacks?" and "how does this word shed light on the musical preferences of WNUR?"

popI'd like to think a majority of music directors would be disappointed to see this term rank above 'rock' on the list. If WNUR is anything it's definitely not 'pop' radio. A quick glance through the collection would assure you of this, as would knowledge of the Rock Show and WNUR's commitment to underrepresented music (for more on this check out the "Early Days" exhibit below). Further, I would argue that if WNUR was a popular radio station, all the records would be pop and thus any sort of classification of this sort would be unnecessary. Because the bulk of WNUR's collection is Indie and Experimental Rock music, the pop classifier is more a justification for outlier than anything else. In other words, the high frequency of 'pop' within the music director notes does not correlate to a high frequency of pop records, more proof of this comes from the frequency of subgenres tags - 48 out of 1073. Given that 'pop rock' makes up roughly 4% of the records archived thus far, and that 31 of those 48 pop records, or 64%, likely have pop written on their covers, we can confidently say pop records are the oddities of the WNUR collection and necessitate reasoning from music directors.


exEx was used a total of 14 times throughout the music director notes. As in the example I've provided by Barry Adamson to the right, 'ex' is a prefix used by music directors to signify historical affiliations of artists. While this might seem obvious, the relatively high frequency of these historical references within the notes shines light into the value and quality judgements of a music director. With the use of 'ex' the music director uses historical knowledge as justification of quality and reasoning for admission into the stacks. This history of affilitation is one typical of most canonical system, where those who have made their way into the established underground canon, in the case of Barry Adamson: by way of his affiliations with the Bad Seeds and Magazine, essentially carry a membership pass for further admission and attention. It's more difficult to say how or why exactly an artist enters the canon, many first records by bands we consider 'the canon' of underground indie rock in the WNUR stacks do not have any notes from the muisc director, but we can observe the historical affiliations that hold artists within the canon following their intitial entrance through terms like 'ex-'.

In the next section I will take a deeper look at these so called memberships and the ways affiliation and association played a pivitol role in forming the WNUR Rock archive.