Underground testing: Name-altering practices as probes in electronic music

Giovanni Formilan, David Stark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Name-altering practices are common in many creative fields – pen names in literature, stage names in the performing arts, aliases in music. More than just reflecting artistic habits or responding to the need for distinctive brands, these practices can also serve as test devices to probe, validate, and guide the artists’ active participation in a cultural movement. At the same time, they constitute a powerful probe to negotiate the boundaries of a subculture, especially when its features are threatened by appropriation from the mass-oriented culture. Drawing evidence from electronic music, a field where name-altering practices proliferate, we outline dynamics of pseudonymity, polyonymy, and anonymity that surround the use of aliases. We argue that name-altering practices are both a tool artists use to probe the creative environment and a device to recursively put one’s creative participation to the test. In the context of creative subcultures, name-altering practices constitute a subtle but effective form of underground testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-589
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Early online date21 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • alias
  • anonymity
  • creative identity
  • electronic music
  • pseudonymity
  • subculture
  • testing


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