Erik Broess


Sixth Year Graduate Student in Musicology

103, Music Building

I am a guitarist and musicologist specializing in music technology and material culture since the turn of the twentieth century. I’m especially interested in Rock, Pop, and Jazz, and the ways various technologies structure our experiences of these musics. My research is broadly interdisciplinary, drawing particularly from Media Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Sound Studies and Cultural Studies. 

My dissertation focuses on electric guitar gear and the cultural politics of tone. My research follows the ways that guitarists produce knowledge about tone through their interactions with the various technologies at their disposal. Through a combination of ethnographic and media archaeological methods, I consider guitarists’ gear-centered epistemologies indispensable to understanding the development of popular music since the 1950s. Previously, I conducted research on posthumous duets and music and sound in the séances of 19th century Spiritualists. I have presented this work on what I call “necrotechnologies” at various venues, including Yale University and the Museum of Pop Culture. 

Teaching is an integral part of my academic practice. I strive to create a safe and empowering space for my students to understand themselves as musical beings in the world and to reflect on the musical knowledge they are already bringing to the classroom. At Penn, I have taught both “Jazz History,” and “1000 Years of Listening.” As an undergraduate at Tufts University, I developed and taught a course on Music and Authorship, for which I was awarded the university’s competitive “Marshall Hochhauser Prize” for “working within the system to broaden and enrich the intellectual climate at Tufts.” 

Beyond my academic work, I remain active as a composer and musician, recently serving as the Music Director for Penn’s 2018 production of Heathers: The Musical. I have also served as a music consultant for several television series, including Nickelodeon’s “Blue’s Clues & You.”