[This past year, I had the delight to supervise two Vassar College senior theses that, through no effort of mine, were inspiring and insightful examples of research in musical urbanism. With these students’ permission, I’m going to share their theses on this blog. The first comes from Sociology major Julia Simcoe (‘16), whose work reflects a transformational semester spent at Appalachian State University, where she fell under the spell of “old time music.” Her thesis draws on historical research and her own fieldwork experience studying banjo (!) and attending folk festivals in Boone, North Carolina and Brooklyn New York. -LN]
From Mountain Hollows to Brooklyn Theaters:
The Commodification of Appalachian Music
A thesis submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
As a historically isolated, mountainous region that is characterized by a different historical development from the lowlands, Appalachia produced folk music that was founded and shaped by the values of its disparate, pre-capitalist, Gemeinschaft communities. This ‘old time’ music was inherently participatory and representative of the lived experiences of the mountain folk. As outsiders began to discover the music, it was fetishized and repurposed by many forces that were motivated by ideology such as white supremacy and/or the profit motive. Developments in music technology hastened its repurposing. This thesis will trace the processes such as decontextualization and commercialization in order to show that old time music has been commodified. Additionally, this thesis will explore the limits of folk music in modern, urban contexts by presenting content analysis of the historical processes that have commodified old time music as well as original fieldwork conducted at two contemporary loci of old time music. By emphasizing the importance of authenticity in folk music productions, but also taking into account the powerful resonance of Appalachian music in urban, leftist, intellectual circles, this thesis will conclude that the power of folk music is greatest when it is born directly out of lived, uncommodified experiences.
INTRODUCTION TO APPALACHIA
I have trained as a classical violinist since the fourth grade. Throughout a decade of private music lessons, I have practiced alone for hundreds of hours trying to cultivate the clearest tone, the most precise left hand movements, and the mathematics of counting obscure rhythmic patterns in various time signatures.
I have played in a handful of orchestras, auditioning for each of them to find out if I belong in the first or second violin section. At rehearsal, I read the sheet music and follow the conductor as closely as possible.
Currently, I sit in the middle of the second violin section in the Vassar College Orchestra. The concerts are filled with the beauty, grace, and intensity of a ballet.
In the 1970’s, the British anarcho-punk band the Sex Pistols visited the Tennessee highlands to meet a local string band named the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. This mountain ensemble, which is still active in 2016, consists of a guitar, fiddle, banjo, and a washtub-bass. Janice Birchfield, the washtub-bass player, remembered, “We had a pig roast and a dance. They loved it. They wanted us to teach them how to dress like mountain people, with coonskin caps and so on” (quoted in Barber 2004).
“The anarchist spirit which had surfaced in the culture of white hillbillies was as much a threat to the imperialist white supremacist capitalist state as any notion of racial equality and racial integration.”
– bell hooks, Belonging: a Culture of Place (2009).
“My views on the contemporary ‘old-time scene’ are somewhat jaded. In fact, I hate it…As a southerner with genuine traditional music in my blood, I sometimes resent the star system of carpetbagger musicians who have co-opted traditional music and becomes its arbiters…I see the old-time scene as a somewhat artificial subset of the grander ‘folk and traditional culture,’ which includes arts and crafts, language, beliefs, foodways, and so on. The festival scene has its myopia and even a meanness which is out of keeping with the generous spirit of the real old timers who seldom expected to be known outside their hometowns.”
– Stan Gilliam (quoted in Wishnevsky 2007: 39).
What is ‘Appalachia,’ if there is indeed such an entity at all? To what extent should theorists and historians regard Appalachia as a region that is distinct from the greater American South? Every serious book or article that attempts to make a claim about ‘Appalachia’ grapples with this issue. One approach to answer this question is to look at a political map of the Appalachian region, which is provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
If one were to superimpose a map of the Appalachian Mountains onto this political map, one would notice that the maps are incongruent; geographically, the Appalachians stretch into Canada, much further than the ARC’s northern limit of New York State’s Southern Tier. Furthermore, there are no mountains in Mississippi to speak of, so the task of applying the notion of an Appalachian heritage or identity into this flat, Dixie region remains a challenge for the Appalachian Studies theorist. For the ARC, Appalachia is differentiated from its surrounding areas by its ruralness and by its poverty. In a section on its website entitled “The Appalachian Region,” the Commission writes: “ 42% of the Region’s population is rural, compared with 20% of the national population” and “the number of counties…with poverty rates more than 1.5 times the U.S. average declined from 295 in 1960 to 90 over the 2009-2013 period” out of a total 420 counties. While some Appalachian Studies theorists reject the ARC’s definition of Appalachia because of its rampant arbitrariness (i.e., the inclusion of two islanded counties in south-central Tennessee), most scholars recognize the role that poverty and ruralness have played in shaping the region’s economic and cultural history, which supports a generalized validity of the ARC’s geopolitical definition.
Yet the notion of Appalachian poverty presupposes the perspective of a modern sensibility. Early Appalachians were self-sufficient and learned to farm, hunt, and otherwise subsist off the land. When modern conveniences crept into their lifestyles both by personal choice and by coercion from capitalists, communities became less self-sufficient and thereby ‘impoverished’ by modern standards. Thus the label of Appalachia as ‘impoverished’ can in one sense be considered to be a result of politi-cultural imperialism, and it coexists alongside dozens of other examples in which outsiders have commodified and exploited Appalachia’s physical and cultural resources. Also, we must recognize that though poverty is rampant in Appalachia, there are many exceptions. As we continue to search for characteristics that unify Appalachia, we must remember that no state, city, or neighborhood can ever be said to monolithically contain the same characteristics. We must overcome a belief in Appalachian exceptionalism, which is the reduction of Appalachia to a set of myths, such as its imagined universal ruralness, whiteness, pre-modernity, and high poverty rates (Whittemore 2016). In continuing our study of Appalachia, we must continue to keep in mind the diversity present within Appalachia’s landscapes, regional histories with exploitation, folkways, and musical traditions. For the purposes of this thesis, ‘Appalachia’ remains an approximate, fluid term that refers to a nebulously defined region located within the definition provided by the ARC.
Another prominent idea that supports the notion that there is an ‘Appalachia’ is the belief that Appalachia has been an internal colony to extra-Appalachian regions, especially by corporate elites from urban areas in the Northeast as well as industrious pockets of the southern United States. These theorists argue that the lumber and coal industries have led to environmental and class-based exploitation that minimally benefits Appalachians. For centuries, and into the present, much of Appalachia has been owned by wealthy absentee owners and by corporate interests that intend to use the land for resource or mineral extraction (McRae 1984: 301). These forms of land ownership by outsiders serve to privatize mountain land and resources in such a way that encroaches on traditional Appalachian notions of land ownership. Proponents of the internal colony theory posit that “a central theme in the cultural politics and literature of present-day Appalachia is the resolution of the internalized colonial struggle between a dominant mainstream and a subordinated periphery” (Banks, Alan, Billings, and Tice 1993, as quoted in Blaustein 1995: 152). It is plausible that an ‘Appalachian consciousness,’ or identity, has sprouted out of opposition to the culture of the lowlands due to difference in settlement patterns as well as a history of resource exploitation and class struggle against outside exploiters.
Additionally, many rural Appalachian communities have traditionally been characterized as Gemeinschaft for several reasons. In many Appalachian communities,
Individuals identify more with the larger association than with their own self-interest. Strong personal relationships and [kin] provide the basis for social structure, and bureaucratic institutions are minimal. As a result of the strong collective loyalty, there is little need to enforce social control. (Keefe 2009: 21)
In Gemeinschaft communities, primary groups, which are non-commercial, non-institutionalized relationships, form the basis for social formation. These Appalachian communities differ from Gesellschaft communities, which are characterized by a looser social cohesion that is based on secondary groups, which are relationships via business, commerce, and bureaucracy (p.21). Likewise, in Gesellschaft communities, there is an increased emphasis on the self-interest of individual community members (p.21). Tonnies (1887) theorized that over time, communities would transform from a Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft formation, especially when the community fully enters into a market economy. It is critical to keep in mind that most Appalachian music was created within a Gemeinschaft community formation.
TOWARDS AN APPALACHIAN CULTURE
Although European immigrants were by no means the first inhabitants of Appalachia, I begin with them because they and their ancestors are the originators of Appalachian music within the U.S. It makes sense that a region as rugged and generally isolated as the Appalachian mountains was culturally fragmented from the urban, increasingly Gesellschaft populations in the lowlands. In the colonial era, few immigrants settled in Appalachia by accident. Although the rugged mountain land was cheap, the reasons to settle in the lowlands were manifold: “[The Appalachian Mountains] were populated by native Americans justifiably hostile to white settlement. Political intrigues before unification of the states made land rights uncertain” (McClatchy 2000: online). Due to these and other barriers to settling in the mountains, it is likely that the sharply sloped Appalachians drew a subset of immigrants that may have been different from those that chose to live in more urban or less hilly regions. Furthermore, early Appalachian settlers were overwhelmingly Scots-Irish immigrants who faced religious persecution and poor living condition in Europe. They became the majority ethnicity throughout the region and formed the dominant culture (Webb 2004).
Loyal Jones (1994) explains that the earliest European migrants to Appalachia took to the mountains for freedom: “freedom from religious, political, and economic restraints, and freedom to do much as they pleased” (p.29), despite the serious hurdles to Appalachian immigration previously listed. In moving to the mountains, Appalachian settlers left behind more regulated and uniform religious formations of cities. Appalachians, Jones notes, also left behind formal schooling, though many remained literate, as evidenced by their letters and signing of public documents (p.18). The rural sprawl of Appalachian populations also led to a splintering of Christian religious sects and the improvisation of traditional Christian practices, hence the constellation of Christian faiths in the rural mountain as well as lowland South. Therefore, as European migrants moved into Appalachia and formed rural communities in the pre-industrial era, local cultures developed their own religious and educational practices, removed from the more modern and modern religious formations in cities.
Jones argues that there are several characteristics that are inherent to Appalachians. Self-reliance is one characteristic that might be considered antithetical to the hyper-consumerist logic of capitalism. Traditionally, many Appalachians have fashioned their own clothing from cotton grown at home, built chairs from wood chopped from a nearby tree, repaired automobiles themselves, and built and played banjos, fiddles, and dulcimers. Jones writes, “We get satisfaction from that, in this age when people hire others to do work they used to do, even to provide entertainment” (p.63). Though in modern Appalachia, self-reliance may not be as prevalent as it once was, self-reliance is nonetheless a traditional Appalachian value that rejects the capitalist necessity of heartily consuming commodified goods and services.
Jones also writes that traditional Appalachians value independence, neighborliness, and hospitality. Independence can be a trait that works well within a capitalist economy, but in this Appalachian context, independence is tempered by close social relations. Neighborliness became integral to traditional Appalachian culture out of the will to survive in the inhospitable conditions on the frontier. Similarly, Jones writes that Appalachians are often highly family-centered, relevantly adding that “supervisors in northern industries have been perplexed when employees from Appalachia have been absent from jobs to attend funerals of distant relatives” (p.75). This quote shows how a facet of Appalachian culture—that of the importance of family—had the potential to directly oppose the regimented logic found in corporate capitalist workplaces.
Jones also writes that the traditional values of humility and modesty reveal a disdain for social hierarchies based on social class: “We mountaineers are levelers, and we believe we are as good as anybody else, but no better” (p.90). If anything, Appalachians historically had a weariness of urban sophistication and perceived snobbery of northern intellectuals. At the heart of traditional Appalachian culture was the lack of endorsement of the meritocracy and social Darwinism endorsed by the popular (urban) imagination in the 19th century.
It should be noted that the Appalachian values of neighborliness, hospitality, and humility have not always been applied to minority groups within the region. Most Appalachian communities have been historically White, Protestant, and hetero- and cis- normative spaces that have not openly accepted individuals that identify outside these social categories. While it is beyond the scope of this thesis to discuss the ways that minority groups have fared within traditional Appalachian communities, it will suffice to say for now that Appalachia has never fully resolved the tension between its anti-elitist, communitarian values and its unaccepting, bigoted tendencies. Throughout the history of Appalachian music, the erasure of black, ‘Affrilachian’ musicians occurred both by native white Appalachians as well as outsiders, and will be discussed further in Chapter 3.
Explicit Rejection of Capitalist Transformations
Apart from the values of Appalachian culture that might be said to implicitly reject capitalist rationalism, much scholarship devotes itself to describing how Appalachian communities have explicitly resisted the changes that capitalism brought to their traditional values and community structures during the 19th and 20th centuries. Billings (1982) lists how the political economy and everyday life of Appalachians were transformed by a corporate capitalist mode of production. He writes that corporate capitalism resulted in:
Transformed class and authority relations of work and in the inequitable distribution of value as individualized or privatized profits and wages, these resulting in a complex pattern of class stratification and fractionalization; an intensified role for the state in legitimating, rationalizing, and augmenting the accumulation process of corporate capitalism; the substitution of market transactions for interpersonal relationships. (p.135)
Corporate capitalism and the shift to Gesellschaft community formations did not naturally fit in within traditional Appalachian culture and political economy; much of the culture had to be forcefully and painfully reworked so as to accommodate stratification, bureaucratization, and rationalization. This transformation did not occur quickly and naturally; Appalachians resisted these changes. Like other authors, Billings posits that there is an inherent resistance in “the institutional grammar of a non-corporate capitalist social formation” (p.137). The innate characteristics of Appalachian culture that reject capitalist notions existed along more explicit rejections of the encroachment of corporate capitalism.
Halperin (1990) discusses how inhabitants of Appalachian Kentucky resisted full immersion into a market economy. ‘The Kentucky Way’ refers to a group of informal economic practices that deflect full immersion into a taxed, regimented work life. One of the practices in the Kentucky Way is avoiding purchasing taxed goods. Bartering is a common practice, as is lending and borrowing among neighbors and families. In another iteration of the Kentucky Way, working men choose subsistence farm labor over factory work because it offers more flexibility, and it provides greater independence, autonomy, and sense of self-worth, despite that it pays less in legal tender. Additionally, “people also reject and/or resist elements of capitalism by avoiding conspicuous consumption and profiteering of any sort” (p.142). Therefore a cultural rejection of materialism and capitalist excess compounds the economic rejections of capitalism of the Kentucky Way.
Similarly, Anglin (1993) discusses the ways that women used traditional cultural practices to maintain a degree of autonomy in a mica-processing factory in western North Carolina. As unskilled laborers, women “legitimated their own authority in the factory by exercising prerogatives underwritten by local custom: leaving work to tend to families, gardens, and household duties or because the weather threatened to be bad; taking unscheduled breaks and/or slowing down work, especially on Friday afternoons…” (p.271). Without making too many generalizations about the ways that Appalachians resisted rationalization in their lifestyles by prioritizing community and family, these examples given by Anglin, along with the Kentucky Way, show that there are concrete examples of how Appalachians did just that.
bell hooks (2009) calls attention to the ways that Appalachia’s traditional, Gemeinschaft default opposes urban life, wherein “the system of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy ” (p.8) wields unchecked power. Even though she was a black woman living in a predominantly white space, she writes that:
living among Kentucky mountain folk was my first experience of a culture based on anarchy… Folks who lived in the hills were committed to living free. Hillbilly folk chose to live above the law, believing in the right of each individual to determine the manner in which they would live their lives. (p.11)
For hooks, Appalachian culture and folkways somehow offered a suitable opposition to the capitalist-cosmopolitan logic that she and others find oppressive.
Relatedly, in the same region in eastern Tennessee that was a bastion for abolition in the Civil War era, Myles Horton founded the Highlander Folk School in 1932, which later became the Highlander Research and Education Center (Horton and Freire 1990). The center was highly involved in organizing leaders for the Civil Rights Movement, including Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and is still operating today with a focus on intersectional social justice.
Si Kahn (2012), a civil rights activist and Appalachian musician, acknowledges more formalized activism against exploitative processes within Appalachia, as well as the importance of cultural resistance. He lists that among those who have shaped Appalachian resistance are “community and union activists, organizers, singers, writers, poets, musicians, teachers, artists, thinkers,” (p.8) thereby hinting at the importance of a resistance that is both formally organized as well as based in everyday culture. Kahn writes, “Pride of place in our cultures, our histories, our folkways, is part of what has given us the strength to organize, to resist, to fight back” (p.12). Because Appalachians have allied themselves to their rural and familial surroundings in the sense that hooks and other authors have described, “Appalachians have organized and acted not just out of political principle, but in defense of a way of life, a family, a farm, a graveyard, a community, a school, a river, a forest, a mountaintop” (p.16). Along with this attachment to place, he writes that Appalachians have a deep mistrust of exploitative authority, such as that found in the coal mines: “In the coal mines, it’s sometimes been hard to convince rank and file miners to become supervisors because that was seen as a betrayal of class as well as of friendship, family, solidarity, and community” (p.23). This observation coincides with the observations by Billings, Jones, Halperin, and Anglin, that Appalachian culture often mistrusts capitalist authority and that they value community solidarity above the profit motive.
The Hillbilly: The Outsider’s Quintessential Caricature of Appalachian Culture
While an entire thesis could be devoted to the subject of the origin and meaning of Appalachian stereotypes in media and popular culture, the one stereotype that deserves the most attention here is that of the hillbilly, which is the quintessential caricature of the male mountain dweller. J.H. Williamson (1995) discusses typical characteristics of the hillbilly: “he drinks hard liquor—and not at cocktail parties…He nearly always possesses the wherewithal for physical violence—especially involving dogs and guns” (p.3). In other words, according to Williamson, the hillbilly has crudely and joyfully freed himself from the confines of middle-class respectability. At the same time that the hillbilly rejects the legitimacy of a status hierarchy found in mainstream American culture, both historically and in the present, the hillbilly also opposes capitalism. Williamson explains:
If capitalism operates by inducing its workers to believe in the virtues of work and by condemning the evils that interfere with work, such as strong drink, roaming the woods and hunting, and various social indiscretions including murder, mayhem, and bastardy—if in other words, capitalism has indeed learned to control our collective imagery for our own good—then clearly the hillbilly fool is a warning, a keep-away sign enjoining us to avoid the rocky rural edges outside the grasp of urban economy. (p.7)
Therefore, the proliferation of negative, offensive representations of hillbillies in the media should be seen as a sign that hegemonic forces recognize the unproductivity (read: danger) that hillbillies could be seen as endorsing. This echoes bell hooks’ observation about the anarchistic nature of hillbillies and the possibility of its inherent danger to corporate capitalism. Also, if the hillbilly is mocked and dehumanized, it is easier to exploit Appalachians’ land and labor. Along with the endless skits and films that ridicule the hillbilly, the rampant commodification of hillbilly music and culture is another way that the hillbilly has been constructed to be less “dangerous.”
The Commodification of Appalachian Music…and Everything Else
Should we necessarily lament the commodification of hillbilly land, labor, and culture? Put succinctly, commodification is “the process of transforming things into objects for sale” (The Hedgehog Review 2003: 6). These “things” that have been commodified include virtually every aspect of our 21st century lives, from art and music, to sex, to collegiate education, and even to love, spirituality, and ‘mindfulness.’ Most of us experience some form of commodified culture, especially commodified music, every day. Does this mean that nothing is sacred anymore? What happens when we take that which separates us from other animals—culture, language, love—and bring it into the ‘obscene’ realm of commerce, putting a price on it and relying on it to create surplus value?
Song (2003) notes that there are many benefits to commercialization and commodification, including the ideal market’s “potential to eliminate inefficiencies, produce wealth, extend human freedom, open new possibilities, and unleash the potential of human creativity” (p.109). Indeed, the commodification of music and art has allowed millions of people to enjoy ‘high’ art forms that had previously been the exclusive domain of the wealthy and educated, and has helped fund the artistic endeavors of countless musicians and artists. On the other hand, the market tends to “widen and exacerbate social and economic differences, corrupt various goods and social values, and expose the disenfranchised to greater exploitation and manipulation” (p.110), not to mention exacting strains on the environment.
While commodification is not by any means unique to capitalism, it is certainly a prominent feature of it. Karl Marx provided foundational theories that explain how capitalism has eventually given rise to rampant commodification within the context of consumer culture. He argued that capitalism is unique from other systems of production in that the value of produced goods lies not in their use value, but their exchange value (p.110). Furthermore, commodities are commonly both reified and fetishized. We might think of musical reification as “the process of making music something apart from the social and apart from one’s own labors, and masking the social labor that produced it” (Taylor 2007: 295). Fetishization extends reification in that commodities are not only objectified, but they are attributed “powers that they do not actually possess” (p.297).
The exchange values of commodities are socially constructed, and are often hierarchically assigned different symbolic meanings, including classed meanings. Bourdieu (1984) explains that social class forms the basis for cultural preferences and thus social class plays a large role in determining the symbolic meaning of commodities. Although the market might have democratized access to the music of the composer Tchaikovsky, various habituses help explain why many listeners are drawn to country music. As art becomes reified and then fetishized, it begins to take on symbolic meanings that often coincide with its classed meanings. In a post-modern context, Jean Baudrillard (1994) imagines the cultural commodity as a simulacra, which is “hyperreal” object “without origin or reality” (p.1). The simulacra results from many processes in addition to fetishization, including the power of the mass media to manufacture symbolic meanings for objects (p.84), and is heightened by the immensity of the modern metropolis.
Additionally, as we think about the implications of the commodification of Appalachian music, which as I will show in Chapter Two is inherently resistive to tenets of capitalism, we must be aware of the ways in which commodification can reduce this resistance. Bell hooks (1992) discusses how black cultural resistance against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy has at times been reduced to the use of symbols of resistance, especially when black youth attempt to re-assert cultural items that have been appropriated from them. When young black people rely on aesthetic markers such as Kente cloth, gold medallions, and dreadlocks to mark their resistance, “as signs, their power to ignite critical consciousness is diffused when they are commodified. Communities of resistance are reduced to cultures of consumption” (p.33). I will discuss in Chapters Three and Four how although the revivalist and neo-revivalist communities were able to successfully use politicized old time music as a catalyst for sociopolitical change, its revolutionary potential was limited by many factors, including its commodification.
This thesis will grapple with questions about the true nature of the music that has for centuries been created, shaped, sung, adored, and lived by countless Appalachians. As I will show in the next chapter, Appalachian music reflects many of the values of the culture that produced it, which is a culture that has implicitly and explicitly—though not universally—resisted corporate capitalism. Old time music has been decontextualized and commodified in both minor and major ways, from the printing of fiddle tunes into sheet music in the 19th century to today’s bands such as Mumford and Sons filling stadiums with tens of thousands of fans of ‘folk music.’ The music has left the mountains, and there are thriving old time music scenes in far-flung states across the United States and even the world. In the process of its commodification, Appalachian music has crossed nearly every boundary presented, including those presented by geography, social class taste, and race. Appalachian music has been commodified and repurposed to fit bourgeois sensibilities, as well as a broader white nationalist movement.
Yet what happens to the music when it is discovered by bourgeois urban dwellers, brought into their densely populated music scenes, and performed professionally, for profit? Does the music bring with it the weight of centuries of gritty, yet often joyful living in mountain hollers, and thereby a sense of pre-capitalist values to the cities? Or, with the commodification of Appalachian music, do the musical form and meanings change so fundamentally as to perform a new purpose for city dwellers? As the music left the mountains, what cultural values were added to it, and which ones were lost? I will argue that although much of the immutable values of old time music, which made the music so powerful to urban fans, has remained in the music itself and in its musical communities, the processes that have commodified it have so changed the music such that it has stunted its revolutionary potential.
These questions will be addressed using a sociological line of inquiry. Chapter Two will discuss the original nature and context of Appalachian music in order to understand the pre-commodified meaning of this cultural production. Chapter Three will review the long history of the exportation and commercialization of Appalachian music, which has involved the scheming of native Appalachians as well as outside interests. Chapter Four will present an original case study of two present-day communities that have thriving old-time music scenes: Boone, North Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. Chapter Five will conclude the meaning of the commodification of Appalachian music and present a case for the importance of non-commodified musical and cultural forms.
 The ARC is a federal organization that was created in 1965 by President Kennedy and expanded during Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
 Similarly, Theda Perdue (1998) shows how the introduction of European goods and ways of life brought destructive change and the idea of ‘poverty’ to Cherokee communities in North Carolina.
 Of course, Appalachian music is a new-world synthesis of Scottish and Irish tunes and ballads, as well as West African rhythmic patterns and stringed instruments that preceded the banjo. Old time is a new-world music inasmuch as it reshaped and synthesized various old-world musical styles.
 In Do-It-Yourself punk culture, we see a conscious rejection of ready-made, commodified aesthetics (Triggs 2006: 69). Perhaps this explains one reason why the Sex Pistols sought out the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers back in the 1970’s: the Hilltoppers played from a handmade washtub bass and likely spun their own clothing, which approximates punk DIY culture, albeit out of very different historical and cultural contexts.