Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Member

Michelle Ty

Committee Member

Angela Naimou

Committee Member

Maria Bose

Committee Member

William Stockton


This paper attends the live music performance in the 21st century to reconsider German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s theses on the authenticity of art in his 1935 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Benjamin focuses on the emergent technology of photography in the 20th century as a method of technical reproduction of the art object, and, as he indicates, as having “captured a place of its own among the artistic processes” (219-20). Benjamin proposes several theories on the mechanical reproducibility and distribution of art within the culture industry, and his attention to the aura of the art object—“its unique existence at the place where it happens to be”—is, in my argument, reimagined in an age of digitally-mediated art practice. The ephemeral experience of live musical performance, I maintain, presents the requisite space-time to reevaluate the integrity of the art object’s aura. At the core of this analysis is the connection between the digital reproduction’s aura and its influence on human apperception, much like how the “Work of Art” essay is structured. Thus, the shift in the mode of reproducibility—from the mechanical to the digital—reflects a larger change in the mode of human apperception. Specifically, I am considering the use of digital devices by individual—and, more-specifically, non-professional—audience members to capture and reproduce a live music performance. This analysis repositions Benjamin’s theses on the authenticity of art in the 21st century to contextualize how capturing something as authentic yet as fleeting as music—especially through a digital device that is rarely out of arm’s reach—can answer the larger questions of who we are as authentic, individual beings and how the human experience is contextualized.



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