Memories on Steel and Vinyl: The Northern Pacific Railway and the Sound of Memory

Bryce D. Tellmann


This project examines a peculiar rhetorical artifact: A vinyl record issued in 1964 to commemorate the centenary of the chartering of the Northern Pacific Railway. Following work by Bartmanski and Woodward, as well as memory and sound studies scholars, I argue that the materiality of this vinyl record actively involves the listener in its narrative of westward expansion. But even as this material involvement recruits the listener into participation with its teleological national narrative, its sonic characteristics simultaneously expose discontinuities that undermine its memorial goals. A Thousand Miles of Mountains uses sound to manipulate space and time, yet these same dimensions work to expose memory’s artifice.


memory, sound, sonic rhetoric, records, U.S. westward expansion

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