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Judith A. Peraino

Judith A. Peraino is a Professor of Music and the Director of the LGBT Studies Program at Cornell University. Her publications include articles on Blondie, David Bowie, PJ Harvey, early snythpop, and Mick Jagger; and the book Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig (2006). She also co-curated the online exhibit Anarchy in the Archive: Cornell’s Punk Collection.

“I’ll Be Your Mixtape: Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, and the Queer Intimacies of Cassettes”
This paper tells the story of a cassette tape, a set of never-released (and rarely heard) songs by Lou Reed, and the tape’s intended audience: Andy Warhol. It is also the story of the affective affordances of personal recording technologies starting in the 1960s, and the emergence of the mixtape as a gift of curated sound in the 1970s and beyond. Reed and Warhol are giant figures in the history of twentieth-century art and music; their artistic collaboration in 1966-1967 culminated in the landmark album The Velvet Underground and Nico. Prominent rock movements in the1970s—notably glam and punk—contended with the primitivst sound and queer mystique of that album, just as Reed and Warhol continued to look to each other throughout that decade as sources for ideas and inspiration. Based on extensive archival research, interviews, and an analysis of the tape’s contents and context, I will illuminate the circumstances of the cassette’s making in the late months of 1975, and its connection to Warhol’s newly published The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), where he famously referred to his tape recorder “his wife.” This was a time when Reed was romantically involved with a transwoman named Rachel, and Warhol had embarked on his portrait series of African American drag queens and transwomen entitledLadies and Gentlemen. Their coincidental engagements with transgender identities forms an intriguing background to this mixtape, which archives Reed’s and Warhol’s own complexly permeable artistic selves. Beyond a fascination with celebrity lives or even new biographical details of great artists, this mixtape gift spotlights a new mode of technologized intimacy, the extension of embodiment offered in tape’s material presence, and in its inscription of split beings and spliced subjectivities that record ontological vulnerability.