Richard Dawson’s Object-Oriented Songcraft


In this episode, I talk about some songs and objects in the work of the British singer-songwriter Richard Dawson. I discuss tensions that build when what we want to focus on is people and lives and memories and communities and connections, but all that seems to remain are traces and trails of objects. I argue that Richard Dawson’s songs are both a brilliant response to such tensions and an example of how songs bring both objects and people to life.

Playlist – tracks discussed in this episode, plus some additional relevant examples

Richard Dawson albums referred to in this episode

The Magic Bridge (Pink Triangle, 2011)

The Glass Trunk (Alt. Vinyl, 2013)

Nothing Important (Weird World, 2014)

2020 (Domino, 2019)

Texts referred to in this episode

Graham Harman, ‘Zeroing in on Evocative Objects: Sherry Turkle (Ed.), Evocative Objects, MIT Press, 2007, 352 Pp’, Human Studies 31, no. 4 (December 2008): 443–57, p. 455.

Sherry Turkle, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007).

Johny Lamb, review of Richard Dawson, 2020, The Quietus (10 October 2019), [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].

Mike Goldsmith, review of Richard Dawson, 2020, Record Collector (2019), [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019)].

Cian Nugent, ‘Richard Dawson’, BOMB Magazine (3 December 2014), [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020].

Sam Sodomsky, review of Richard Dawson, 2020, Pitchfork (17 October 2019), [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020].

Jennifer Lucy Allan, ‘Dawn to Dusk: Richard Dawson’s Favourite Albums’, The Quietus (14 October 2019), [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020)].

Arjun Appadurai, ‘Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value’, in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 3-63.

Igor Kopytoff, ‘The Cultural Biography of Things’, in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 64-91.

Janet Hoskins, Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives (New York: Routledge, 1998).

Janet Hoskins, ‘Agency, Biography and Objects’, in Handbook of Material Culture, ed. C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Küchler, M. Rowlands and P. Spyer ( Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013), 74-84.

Daniel Miller, The Comfort of Things (Cambridge: Polity, 2009); Daniel Miller, Stuff (Cambridge: Polity, 2010).

Roberto Esposito, Persons and things: from the body’s point of view, translated by Z. Hanafi (Cambridge: Polity, 2015), 125.

Remo Bodei, The Life of Things, the Love of Things, trans. M. Baca (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).

Bill Brown, ‘Thing Theory’. Critical Inquiry 28, no. 1 (2010): 4.

Steven Connor, ‘Making an Issue of Cultural Phenomenology’, Critical Quarterly 42, no. 1 (2000): 4-5.

Timothy Morton and Bjork Guðmundsdóttir, ‘This Huge Sunlit Abyss From The Future Right There Next To You’, in Björk: Archives, ed. K. Biesenbach, A. Ross, N. Dibben, B. Guðmundsdóttir, T. Morton and Sjón (London: Thames & Hudson, 2015), n.p.

Will Oldham, Songs of Love and Horror: Collected Lyrics of Will Oldham (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018), xviii.

Richard Dawson, liner notes to Dawson, The Glass Trunk, LP, (Alt. Vinyl, 2013).

Marjorie Agosín, Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras: Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship, trans. Cola Franzen (London: Zed Books, 1987).

Michael Hann, review of Richard Dawson, Nothing Important, The Guardian (20 November 2014), [Accessed 1 December 2019].

Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology: or What It’s Like To Be a Thing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 35.

Katie Kitamura, ‘Literary Lists: Proof of our Existence’, The Guardian (15 February 2013), [Accessed 12 December 2019].

Brian Dillon and Steven Connor, ‘A Philosophy of Everyday Things’, podcast, The Pod Academy (3 December 2011), [Accessed 15 December 2019].

Steven Connor, Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things (London: Profile, 2011).