The O’Rourke Factor: Authorship, Authority, and Creative Collaboration in the Music of Wilco

Sheena Hyndman


Over the last decade, the Chicago-based alternative-country band Wilco's sound has undergone some drastic changes. From the decidedly folk-influenced early works, to their experimental middle period, to their present technologically complex stereo soundscapes, it would seem that Wilco has begun to progress beyond the category of alt-country into more musically innovative waters. Changes in personnel, both within the band and on the production team, as well as outsider influence from Wilco's long list of side projects, have helped to generate a new experimentalism that works in tandem with Wilco's alt-country roots to create a style of music that has yet to be categorized with any accuracy in the popular music lexicon. One of the most important influences on Wilco's shifting sound is Sonic Youth's Jim O'Rourke, who mixed and produced Wilco's most recent studio recorded albums, Yankee hotel foxtrot (2002) and A ghost is born (2004). The importance of O'Rourke's role as the mixer in Wilco's fourth studio release Yankee hotel foxtrot is explored. Examples are shown of O'Rourke's contribution as the mixer and how his specialized technological skill and prior experience as a performing musician and composer was an essential part of the creative music-making process.

© Musicological Explorations, School of Music, University of Victoria

ISSN 1711-9235