I present a history of air playing, air guitar, and air bands in the United States. Demonstrating how gestural listening practices developed into distinctive performance genres in the late twentieth century, I argue air playing organized and advanced an interactive approach to media consumption that pervades contemporary media sensibilities. This history of air playing reveals how music consumers sought ways to treat listening as something dramatic, spectacular, and interactive. I trace this history by focusing on the interplay between playback devices and listeners, as well as performance contexts that facilitated air playing as an audience activity. I underscore how ideas related to pathology, fandom, fantasy, failure, intimacy, and configurability shaped perceptions of air playing later in the twentieth century. The title—"Air Apparent"—draws attention the ways successive generations inherited gestural practices, often in ways that carried forward unacknowledged ideas about race, gender, and disability.


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pp. 807-829
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