Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music

By Joanna Demers | Go to book overview

6
Genre, Experimental ism, and
the Musical Frame

The questions inherent in genre—what it does for listeners, why so many genres exist—dog any discussion of music aesthetics, but especially so for electronic music, since so many genres and subgenres seem to qualify as some form of electronic music. In the first five chapters of this book, I have refrained from addressing the topic of aesthetics head-on and likewise have taken as self-evident the existence of certain distinct genres of electronic music. But we cannot take definitions of either aesthetics or genre for granted, nor can we assume that the two exist independently of each other. This chapter addresses the relationships between aesthetics and genre: How do aesthetics determine our understanding of electronic-music genres, and, conversely, how do genres affect our understanding of electronicmusic aesthetics? I argue here that what motivates the effort to categorize and demarcate different genres is a growing confusion about the experience of listening to electronic music. The word music might no longer adequately describe the strange sounds, structures, and situations of this new acoustic landscape. Insistence on the small-scale distinctions among genres delays larger reflections on how all of electronic music differs from everything that has preceded it. Yet we often disregard patent similarities between otherwise disparate forms of electronic music simply because we have grown accustomed to the idea that different spheres of electronic-music production are unrelated.

Much of the difficulty in talking about electronic-music aesthetics lies in identifying what electronic music is and deciding whether it is too big to discuss as one entity. Most practitioners would probably agree that electronic music as a whole is too heterogeneous to be considered as a single

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Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • About the Companion Web Site ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I - Sign 19
  • 1 - Listening to Signs in Post-Schaefferian Electroacoustic Music 21
  • 2 - Material as Sign in Electronica 43
  • Part II - Object 67
  • 3 - Minimal Objects in Microsound 69
  • 4 - Maximal Objects in Drone Music, Dub Techno, and Noise 91
  • Part III - Situation 111
  • 5 - Site in Ambient, Soundscape, and Field Recordings 113
  • 6 - Genre, Experimental Ism, and the Musical Frame 135
  • Conclusion 155
  • Glossary 163
  • Bibliography 179
  • Discography 191
  • Index 195
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