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Sounds of Future Past: the Poetics of Electronica

  • Independent Scholar

Abstract and Figures

My PhD was a practice-as-research project. I felt, after submitting the thesis, that a large part of the written research could be useful for other researchers, but other material had significance only for my own creative practice. The thesis has not been available until now. I recently decided to collect the most widely useful material together from the thesis and ‘publish’ it via ResearchGate and Academia. || Original Abstract:- Electronica developed in the last decade of the twentieth century as an area of liminal musical practice that breached the creative and institutional divides between academic and popular electronic music. In forging innovative modes of composition and technological practice, electronica artists created a musical terrain requiring new modes of analysis to develop an understanding of the poetics of electronica. This study responds to a shortfall in previous work in the field by developing an integrative and multi-perspectival analysis of the creative practices and contexts of electronica. This is achieved through historical, contextual, theoretical and practical research that synthesises material drawn from the fields of cultural studies, sociology, musicology and popular music studies. In considering how electronica comes into existence, the study identifies the individual and social factors that combine in the compositional practices of electronica. It explores the historical development of electronica, and examines genre, style and how electronica has challenged the fixity of popular and institutional musical categorisation. The social authorship of music, where electronica musicians are identified as séantifically and dialogically channelling earlier musical voices, is balanced with an outline of a psychotopographic internal musical dialogue. The producer-creator is identified as drawing both from individual and social repositories in forming musical works. Moving beyond technological determinist and constructivist models, the study emphasises the affordances of music technologies, and the compositional practices that electronica musicians have developed as a response to and in collaboration with these technologies. A development of themes concerning atemporality and spectrality in the fields of glitch and hauntology provides a backdrop to my creative practice as obe:lus that informs and was informed by the findings of my historical, contextual and theoretical research. Both glitch and hauntology are viewed as problematising notions of future and past by critiquing and foregrounding the media through and from which they are created.
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