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Bass, Grain, Resonance: Vibrational Studies of Electronic Dance Music

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. L.M. Garcia

Friday 11 December, 14:00-15:30
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

This lecture sets out to explore the tactilization of sound in electronic dance music as well as significance of vibration and resonance in emic understandings of sonic affect. Sonic tactility offers an important sensory-affective bridge between touch, sonic experience, and an expansive sense of connection in dancing crowds. Electronic dance music events tend to engender spaces of heightened tactility and embodied intimacy, and so it no surprise that their musical aesthetics also highlight tactility. In track-titles, lyrics, and other text-based media surrounding this genre, “feeling” is often deployed in a polyvalent manner, highlighting the conceptual overlap between emotion, affective knowing, perception, and touch. This bleed between modes of feeling extends into the sound of recordings themselves, which use vibration to engage with tactile, haptic, and kinaesthetic senses in addition to hearing. 

This analysis of sonic tactility focuses on “house” and “techno” styles of electronic music, especially the “minimal” continuum of sub-styles that were in ascendancy during the first decade of the twenty-first century. These styles invoke tactility through a range of modalities, including percussive bass “beats” and highly "granular" sonic texture (à la P. Schaeffer). This sonic tactility leads to a further examination of the role of vibration and resonance in popular electronic music scenes. Drawing from ethnographic interviews as well as recent "EDMC" research, this lecture will show how emic notions of "vibe" and "sync" provide compelling accounts of sonic affect through phenomena such as sympathetic resonance, entrainment, and attunement.