Something for Your Mind, Your Body and Your Soul. Timbre and Meaning in Electronic Dance Music

Perevedentseva, Maria. 2022. Something for Your Mind, Your Body and Your Soul. Timbre and Meaning in Electronic Dance Music. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study investigates the role of timbre in the construction of meaning in the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) listening experience. Given timbre’s importance in the sonic composition of EDM as well as ubiquitous invocations of “the sound” in fan discourses around the genre, it is argued that timbre occupies a central meaning-making site in EDM, affording listeners an integrated sense of the continuity between music, the environment, and the other real or imagined listeners that populate it.

An ecosemiotic analytical framework is developed which instrumentalises timbre’s open-ended ontology and outlines a relational conception of timbre as an interactive field of behaviour. In this field, it is proposed that the mimetic embodiment of timbre via gesture facilitates affiliative entrainment which promotes social bonding between listeners, aligning them into a dispositional synchrony with sound. Through this entrainment, affect is incorporated into the social construction of meaning, resulting in a negotiated perceptual stability which unites the manifold dimensions along which musical experience is distributed across multiple temporal frames.

EDM’s re-use of electronic timbral gestures is traced via analyses of UK EDM works from the 1990s to the present day alongside the critical discourses that have surrounded them. Ultimately, it is argued that timbre’s meaning in the genre resides in its enfolding of the material and symbolic, individual and social, and spiritual and fleshly dimensions of experience into a richly saturated perceptual present. Within this musico-social matrix, the entanglement of qualitative relations between listeners, music and world is made palpable, contributing to the feelings of oceanic oneness commonly sought from the EDM experience. As such, this thesis makes an original contribution to the theorisation of musical meaning, advancing the field of timbre studies through its recasting of timbre as an interactive musical agent, and revising understandings of EDM’s social significance via a sound-centred perspective.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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timbre, electronic dance music, ecosemiotics, meaning, affect

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31 August 2022

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Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2022 10:55

Last Modified:

18 Oct 2022 12:33


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