Maria Perevedentseva (Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK)

BOOM-DISC: Analysing Genre-Specific Discursive Tropes in Electronic Dance Music on


This paper presents a mixed-methods discourse analysis of record release blurbs on the UK-based online record retailer Boomkat in order to investigate genre-specific discursive tropes and the value systems they infer. Boomkat is well known in the electronic music community for its creative use of language, which plays on the tacit scene knowledge of Boomkat’s customers in order to sell them products. My analysis uses quantitative, qualitative and computational methods to categorise and compare the weighting of frequently-occurring terms in three electronic dance music (EDM) sub-genre categories on the Boomkat website, namely, Grime–FWD, Jungle–Footwork and Techno–House. My trope categories include references to timbre and instrumentation, references to rhythm and metre, references to space and geographic location, and references to affective tonality, among others.

Comparing the prevalence of different discursive tropes between sub-genres offers insights into the different value systems operative among distinct musical styles in a setting where musical products are literally conferred value through the purchase of records. My analysis also reveals some interesting global values that apply to all sub-genres under consideration. For example, despite the widespread opinion that EDM is defined and valued primarily in terms of rhythm and speed, this category is consistently one of the least prominent and, in the Grime–FWD and Techno–House corpora specifically, is subordinate to that of timbre—a facet on which the academic literature on EDM is comparatively silent. The most common trope across the three sub-genres is that of affective tonality, and I round off the presentation by discussing a handful of tracks whose blurbs share an affect term in order to identify the sonic correlates to that verbal descriptor.


Maria Perevedentseva is working on a PhD thesis titled ‘Something for Your Mind, Your Body, and Your Soul: Timbre and Meaning in Electronic Dance Music’ at Goldsmiths, University of London. The project hinges on an ecosemiotic methodology which enfolds theories of affect, semiotics, ecological perception and embodied cognition in order to explore how the ontological and operational continuity of timbre in EDM binds together its ever-expanding matrix of genres, spaces, sounds and subjectivities. She is also an Associate Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, and has subsidiary interests in philosophy, musical modernism and music psychology.

7 thoughts on “Maria Perevedentseva (Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK)”

  1. Hi Maria,

    Thanks very much for your paper. I enjoyed the way you mapped language onto sound, and your use of the computational approach illuminated some really interesting trends. Some fascinating details there!

    I think our research overlaps in some interesting ways; your mix of data analysis and discourse analysis complements the more, let’s say, “analogue” approach I took in my book. Like you, I’m similarly fascinated by what you refer to here as “concealed inflections of taste” and—as you noted on Richard Elliott’s talk last week—themes of futurity and modernism.

    I was wondering if you’d had any thoughts about the social- or identity implications of this discourse as it pertains to the EDM genre?

    Happy to talk more offline if you prefer.

    All best,

    1. Hi Mimi,

      Thanks so much for your comment. There is SO much more to say with this in terms of identity that it just wasn’t feasible in a 20 minute paper. Also there is that issue here that the blurbs on Boomkat are anonymous so can’t be traced back to any concrete and holistic identity, and default on the discursive hallmarks of an unmarked, invisible, universalising (but fairly woke) straight-white-male subject position. In very broad brush strokes, I can say that the discourse characteristics of all these three genre categories are coded male, and the mentions of sexiness, lightness, etc. in the Techno-House corpus are quite clearly related to House releases specifically, which reflect its history in queer nightlife but (problematically) equate that with the effeminate. The use of “Multicultural London English” that Ruth Adams talked about in her paper is evident throughout as well, and especially in the Grime-FWD corpus, which also houses Gqom and Batida, and Jungle-Footwork, suggesting that the writers feel the black roots of Techno-House less keenly than they do in those other genres (perhaps that could be because Techno and House are rooted more in African American rather than Black British musical traditions, as you mentioned with regards to Dub in your 2017 article) . There are also traces of Afrofuturist and British post-Deleuzean cultural studies discursive tropes throughout (as well as stuff like accelerationism, the valorisation of complexity and ((paradoxically?)) the noncognitive), which have clearly been internalised through the writings of Reynolds, Eshun, Fisher, etc., and it is interesting to see how pervasive those modes of writing and thinking about this music have become (and to me this is not without its problems and is something I am trying to work through in my dissertation).

      Apologies for this rambly answer—there is a lot more for me to sift through here before I can be more coherent. I have just ordered a copy of your book for the Goldsmiths library and look forward to getting stuck in, and would be grateful for any more thoughts you have on this. My email address is

      Thanks again,


  2. Thanks, Maria! This is some really, really dope research!

    It is fascinating how discourse around and terms for features of timbre and other non-formalised musical aspects can be so very specific and (seemingly) internalised amongst expert listeners without actually being formalised in the way you do it here. The parallel to other metaphor-driven discourses like wine-tasting is a cliche by now, I guess, but still very striking.

    I often wonder, though, about the difficulties in using these kinds of terms as “timeless” descriptors, since they often seem to be in a sort of constant flux. Some (sub-)groups use the same terms differently, more or less similar, and their meaning change over time. Do you think there are some terms whose meaning stays (and has stayed) constant over long periods time, whereas others are “lost causes” in that they never seem to settle on one solid meaning, or am I a bit too disillusioned and frustrated about loose terms in hip hop discourse?

    Thanks again! – Kjell Andreas

    1. Hi Kjell,

      Thanks so much—I also loved your paper and your transcriptions!

      I agree with you that the ways these terms are used are far too unstable to be considered timeless; quite on the contrary I think they are highly localised (having different inflections in specific sub-genres) and change along with other musical and discursive trends within genres, becoming codified sometimes in specific track names, or falling out of use, or encrusting onto other musical features and so on. This is why I think it’s quite useful to think of these kinds of terms as a type of currency—their “value” changes and is in flux all the time but at the time of its exchange all parties involved know what they’re getting out of it.

      Regarding the longevity (or not) of specific terms, I would say that terms which do have a clear basis in embodied actions or gestures etc., would tend to outlast and/or remain more stable than those which are founded on a particular scene in-joke or purely discursive formulation (one of my favourites in this category is the word “atonal” which is applied to rhythms, textures, etc., but mostly for its modernist/ascetic connotations rather than any tangible musical feature). But really I think it’s very difficult to be able to generalise with studies like these, and you would need to constantly refresh the analysis with new tracks to make sure the “meaning” remains stable.

      All best,


  3. Hi Maria, thanks for a really interesting talk. I’m coming across similar issues in my own ethnographic research – particularly in relation to the discourse producers use when talking about vocals in mainstream pop. The discourse analysis methods you’re using seem to really enrich this kind of work as well – it’s given me so much to think about, so thank you!

    I was wondering if, in doing this research, you came across any other significant descriptor words which perhaps didn’t map so neatly onto specific sonic properties? Or perhaps where the sonic properties were particularly difficult to pin down, or contradictory? Or perhaps where they were unexpected – for you – given your experience and knowledge of the genres in question?

    I ask because I’m quite interested in verbal descriptors whose sonic correlates seem a bit more blurred. E.g. I’m finding in my own research on voice that the word ‘natural’ is a vague term like this, in that it has lots of different sonic properties that seem to correspond with it and which sometimes contradict one another. And perhaps – to echo Mimi’s comment – in situations like this there are other social/cultural/identity factors motivating the use of such terms? You mentioned atonal above – I’d be really interested to hear more about this!

    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I was really interested in the producer thought processes you describe in your paper—this kind of vernacular understanding is so illuminating I think, and so important to bring into the fold of music analysis!

      There are certainly lots of terms that would be nigh on impossible to map onto specific musical features with any consistency. There’s been quite a lot of research done on how, for example, words relating to temperature map onto fairly stable timbral features in ordinary discourse (in broad brush strokes: hot has low spectral centroid and complex spectrum, cold has high spectral centroid and cleaner spectrum), but I found that in my corpus this wasn’t the case, and words like “cold”, “heat”, etc. were used much more loosely and based more on extra-musical factors (so cold is related to “cool” and is used as a plaudit, “heat” or “heater” also used as plaudits but to describe tracks that are especially groovy or energetic). The descriptor “atonal” is normally used to refer to musical features (whether timbre or rhythm) that are in some ways complex, noisy, and “difficult”, and I think this derives from a (very) loose understanding of atonality as the high point of “difficulty” and “avant-garde-ness” in the Western art music tradition, which, although on the surface of it should be anathema to popular music like EDM, nevertheless belies the desire for this kind of institutional validation, and the operation of those same value systems which view difficulty = advanced = good. There are many other modernist tropes in the discourse around EDM which would support this, but also of course there’s the Berlin Atonal festival which was started in the 1980s for experimental electronic music, so the use of the word is probably in no small part influenced by that as well. It’s difficult to be sure with this kind of stuff though, and in the end it’s a kind of six-degrees-of-separation game!

      With vocal timbre the question of identity becomes really important and I’m sure that conceptions of what constitutes a “natural” voice would have significantly different timbral correlates depending on the particular singer and their gender, race, class, age and also on the genre they are trying to position themselves in. After all, source identification (in terms of physical dimensions and properties, gestural affordances etc.) is a key part of hearing instrumental timbre, and with vocal timbre the source is the vocalist’s socialised body so the same extra-musical things that impact the physical and behavioural characteristics of the body then become the kinds of things that listeners “read” into the timbre of their voice, and the timbre has to be “natural” to the various assumptions made about that specific body. Nina Sun Eidsheim has an interesting chapter in The Relentless Pursuit of Tone (2018) in which she unpicks the various axes along which the voice of Jimmy Scott was perceived to be in some senses supernatural, and issues of race, gender and sexuality played a huge role there.

      I think I’ll email you with all this as I’m finding this public forum a bit odd! Thanks again for your comment.


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