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