[csaa-forum] October Sydney seminar
Tony.Mitchell at uts.edu.au
Tue Oct 24 12:29:49 CST 2006
just a reminder about Adrian's seminar this Friday - highly recommended
as Adrian is very entertaining ...
The disappearance of ‘songs’ in dance music’s canon.
University of Western Sydney
UTS Bon Marche 3/210
Friday October 27, 5.30pm
This paper is part of a thesis that explores the links between
‘handbag’ or ‘girly’ dance music and gay male culture. In previous
work, I’ve noted that handbag music is widely denigrated within
electronic dance music scenes, and that it is valued within gay male
clubs for much the same reasons: ‘formulaic’, ‘cheesy’ anthems provide
a basis for dance floor performances that are highly significant for
queers (see Amico, 2001; Bollen, 1999; Renzo, 2002). In this paper, I
critically analyse the dominant narrative of club music history, to
show how it supports the erasure of handbag from club soundscapes. I
argue that this erasure is similar to the ways that queers have been
written out of musicological histories (Thomas, 1994).
The critical dismissal of handbag has been hastened by the emergence of
a dance music canon (Appen and Doehring, 2006). This canon usually
excludes song-based genres, privileging open-ended ‘tracks’ instead.
Any sign of familiar ‘song’ conventions (verse/chorus structures, the
use of vocals, or an emphasis on melodies rather than timbral
manipulation) tends to be ridiculed by clubbers ‘in the know’. The
canon is supported by a well-established historical narrative in which
certain ‘milestones’ are retrospectively constructed as natural
precursors to current trends, such as ‘electro,’ ‘minimal,’ and ‘tech’
house. In this view, dance music has always been about dispensing with
song structures, so handbag songs seem to have no precedent in dance
music history. Each time this narrative is told, handbag producers such
as Thunderpuss and Hex Hector slip quietly into the background, and the
current hierarchy of dance music – Trentemøller on top, Tony Lamezla at
the bottom – is affi
Yet this history can be told very differently. It is possible, for
instance, to revisit club music’s history, highlighting handbag’s
antecedents in Eurodisco and early hi-NRG. I will show that the current
definition of ‘electronic dance music’ relies on a selective hearing of
key ‘milestones’: the very tracks that are revered for their
‘ground-breaking’ innovations can also be heard as routine pop songs.
The paper shows how a particular version of dance music history has
been constructed, how this history benefits some genres at the expense
of others, and how handbag might be re-evaluated in light of the above.
Amico, Stephen (2001) ‘“I Want Muscles”: House Music, Homosexuality,
and Masculine Signification.’ Popular Music 20/3, pp. 359-78.
Appen, Ralf von and André Doehring (2006) ‘Nevermind The Beatles,
here’s Exile 61 and Nico: “The top 100 records of all time” – a canon
of pop and rock albums from a sociological and an aesthetic
perspective.’ Popular Music 25/1, pp. 21-39
Bollen, Jonathan (1999) Queer Kinaesthesia: On the Dancefloor at Gay
and Lesbian Dance Parties Sydney, 1994-1998. Unpublished PhD thesis.
Sydney: University of Western Sydney.
Renzo, Adrian (2002) ‘Gay Dance Music Sucks?’ in Musical
In-Between-Ness: Proceedings of the 8th IASPM Australia-New Zealand
Conference, ed. Denis Crowdy, Shane Homan, and Tony Mitchell. Sydney:
University of Technology.
Thomas, Gary C. (1994) ‘“Was George Frideric Handel Gay?”: On Closet
Questions and Cultural Politics’ in Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and
Lesbian Musicology, ed. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C.
Thomas. London: Routledge.
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