[csaa-forum] October Sydney seminar

Tony Mitchell 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 ...

Wicked Tracks:
The disappearance of ‘songs’ in dance music’s canon.

Adrian Renzo
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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