Week 4 lecture: Genre: Textual Meaning, Producers and Audiences

It is important to remember that at fundamental level genre may be understood as a code. After this it is getting clear how do you categorize and codify popular music within the rules by which popular music is produced, distributed and consumed. (Hendy, 2000,p.179) This gives two senses to the cultural role of the genre. Firstly it is a means by which music is categorised – or codified – and secondly, this process of categorisation sets the rules by which popular music is produced, distributed and consumed. (Wall, p.180. 2013) In this interpretation, to listen to the radio, with all its familiar and rather bland music and repetitive speech, is to succumb to a narcotic, which induces a false sense of tranquillity. (Hendy, 2000, p.135)

Wall applies theory from Simon Frith, Alan Moore, Wesler, Toynbee and Neal. In such, it gives many opinions and views on the subject. I prefer to think that genre is a code that defines the kind of music narrowly as much as possible depending on its characteristics.

Genre unites particular subgroups by a virtue of their preferences in music while providing sub-genres for that which is not strongly established yet otherwise is a mixture of two or more genuine genres.

Tempo also is important in defining the genre while it precisely differs it form other. For example house music tempo is usually around 120 bpm. The following nicely determines the house music – ““No longer are you listening, but feeling the overpowering beat as everyone starts jacking to the energy with a fluency that locks into the beat.” (Hawkins, 2003)

The modern dance music in this work is used as an example of diversity of genre. Genre may be identified by the rhythm, tempo, beat, etc. It also worth an attention that genre evolves through times i.e. old house music much differs from what we may listen today. But still ideological aspects are what identify the music genre. For example, ideologically, house music advocates an aesthetic that is both hedonistic and provocative in terms of the signification of musical stimulation. (Hawkins, 2003)

It usually focuses particular age group; such as house music is targeting young ravers mostly. On the example of house music we can show the variety of sub-genres such as deep-house, tech-house, future house, bass house and etc.

Genres also varies by there creation, they are artificial otherwise acoustically created – “the machinic repetition, the synthetic and electronic textures, the rootlessness, the `depraved’ hypersexuality and `decadent’ druggy hedonism” (Reynolds, 1998). After this, compare it to the beautiful sound of the clear ingenuity of La Campanella by Niccolo Paganini or virtuosi Sergei Rachmaninoff – Musical moment No. 4, op.16 and say what you think about Ideology that moves people to consume modern music. Classical music still defines the true sound and modern music is mostly incomparable to it, because modern music is political and commercial. Simon Frith suggests that ‘popular music genres are constructed – and must be understood – within a commercial/cultural process; they are not the result of detached academic analyses or formal musicological histories’ (Frith, 1996b: 88). (Hendy, 2000 p.180) which I can agree with.

Simon Frith argues that for musicians they constitute an effective shorthand for discussing music, while for listeners they organise the listening process, and for the different parts of the music industry the different genres integrate questions about what the music sounds like with questions about who will buy the music (Frith 1996, 75-95).

I tend to agree with Wesler’s theory that there is no ‘Clear cut’ definition of what genre is. That genre is mainly constructed by the listener and media so they are able to define and talk about music. However, personally I find it almost farcical how many sub-genres there are in music today. I conclude that in some cases it can help when looking for new music but when you have sub-genres like Crunkcore or Noise-hop it becomes overbearing and confused. The case study on dance music is quite insightful. Author looks at how it is developed from being an instrument based genre to it being produced using computers. Although this is true one of the EDM pioneers, Daft Punk have performed a volte-face and returned to an old style of music. It will be interesting to see if this has an effect on the future of this genre.

From the text, the definition of genre is still vague as genre definitions changes dependently on the personal understanding of the writer, which in its turn much reflects different opinions of authors. I think defining a genre of music is a lot harder and more fluid than other forms of media like films for example. In the context of my own studies I would like to proceed exploring classic music that is pure and commercially independent that I enjoy the most and like to perform. I’m also interested in the lyrical poetry.

Hawkins, S. (2003) Feel the beat come down: house music as rhetoric pp. 80-102. Cambridge University Press

Hendy, D., (2000). Radio in the Global Age. Bristol: Polity Press.

Reynolds, S. (1998) Energy Flash: A Journey through Rave music and Dance Culture. London: Picador

Wall, T, (2003). ‘Genre’. In: (ed), Studying Popular Music Culture. 1st ed. UK: Hodder & Stoughton Educational. pp.(179-188).


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