Underground Music and the Internet: From Microsound to Vaporwave
Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music
The speaker is Dr Christopher Haworth (University of Leeds)
This paper presents the outcomes of a research project that explores, via a mixed-method approach, the changing roles of the internet in underground music from the early 1990s to today. The project is guided by comparative analysis of five internet-mediated music genres that span this time period: microsound (late 90s-early 2000s), hauntology (mid-2000s), hypnagogic pop (mid-2000s), chillwave (early 2010s) and vaporwave (mid-2010s). Through this analysis it aims to understand how the internet has developed from being a legitimate medium and ‘space’ for the organisation of underground cultures, to one that, in the view of some cultural critics, dissolves the idea of the underground altogether.
One of the central contributions of the paper is in the use of the Issuecrawler software to analyse and visualise the online manifestaions of these genres. The Issue Crawler locates and topologizes, first, the genre-specific listservs, message boards and hyperlinking practices characteristic of late 90s web use in genres like microsound; second, the rise of blogging in the mid-2000s, and the more restrained uses of the web that emerge as analogue media formats make a comeback and genres move ‘offline’ (e.g. in hypnagogic pop and hauntology); and third, the subversive remediation and reterritorialisation of the net that occurs in ‘post-internet’ genres like vaporwave, in which the net provides the entire horizon of the genre’s material and semiotic resources.
Through these analyses, I will provide an account of the developing historicity of the net in relation to underground music, one that challenges dominant cultural and technological periodisations such as ‘digital’ and ‘post-digital’, and ‘post-modern’ and ‘contemporary’.