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Re-orientating Spectromorphology and Space-form through a Hybrid Acoustemology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2017

Edward K. Spencer*
Faculty of Music, University of Oxford, Lincoln College, Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DR


This article re-orientates Denis Smalley’s work on spectromorphology and space-form through a case study of electronic dance music (EDM) on YouTube. An EDM track and its related YouTube comments are analysed concurrently in order to examine how sound-shapes and sonic spatiality are experienced in practice on the social web. Using Stephen Feld’s notion of acoustemology as a theoretical base, I argue that semantic and somantic ways of knowing through sound are thoroughly entangled. A hybrid acoustemology model is outlined, merging spectromorphology and space-form with elements of ecosemiotics and music psychology. The model is then deployed during an acoustemology of the trance/breakbeat track Finished Symphony by Hybrid (1999). Selected YouTube comments on Finished Symphony uploads are coded deductively using the descriptive system of Gabrielsson and Wik (2003). A larger set of comments is subsequently collected for inductive content analysis, which highlights some wider issues relating to the words we use for music and sound. The article concludes by calling for vantage point shifts in music research.

© Cambridge University Press 2017 

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An earlier version of this paper was read at the Seventh International Symposium on Music and Sonic Art: Practices & Theories (IMWI, Karlsruhe). I am very grateful to John Dack, Hubert Ho, Pieter-Jan Maes, Huw McGregor, Paul Nataraj, Adrian Palka, Matthew Sergeant, Denis Smalley, Patrick Valiquet, and Sean Williams for their comments. I am also very grateful to Georgina Born, Eric Clarke, Isis Hjorth, and Laura Tunbridge for their comments on this final version.



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