Edward Spencer

Research Interests

  • Electronic Dance Music (EDM) since 2010
  • Music and the Internet
  • Ways of moving to music
  • The crossmodal perception of timbre 
  • Aesthetics & Critical Theory

– Research Activities – 

Publications

(in preparation). Review of ‘Bass, Mids, Tops: An Oral History of Soundsystem Culture’ by Joe Muggs and Brian David Stevens (MIT / Strange Attractor Press, 2019). Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture.

(in press). Touching Sounds: re-examining audiotactile affect with reference to ASMR YouTube content and musical production practices. In J. Dack, T. Spinks, & A. Stanovic (Eds.), Music and Sound Art: Composition, Performance, Philosophy. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

(2017). Re-orientating Spectromorphology and Space-form through a Hybrid Acoustemology. Organised Sound, 22(3), 324-335. doi:10.1017/S1355771817000486

John Lowell Osgood Memorial Prize Essay

Light and Shade: Re-examining the aesthetics of the sublime and the beautiful with reference to the third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. [Submitted 19.9.16; prize awarded 29.3.17].

Conference Papers

(2019). On Trolling Sounds and Musical Emojis: An Exercise in Web-Based Acoustemology. 55th Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association. Manchester: University of Manchester and Royal Northern College of Music.

(2018). Beyond Intoxication: On Sobering Experiences of Electronic Dance Music. AMS/SMT San Antonio 2018: Music & Philosophy Study Group Session. San Antonio, TX: Grand Hyatt Hotel.

(2017). When Play Becomes Political: An Acoustemology of Major League Gaming Montage Parodies (MLGMPs). Ludo2017: Sixth Annual Conference on Video Game Music and Sound. Bath: Bath Spa University.

(2016b). Towards an Acousmatic Acoustemology: Spectromorphology and Space-form meet Ecosemiotics in the case of Hybrid’s Finished Symphony. MuSA2016: Seventh International Symposium on Music and Sonic Art. Karlsruhe: IMWI / Hochschule für Musik.

(2016a). ‘Come Meditate on Bass Weight’: UK dubstep, the rhetoric of affect and the rise of the grotesque. Musedelica: First Symposium on Psychedelic Music and Related Areas. Brighton: University of Sussex.

Invited Talks

(2019c). The Fall of PLUR: listening to the drop and the (anti)social web. University of Huddersfield Music Research Seminar. Huddersfield: Department of Music & Drama.

(2019b). The Fairy Tale of Sonic Materialism [a provocation delivered in response to The Political Possibility of Sound: Fragments of Listening by Salomé Voegelin]. TaPRA: Sound, Voice & Music Working Group. Oxford: Faculty of Music.

(2019a). Why Does Musical Taste Evolve? Lincoln Leads Seminar. Oxford: Lincoln College.

Conference Organisation

(2018). Music and the Internet: A Joint Study Day of the RMA and BFE. Oxford: Faculty of Music.                             [co-organiser with Pablo Infante-Amate. Website: https://musicinternetoxford.wordpress.com/ Report: https://www.rma.ac.uk/2019/08/22/conference-review-music-and-the-internet-8-december-2018-oxford/]

Area of proposed thesis

Thesis Title

‘The Drop and The Fall: An Investigation of Bass Music’

Abstract

This thesis investigates Electronic Dance Music (EDM) during the 2010s, specifically the ‘bass music’ genres of dubstep and trap that foreground a musical event known as the drop – that moment when sub-bass frequencies, bass topics, or new ‘debased’ materials take hold. The thesis examines the online-offline consumption of the drop using interdisciplinary methods, and through the central hermeneutic conceit of the drop and/as the Fall, presents three principal arguments that problematize longstanding pieties within EDM scholarship.

First, the drop constitutes a moment of rupture. It severs oneness and seamlessness (understood as the manifestation of a prelapsarian fallacy) and triggers the genesis of self-consciousness and dis/unity. Second, the drop is an event that complicates and undermines human freedom, agency, and happiness in the postlapsarian age of late capitalism, post-truth, and the (anti)social web. Third, the drop is entangled with a gender binary, heteronormativity, and misogynistic acts.

Following an Introduction, literature review, and discussion of methodology, the research is presented in six chapters organised into three parts. I. Chapter One explores phenomenological and existential aspects of the drop in the Midwestern United States festival setting through fieldwork, digital ethnography, and participant diary entries; Chapter Two considers the drop’s entanglements with race, gender and the rhetoric of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) in the same environment using identical methods. II. Chapter Three concentrates on trolling sounds in the dubstep anthem Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites by Skrillex; Chapter Four scrutinises the drop’s weaponization during the 2014 #GamerGate controversy and the 2015–2016 US Presidential Race using digital methods. III. Chapter Five focusses on the Harlem Shake trap meme of 2013; Chapter Six analyses ‘flow art’ movement in the festival setting and the dancing of Marquese Scott, star of the viral video PUMPED UP KICKS | DUBSTEP. The concluding ‘Afterparty’ considers bass music’s #MeToo moment; suggests that the drop is sobering rather than intoxicating; conceptualises the drop and the aforementioned prelapsarian fallacy as memes; reflects on the strengths and limitations of web-based interdisciplinarity; and outlines future research directions.

Funding

Clarendon Scholarship

Subjects Taught

Undergraduate Tutorial Teaching

Musical Thought and Scholarship (FHS): Magdalen, Queen’s

Scenes & Subcultures (FHS): Merton, Magdalen, Queen’s

Music, Mind and Behaviour (Prelims): Merton, New

Global Hip-Hop (Prelims): St Peter’s, Worcester

History of Electronic Music (FHS): Merton, Univ, Worcester

Undergraduate Seminar Teaching

Critical Listening (Prelims)

Visiting Student Teaching at St Catz

Psychology of Music Tutorials

Oxford International Programme at LMH

Popular Music, Youth Culture, Media & Communication