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Hello WATMM, I am a graduate student from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I am currently conducting a thesis project that analyzes intelligent dance music as popular music. In this analysis, I argue that IDM has a historically fluid relationship with mainstream values and the issues surrounding commercialization, a surplus of electronic music technology, and how popular image (eg. the AFX face) distort our understanding of what deems an artist 'popular' to mass audiences.
The topic is endlessly complex, as this notion of 'mass audience' is becoming more and more outdated and digital communities, such as this, fragment social groups as if they are tribes rather than subcultures or scenes. With the rapid emergence of the online world and digital technology, our ideas of what constitutes a community are changing. This means it is difficult to understand what popular values are in comparison to underground values. What's more, is that the growing impact of brands and commercial identities skew the notion of authentic music.
A key theory that I am utilising in this research is Sarah Thornton's notion of subcultural capital. Essentially, this theory argues that artists, listeners, and related institutions accrue a form of capital that helps to identify if someone or something is part of a subculture or popular culture. These values change depending on the community in question, and can be visualized as a spectrum. For example, some popular IDM artists such as Autechre or Aphex Twin are notorious for creating myths about their identity, actively shitting on pop media, and declining interviews. One could argue they maintain and shield their subcultural values by acting in this manner. I can go into more detail as the discussion unfolds.
If this post and research interests you, feel free to comment or PM me to keep the discussion going. I have various questions prepared in an interview-like format, but I think it is best to remain conversational in this discussion. There are some challenging questions I may offer, but I will wait to see how the discussion unfolds first. Some general research questions as food-for-thought:
- Would you consider the IDM community a diverse social space? Is it a cohesive community or fragmented in some way?
- What constitutes "popular music" in this digital age? Is IDM popular music?
- Does the online underground exist? What kind of impact does it have on listeners?
At times I will have to play devil's advocate, but please keep in mind this is my job, and it's only a means to extract interesting ideas about this important research! Cheers
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