Joanna Demers Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music

216 pages

216 pages, Oxford University Press, 2010, English, ISBN-13: 978-0195387667
The stated purpose of Demers in this book is to find a unifying (strictly speaking) aesthetics for electronic music, despite the very different ideologies the different genres come from. Although the task would seem too vast, she restricts the timespan considered from the 1980s onwards. 1980 has been chosen because it represents a pivotal moment for democratization of electronic music production with the introduction of affordably priced synthesizers, popularized by pop bands on the newborn 24hr MTV channel. The author’s encyclopedic knowledge is shaped in very understandable forms and her efforts to find a coherent, step-by-step aesthetic in such a diverse domain are crystal clear and achieved through the definition of “metagenres”, or underlying inner differences, like having an infinite palette of sound. She never gets lost and manages to draw a consistent path which is both pleasurable and instructive to follow. The writing is always argued through musical examples: there’s even a companion website (username and password are printed in the first pages of the book) which can be used when the correspondent icons appear in the text. Electronic music qualities and contradictions are dissected and the author indulges in the inclusion of some destabilizing examples that cause continual doubts about the (aesthetic) distinction between music, sound art works and pure sound. And even when in conclusion the author goes so far as to define electronic music as alienating, the aesthetic frame she’s able to identify is priceless.