Technologies of genre

Digital distinctions in Montreal

Authored by: Patrick Valiquet

The Routledge Research Companion to Electronic Music

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781472472915
eBook ISBN: 9781315612911
Adobe ISBN:


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Digital technology is often cited as a mitigating factor in the dynamics of genre. Assessments of its influence in electronic music are generally optimistic, emphasising the rise of new ‘hybrid’ styles unencumbered by academic tradition, enabled by ‘democratising’ tools which were once too expensive for all but the best-funded institutions. But digital sounds and materialities can be deployed in the interest of stasis and rigidity just as easily as they can generate progress. This is illustrated best by situations in which digital technologies are used to isolate or exclude genred associations. Assessing findings from an ethnographic study of musicians and sound artists in the Canadian city of Montreal, this chapter presents an argument for understanding genre in electronic music as a complex political apparatus that uses bodies, behaviours and machines to construct relations of both inclusion and exclusion. New instruments may open up new generic relations, but in many cases musicians understand these identifications as liabilities rather than assets, problems rather than solutions. In addition to resolving past conflicts, therefore, a digital ‘plurality’ can also intensify and multiply negative distinctions.

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