Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Glitsos, Laura. “Vaporwave, or Music Optimised for Abandoned Malls.” Popular Music 37 (January 2018): 100-118.

Vaporwave, a genre of surreal music built on collages of background music and highly processed vocals that is popular in online forums, produces an audio-visual aesthetic of remembering for the sake of remembering that can be understood through theories of nostalgia and catharsis. The music of vaporwave artist 18 Carat Affair and discussions of vaporwave music on Reddit forums provide a case study. Vaporwave music is characterized by repetitive structure, slow speed (70-90 beats per minute), self-conscious sampling, and heavy reverb effects. It emerged in the early 2010s as one of many genres of heavily intertextual electronic music circulating exclusively in online networks. The main aesthetic of vaporwave music is memory play through compensatory nostalgia, or nostalgia dealing with fuzzy memory in a landscape of media saturation. The music of 18 Carat Affair exemplifies the vaporwave aesthetic, sampling music from late 1980s and early 1990s consumer entertainment (such as the 1992 Sega Mega Drive videogame Streets of Rage II) and using digital processing to add a veil of lo-fi reverb. There is a deliberately liminal quality to vaporwave’s presentation with artists obfuscating the origins of sampled material and confabulating the sonic past. Vaporwave also often deals with memory play and nostalgia associated with cultural trauma. By digging up the waste products of consumerism—old VHS tapes, advertisements, corporate training videos, and similarly disposable media—vaporwave processes the chronic obsolescence and emptiness of consumer culture. At the heart of vaporwave is the extensive repurposing of Muzak to evoke the lingering unease of the artistically “dead” consumerism often associated with the brand. Vaporwave extends the modernist modes of fractured memory and collage present in the Dada and Surrealist movements of the early twentieth century. The visual style of vaporwave art mimics the collage techniques of Dada, Surrealism, and subversive Video Art from the 1950s-1970s. The visual and musical collage aesthetics of vaporwave constitute a process of remembering deformed by the collective trauma of the collapse of memory in corporate capitalist society.

Works: 18 Carat Affair: Home Box Office (105), New Jack City II (105)

Sources: Bill Conti: Theme from Dynasty (105); Yuzo Koshiro: Soundtrack for Streets of Rage II (105)

Index Classifications: 2000s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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