Rhythmic and Formal Analysis of Electronic Dance Music: House and Drum 'n' Bass
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Electronic dance music flourishes through an efficient balancing-act of audience perception and expectation, facilitated by two main musical components: rhythm and form. Rhythm creates small-scale musical events that ripple throughout the work, and can create a unique musical identity based on the construction of the pattern. Form acts on a far larger scale, and ties the work together through repeated phrases that consist of both strong rhythmic groupings and supportive melodic lines. These rhythmic groupings, otherwise referred to as beat patterns, are short, repeated patterns that act as the vital driving component to the track, also known as the groove. Percussive instruments create the framework of the beat pattern, and the exact placement of these particular sounds in the measure influence the perception of subgenre in electronic dance music. Over time, these beat placements take on a tradition of their own, which then create rhythmic pathways that producers and artists navigate for their audience. Complexity begins to develop from the beat patterns when the traditional mold is broken. Slight variations in the patterns can create entirely new perceptions to the audience, where subtlety is a very powerful tool. Audience expectation can be thwarted by moving a beat within the pattern forward by an eighth note, changing a percussive sample or sound in the pattern, and adding layers of subdivision below the shortest duration. All of these elements can vary by their overt presentation in the texture, which ultimately leads to the perception of complexity in the beat patterns.Larger-scale organization through formal construction acts alongside the smaller-scale groupings of beat patterns. In electronic dance music, form can be presented as simply as a traditional verse/chorus form with expected lyrical repetition. Situations can arise where a vocal component is left out, which leads to the conventions of the verse/chorus form shifting to an introduction/breakdown form, where many of the same properties are shared. In other cases, form is far more loosely defined by organically-shifting instruments and samples that lack a consistent phrase-structure within.The thesis explores the musical backdrops established by rhythm and form, and how the two components define small- and large-scale construction in the tracks to follow. Eight tracks are analyzed within two subgenres of electronic dance music: house and drum and bass. The analyses read as analytical vignettes, not intending to answer a question, but merely set forth one interpretation. Through the interpretation of each work, rhythm and form are starting-off points that allow the analysis to flow into track-specific territory. The intention is not to define one method of analysis to understand electronic dance music, but rather to explore the outcome when audience expectation and artist creativity are allowed to influence one-another in the unique digital realm.