Virtual Space, Voice, and Gender in Recorded Popular Music from 2008–2018

1. Abstract

I develop an approach for locating the voice in a virtual space in recorded popular music. I use the method to examine how the spatialization of the voice within this space conveys gendered meanings. The method locates the voice in virtual space along six spectra: (1) left/right; (2) high/low; (3) localized/diffuse; (4) prominent/blended; (5) flat/reverberant; and (6) single vocal track/multiple vocal tracks.

I illustrate the methodology by analyzing a corpus of 133 tracks from the 2008–18 Billboard Year-end charts. My analysis demonstrates that male singers’ voices tend to be localized, prominent, and located in a flat space. Conversely, female singers’ voices are more likely to be diffuse, blended with the sonic environment, treated with echo and reverberation, and layered with multiple vocal tracks. The project contributes to analytical literature on recorded music while documenting the ways in which gendered meanings are sonically constructed.

Michèle Duguay (, The Graduate Center, CUNY

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