Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
Friday, May 17 • 11:00 - 11:30
Unintended Obsolecense: Reviving dead tech in Vaporwave production

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What happens to old technology after it becomes not only obsolete, but culturally passé? Can it ever see a second life?

In this paper, I explore how producers of the Vaporwave genre employ the nostalgia-laden sounds of early tech relics in their music as a commentary on an increasingly IoT-oriented world of music production, which contrasts itself against our modern consumer culture of ephemeral trends and disposable technology. I detail the short cultural lifecycle of early creative technology and explore how Vaporwave producers turn a mirror on our own distorted sense of cultural memory.

Vaporwave is the music of abandoned malls, created with the aural flotsam and jetsam of 80s and 90s hazy pop nostalgia and exaggerated sounds of early computers—technological relics that lie now, plastic sun-bleached and brittle, in storage units and landfills. The melancholy this image evokes is embedded in the genre’s production style. Musicians deconstruct their childhood memories to create music—broken Nintendo consoles, trashed PCs and old computer vaporware are the instruments du jour to cre-ate this hesitant nostalgia.

Come learn about the evolution of the genre, its production style and its unique use of aesthetic and aural nostalgia.


Pippin Bongiovanni

iZotope, Independent