Breaking down the breakdown: the use of timbres in contemporary dance music sub-genres

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Hill, B 2005, 'Breaking down the breakdown', Generate + Test: Proceedings of the Australasian Computer Music Conference 2005, Brisbane, Qld., 12-14 July, pp. 75-84.

Available open access

Peer Reviewed



When making music in the style of contemporary Trance and Drum n Bass, a composer/producer does not need to have a theoretical understanding of Traditional Western European musical principles to com- pose interesting music. The basic working material is no longer pitch, but timbre. Using an analysis of specific musical works within these genres, this paper will demonstrate that while western melodic and harmonic forms are still evident in these musics, timbre is fore- grounded as the basic working material of the com- poser. In these musics, Timbres are being manipulated to create sonic textural variations and sequential structures that in this discussion are referred to as Timbral Cadential cycles. The notion of at Timbral Cadence, or a movement from musical instability to stability, is a good starting point for an analysis of the compositional forms of Trance and Drum and Bass. This pa- per will present transcriptions of Drum N Bass and Trance music works accompanied by a simple graphic analysis based on 'Reason' and 'Cubase' software arrangement windows.