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While genre fragmentation increases the number of genres to unfathomable amounts, this research suggests it is the number of genres a music user mainly identifies with that is significant. The survey data shows a breadth of listening behaviour and mediums used by all the participants. However, there were broad identifiable collective patterns of use apparent within distinct groups of music users defined by the number of genres they recalled listening to. This research suggests that music users who express an affinity for none or two specific genres of music are far more likely to pay to stream music than those who identify with one specific genre, or who have tastes that extend to three or four. These groups still prefer to pay to acquire music on vinyl and MP3 and use free streaming for discovery and convenience. Despite a drive toward facilitating music choice predicated upon the mood, location or activities of the listener by streaming platforms, on this evidence genre remains a core concept in how music users identify with music and themselves. As streaming access challenges unit ownership to become the dominant medium for music use, the number of musical genres users have an awareness of and affinity for may not only shape the music we play, but also the mediums we use to play it and whether or not we pay for it.
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The distinctions drawn between genre affinity could also be to do with the genre preference. There is anecdotal evidence within the data that those who named two genres predominantly favour pop and indie. This is contrasted with those who identified three genres, who seem to lean towards an array of niches such as hip hop, rap, jazz, R&B, soul, singer/songwriter and folk, whereas the four genre group identified with various idioms of rock and metal. As Frith asserts in his exploration of genre rules, ‘Genre discourse depends … on a certain shared musical knowledge and experience.’ While entitling classifications of new combinations of sounds and styles aims at greater clarity, the seeming simplicity of sub-genre names masks the complexities behind the derivations of the actual musical and aesthetic combinations. Without clarifying my shared understanding of the genre titles expressed, I could only guess at the types of sounds, styles and, more importantly, acts and music to which the participants refer. Therefore, further research would seek to have participants allocate the diversity of genres named in the genre awareness section into a smaller number of broader classifications, so genre preference themes could be written into the research. Until then, this survey suggests that despite a shift toward music streaming, and the algorithmically and personalised music choices those platforms offer, genre remains a core way of mediating the experience of music.
They mainly used streaming, and specifically YouTube, to access otherwise unavailable live recordings or to listen to genre-specific music channels. Only two of the thirteen participants subscribed to Spotify premium and one used it for album listening; the other used it for discovery but had iTunes for albums. Again, this hunt and buy group will be difficult to convince that paying a £5–10 monthly subscription is good value for money. Why pay to access music they either already get for free, prefer to buy as downloads or already own and have organised in a way that connects with them?
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Albert John confirms the importance of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love as a composition that broke free from the existing structures of disco music and, in turn, created the perfect soundtrack for the Waltzer experience. From this point on Albert John, as a teenager, began seeking out innovative music from the wilderness years of the mid-1980s, looking for the polyrhythmic structures that would make his ride stand out from the rest as a fusion of sound, movement and machinery. He took his copy of I Feel Love to the record shops on his travels, asking to be provided with tracks that could match it, gathering the sporadic music from that decade that pushed the limits: Grandmaster Flash’s White Lines (1983), Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F (1985) and New Order’s Blue Monday (1983).
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The strapline on the canopy was re-lettered to ‘The World’s Latest Disco Waltzer on Tour’ and the key image on the front of the ride was Donna Summer extending her arms wide to draw you into the interior (see Figure 6).
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The synaesthetic nature of each ride had a strong differential, and this seemed to correlate with the experiencing of the music through the aforementioned mode of entrainment. The Ark Speedway evolved a symbiotic relationship with the music through both its rhythm and strong narrative element, while the Waltzer tended to take second place. Rock and Roll and subsequent genres through to Northern Soul told of the thrills and spills of adventures in teenage love, and of the joys of discovering music and all-night dancing. The musical structure was a steady beat, with eventual crescendos acted out through clapping (or stamping) actions. Showman David Wallis recalls an incident on a fair when the crowds were feverishly and collectively stamping their feet to the 1964 hit record Bits and Pieces by the Dave Clark Five with such a force that the wooden gratings around the ride were broken through. The Ark Speedway offered a journey with a beginning and an end, corresponding to the forward narrative of many of the lyrics of the time. Importantly, the Ark Speedway combined the social with the individual. Each rider had to compose themself on the ride and was responsible for maintaining a pose within the strictures of the rotating and undulating forces of the ride. This packaged mode of ‘listening-through-acting-out-through-riding’ continued with classic records such as the Shangri-Las’ Leader of the Pack (charting on release in 1964 but also charting on re-release in 1972 and 1976), which referenced motorbikes, through to funk anthems such as Brass Construction’s Movin’.