Vaporwave: la prima scena musicale nata nel web. anacronismi audiovisivi, tra ironia, nostalgia e memes

Lorenzo Montefinese


Youth (sub)cultures and music scenes have usually been bound to geographic and social contexts. Yet, as the Internet became more ubiquitous in everyday practices and interactions, it has started to appear as the epicenter of trends and aesthetics which themselves portray new subjectivities. The main case is that of vaporwave, an Internet-born music genre and aesthetic. Gaining traction online around 2011 and reaching popularity across social media and digital platforms in the subsequent years, vaporwave is peculiar for its audio-visual anachronism. Its most recurrent visual elements include ‘80s and ‘90s technological artefacts, early digital graphics, classic sculptures, Japanese characters, exotic and metropolitan landscapes. Sonically, it heavily relies on samples from ‘80s and ‘90s semi forgotten pop, smooth jazz, new age and muzak, usually slowed down, looped and altered. Vaporwave is characterized by ambiguity, not only in its bizarre anachronism, but especially for what concerns its supposed political stance: addressing in almost grotesque ways late capitalism utopianism and obsolete technologies, together with cheesy muzak, vaporwave unmasks its hollowness; at the same time, though, its ironic critique seems distant and passive, showing a sense of disillusion and detached look at society. Moreover, vaporwave is exemplar insofar as it is based upon media and cultural archaeology, drawing on the past to act on and reshape cultural memory through its foregrounding of minor, obsolete or forgotten products, both technological and musical. Vaporwave visual aesthetics eventually became autonomous and spread as memes across the Internet, while the music has been losing popularity in more recent years. Nevertheless, vaporwave is a pivotal element in contemporary pop culture, as it may be considered the first music scene to fully grow, develop and rise to fame online. As such, Vaporwave is the first scene to be born into and designed for the Internet.

Parole chiave

vaporwave; music scene; Internet; anachronism; irony; cultural memory

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