Seething Soundscapes: Seattle’s Early-Nineties

My research began as a case study of the Grunge movement during the early nineties. However, the focus of my work quickly shifted to R. Murray Schafer’s idea of a soundscape. More specifically, I decided to examine how soundscapes of music change and evolve. By analyzing the stylistic aspects of Grunge compared to its predecessors in rock, I determined what aspects of Grunge helped turn it into a nationwide fad that rapidly spread across the country. I will discuss keynote tones and styles specific to Grunge in order to flesh out how the sounds of rock changed during this time period. By keying on these examples, I will isolate the true differences in sound that changed the soundscape of mainstream rock. In addition to this, I will write about the evolution/commercialization of music in general and will determine how this can change the respective soundscapes of a genre’s origin.


Coming off Soundgarden’s album Badmotorfinger, “Outshined” typifies Grunge music both through its stylistic framework and lyrical composition. The song begins with a deep, melodic guitar riff that is also clearly aggressive and charged with emotion. In addition to this, the song is sung as if Chris Cornell is under stress. He is not singing for beauty or precession, but instead as if he is trying to express a frustrating message. The lyrical content of “Outshined” is typical to Grunge due to its exposure of issues such as addiction and depression: “I’m feeling that I’m sober, Even though I’m drinking, I can’t get any lower, Still I feel I’m sinking.”


3 thoughts on “Seething Soundscapes: Seattle’s Early-Nineties

  1. I think that considering the origins and implications of the grunge movement through an academic, acoustemological lens is something novel and interesting. Grunge is definitely something with layers of historical and sociological fodder to analyze.

  2. Like Adam, I appreciate your focus on not singing for beauty, which was a very new concept. The sort of raw emotion that was expressed through grunge was a huge breakthrough for rock music, and the effects can still be heard today in exposed songs about drugs and hardship.

  3. I like the way you describe Cornell’s singing as focused not on beauty but on expressing his depression. This shift certainly had a profound impact on rock beyond grunge, and I am looking forward to seeing your analysis of the shifting soundscape.

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