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Noise Music: History’s Reaction to the Existing Condition

By Philip Trapp on Apr 03, 2016 09:25 PM EDT

Throughout musical history and continuing in today's artistic practice, forward-thinking musicians have created otherworldly compositions based in disquietude and sonance as opposed to rhythm and harmony.

A reaction to commonplace perceptions of the form, noise music is the antithesis of popular culture and a deeply expressive apparatus within outsider art.

Early 20th-century artist Luigi Russolo was perhaps the first innovator of what came to be known as "noise music," aiming to escape the confines of traditional composition and cultivate an appreciation of found sounds and unusual intonations. Musicians of all types followed the trail, forging artists like electronic pioneer Edgard Varèse and futurist composer John Cage.

Later, experimental noise rock and "no wave" music continued from there, with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music influencing artists like Sonic Youth and Throbbing Gristle. The genre being a kitchen sink of sound, it can also be said to contain field music compositions such as Irdial's legendary numbers stations recordings, The Conet Project.

Lakeland, Florida's The Ledger recently published an article on their community's burgeoning noisemakers, highlighting independent noise artist Kat Roberts. In describing a noise music house show and the attending performers' displays, the piece expounded on the genre's worldwide application and intentions:

"Across the world, the United States and into Central Florida, musicians like Roberts are forgoing traditional theory and instrumentation, and delving into a genre simply labeled 'noise,' an artistic movement that blurs the distinction made between conventional musical practices and theory, and non-musical sounds and atonal audio frequencies."

Some of the most heralded creators of noise originated in Japan, a trend so striking that its output has been labeled as "Japanoise." As highlighted by Creative Loafing, ethnomusicologist David Novak explored this wave of music in his book, Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Per the text, the professor examined the genre's exploratory nature and ultimate aim of musical rejuvenation:

"[Noise] is the desire to push experimentations with sound and performance beyond the canonization of musical genre, which remediates recorded music away from fixed histories and into the creative reinventions of feedback."

Noise music continues its untold trajectory today. Constantly evolving technology in digital recording and sampling further opens the doors to would-be creators. Glitch purveyors like Autechre and "no-fi" iconoclasts like Scriptures persist in breaking the mold and widening the known catalog of sounds.

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TagsExperimental Music, Noise Music

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