Joseph Nechvatal

Immersion Into Noise

    1. Into Noise: Tabula Rasa vs. Horror Vacui

    I consider myself successful only when I do something that resembles the lack of order I sense.
    Robert Rauschenberg
    Is not perhaps all ecstasy in one world humiliating sobriety in that complementary to it?
    Walter Benjamin, Reflections

    To set in motion the above reflection, I will address my experiences and understandings of noise as an immersive recalcitrance cultural characteristic through its sonic aspects. [72] That is how noise is generally understood. But then (perhaps more perplexingly) I will address noise as constructive visual, conceptual and theoretical phenomenon that has both communicative and philosophical ramifications connected to the unsound and the intricate.

    Noise is a dark and thorny thought, for the notion of noise does not have an unchanging, artistic unworthiness or worth. Rather noise is what lies outside of our habitual comfort zone at any point in time. [73] It is what awakes us from our silent dream and leads us to the excesses of ecstatic encounters. [74] It is non-homogeneous and incomplete, while being always hermetic. At the same time, noise is predominantly phantasmagorical. It suggests an outside other and points us elsewhere by sabotaging our sense of harmonious balance. Hence it is a corrective to efficiency and aesthetic correctness and an urge for psychic newness, as we feel compelled to move on. In this sense it is aligned with a Dada-like illogical determination. [75]

    One consequential effect of noise is on connected-internal cognizant models, such as the psychological ego-center and the subject's psychological motivational drive; these are factors which raise felt intensity. Hence the persuasiveness of noise. This is demonstrated by the fact that one enjoys noise as art (or doesn’t) depending to a large extent on one’s personal psychological needs and adaptability in accordance with the proposed audio cues. The philosophic rhizomatic theory of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1930–1992), at a general level, supports such a connectivist approach towards theorizing the noise experience, as rhizomatic theory encourages philosophic non-linear and non-restrictive interdisciplinary thinking and hence reinterpretation, which in this case will proceed from the point of view (not a point of fact anymore, but an orb) of immersion into noise. A rhizome literally is a root-like plant stem that forms a large entwined spherical zone of small roots that criss-cross. In the philosophical writings of Deleuze and Guattari, the term is used as a metaphor for an epistemology [76] that spreads in all directions simultaneously. [77] More specifically, Deleuze and Guattari define the rhizome as that which is “reducible to neither the One or the multiple. […] It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills. It constitutes linear multiplicities with n dimensions having neither subject nor object”. [78]

    Noise music often delivers a rhizomatic Dionysian jittery quality packed with levels of complexity, if not always indulgent Dionysian chaos. Certainly, noise (as art) merits the adjective polysemic, a word which stems from the Greek phrase meaning many signs. A polysemic awareness of noise acknowledges the hypothetically infinite range of meanings of noise that result when determinacy is replaced by indeterminacy, an awareness which contradicts the verisimilitude thought to correspond to the assumed exactitude of naive naturalism. Noise art is properly concerned with ideals of self-transcendence, then.

    Nevertheless, for the sake of discussion, the reader will, I hope, consider my somewhat less precise and less formal definition of noise art as boundary-quivering creation that involves the destruction of the conceptual frame that often uses temporary excess coupled with negativity (in some sense). In noise art, even a form of negation like anti-art [79] functions finally as a way of opening up our capacity for plurality and expanding what has heretofore been accepted. [80] The preferred decisive point in understanding immersion into noise in the context of art is its facilitation of a more potent conscious-totality in the art audience produced by merging the audience's perceptual circuitry with the artwork.

    Ultimately for me, though, noise is just a rupture signifying transmission of excess and/or negativity for the artist to employ or disregard at will. It can be lavish and thrilling. It can be incredibly tedious and boring.

    Good noise music has the proclivity to solicit us to respond to the work in time in both a contemplative and physical way, or at least in an implied tension between these two poles when one side outweighs the other. Noise, as all sound, dissipates over time, hence the only consistent non-expansive definition of the term noise that works for me in the context of the arts is in its irreversibility of time.

    As it is bound to dissipate over time, noise is death hiding in life, and it is true that expectations of death clearly condition our sense of boundaries. Our prospects for an everlasting life are not so drastically different than they have ever been. So perhaps beauty and noise don’t care for each other much. Nevertheless, in respect to noise, let’s consider Kant’s formulation of his sublime ideal—something that moved philosophical inquiry away from what was weakly established as the objective ideal in which the world, and the human subject within it, could be described as if from an outside (logocentric) position. [81] Kant, in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, showed us that intellectually humans are incapable of knowing the sublime ultimate reality, but this need not, and must not, according to Kant, interfere with the human obligation of performing as though the ideal character of this reality were certain.

    So without being certain, I will embark on this inharmonious meditation of noise discernment by remembering how I first became aware of noise as a cultural agent with aesthetic power.

    Tabulating Cybernetic Hendrix

    My childhood was set in a rather peaceful suburban setting. The distant sound of the train is the only noise I can recall, other than occasional thunder and other sounds of nature. My first cultural aspect of noise occurred at age 17 when I attended The Jimi Hendrix Experience concert December 1, 1968 at the Chicago Coliseum and sat in the very last row—far far away from the stage. Hendrix appeared miniscule. However the speakers were located just behind my head and his grandiloquent feedback was ear-splitting; an intensely pleasant, if disjunctive noise experience.

    That day I felt and sensed that this fabulous feedback I had been hearing was expressing inner aspirations for my own personal cybernetic circumstances, exemplified by Hendrix’s ongoing mixing of the electronic with the loose gesture. As pointed out by John Johnston in his The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI, a special feature of cybernetic theories (theories of feedback systems primarily based on the ideas of Norbert Wiener, 1894–1964) is that they explain processes in terms of the organization of the system manifesting it (e.g., the circular causality of feedback-loops which enables cybernetics to elucidate complex relationships from within—useful in formulating a creative epistemology concerned with the self-communication within a psyche and between the psyche and the surrounding environment). [82] I believe that via my confrontation with the exterior spectacle of Jimi’s noise music, an intimate grandeur unfolded for me connected to noise for the first time and a private readiness to amalgamate dislocated profusion was quickened. Indeed in reading Johnston’s The Allure of Machinic Life, I came across a quotation by Wiener on cybernetics [83] where he discusses the “study of automata”, pointing out that one of its “cardinal notions” is the “amount of disturbance or ‘noise’” engaged.

    Of course, Hendrix creatively used self-generating noises—the sounds that used to be denounced as non-musical—therfore it seemed to me, he understood that through the mediation of machines the technological built-in can be contorted and bent, thus changing our awareness of what technology is or can be. In that sense, his use of noise as a musical element demonstrated to me for the first time how an art of superabundance-proliferation can also be an art of pleasure that enlivens us to the privateness—and unique separateness—of each of us in lieu of the constructed social spectacle that engulfs and (supposedly) controls us (through technology). This private excess/noise created a separateness that offered me a personal critical distance via a bacchanalia gap with which to problematize technology—and thus another perspective on (and from) my given social simplicity. Thus noise as music is rhizomatic and increases our cultural territory by moving towards deterritorialization. As such, noise music demands a different kind of hearing and feeling not always belligerent and thunderous.

    Noise Music

    Generally speaking, Noise Music is a term used to describe varieties of avant-garde music and sound art that may use elements such as cacophony, dissonance, atonality, noise, indeterminacy, and repetition in their realization. In defining noise music and its value, Paul Hegarty cites the work of noted cultural critics Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007), Georges Bataille and Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and, through their work, traces the history of noise. He defines noise at different times as “intrusive, unwanted”, “lacking skill, not being appropriate” and “a threatening emptiness”, and he traces these trends starting with 18th century concert hall music. Hegarty contends that it is John Cage's composition 4'33"—in which an audience sits through four and a half minutes of "silence"—that represents the beginning of noise music proper. [84] For Hegarty, noise music, as with 4'33", is that music made up of incidental sounds that represent perfectly the tension between "desirable" sound (properly played musical notes) and undesirable "noise" that make up all noise music from Erik Satie (1866–1925) to NON to Glenn Branca.

    Douglas Kahn, in his work, Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts, discusses the use of noise as a medium and explores the ideas of Antonin Artaud, George Brecht, William Burroughs, Sergei Eisenstein, Fluxus, Allan Kaprow, Michael McClure, Yoko Ono, Jackson Pollock, Luigi Russolo and Dziga Vertov. [85]

    In Noise: The Political Economy of Music, Jacques Attali explores the relationship between noise music and the future of society. [86] He indicates that noise music is a predictor of social change and demonstrates how noise acts as the subconscious of society, validating and testing new social and political realities. [87]

    Like much of modern and contemporary art, noise music takes characteristics of the perceived negative traits of noises and uses them in aesthetic and imaginative ways. One can find the distinct effort to create something harshly beautiful from something perceived as ugly in what can possibly be identified as a search for a post-industrial sublime in art.

    In much the same way that the early modernists were inspired by naïve art, some contemporary digital art noise musicians are excited by the archaic audio technologies such as wire-recorders, the 8-track cartridge, and vinyl records. Many artists not only build their own noise-generating devices, but even their own specialized recording equipment and custom software (for example, the C++ software used in creating my viral symphOny). [88]

    For me, art noise combines stimulation into an all-inclusive totalization through sympathetic vibration, just as strings of a piano vibrate in sympathetic agreement, especially when tuned to the tuning system called just intonation. Just intonation, in music, is a system of tuning in which the correct size of all the intervals of the scale is calculated by different additions and subtractions of pure natural thirds and fifths (the intervals that occur between the fourth and fifth, and second and third tones respectively, of the natural harmonic series). Supposedly used in medieval monophonic music (melody without harmony) and considerably discussed by 20th-century sound artists and art-music theorists, just intonation proved impractical for polyphonic (multi-part) music and was replaced at least by the year 1500 by meantone temperament.

    Noise art music can feature distortion, [89] various types of acoustically or electronically generated noise, randomly produced electronic signals and non-traditional musical instruments. Noise music may also incorporate manipulated recordings, static, hiss and hum, feedback, live machine sounds, custom noise software, circuit bent instruments, and non-musical vocal elements that push noise towards the ecstatic. The Futurist art movement was important for the development of the noise aesthetic, [90] as was the Dada art movement [91] (a prime example being the Antisymphony of Jefym Golyscheff performed by Hannah Höch in Berlin on April 30th, 1919 with kitchen utensils) [92]—and later the Surrealist and Fluxus art movements, specifically the Fluxus artists Joe Jones, Yasunao Tone, George Brecht, Wolf Vostell, Yoko Ono, Walter De Maria's Ocean Music, La Monte Young, Robert Watts, [93] Takehisa Kosugi and Milan Knizak’s Broken Music. [94]

    During the early 1900s, a number of art music practitioners began exploring atonality. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg proposed the incorporation of harmonic systems that were, at the time, considered dissonant. This guided the development of twelve-tone technique and serialism. In The Emancipation of Dissonance, Thomas J. Harrison, in 1910, suggested that this development might be described as a metanarrative to justify the so-called Dionysian pleasures of atonal noise. [95] Contemporary noise music is often associated with excessive volume and distortion, particularly in the popular music domain with examples such as Boys Noize, Jimi Hendrix’s previously mentioned use of feedback, Nine Inch Nails and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

    Other examples of music that contain noise-based features include works by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Helmut Lachenmann, Theater of Eternal Music, Cornelius Cardew, Rhys Chatham, Ryoji Ikeda, Survival Research Laboratories, Whitehouse, Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV, Jean Tinguely’s recordings of his sound sculpture (specifically Bascule VII'), the music of Hermann Nitsch’s Orgien Mysterien Theater, and La Monte Young’s bowed gong works from the late 1960s, for example 23 VIII 64 2:50:45—3:11 am The Volga Delta From Studies In The Bowed Disc' from The Black Record (1969). Genres such as industrial, industrial techno, and glitch music exploit noise-based materials.

    Luigi Russolo, futurist painter of the very early 20th century, was perhaps the first noise music artist. [96] His 1913 manifesto, L'Arte dei Rumori, translated as The Art of Noises, stated that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. Russolo found traditional melodic music confining and envisioned noise music as its future replacement. He designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori and assembled a noise orchestra to perform with them. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) was met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted. None of his intoning devices have survived, though recently some have been reconstructed and used in performances. Although Russolo's works have little resemblance to modern noise music, his pioneering creations cannot be overlooked as an essential stage in the evolution of this genre, and many artists are now familiar with his manifesto. [97]

    An early Dada-related work from 1916 by Marcel Duchamp also worked with noise, but in an almost silent way. [98] His ready-made, With Hidden Noise (À bruit secret), was a collaborative exercise that created a noise instrument that Duchamp accomplished with Walter Arensberg. What rattles inside when With Hidden Noise is shaken remains a mystery. By the 1920s, modernists Edgard Varèse and George Antheil began to use early mechanical musical instruments—such as the player piano and the siren—to create music that mirrored the noise of the modern world. Antheil’s best-known noise composition is his 30 minutes-long Ballet mécanique (1924), originally conceived as the musical accompaniment to the Dada film of the same name by Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger. Eventually the filmmakers and composers chose to let their creations evolve separately, although the film credits still included Antheil. Nevertheless, Ballet mécanique premiered as concert music in Paris in 1926. In 1920, the poem Bruits (Noises) was created by Lajos Kassák, a Hungarian painter, publisher and writer who made several visual poems with newspaper fragments and the superimposition of letters and graphics. In this poem, noises are interpreted as interferences of the media.

    Antonio Russolo, the brother of the more famous Luigi Russolo, was another Italian Futurist composer. A 78rpm record made by him in 1921 is the only surviving sound recording that features the original intonarumori. Both pieces, Corale and Serenata, combined conventional orchestral music set against the famous noise machines. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti also assembled noises into a collage in which silence is an integral part. In 1923, Arthur Honegger created Pacific 231, a modernist musical composition that imitates the sound of a steam locomotive. Arseny Avraamov's composition Symphony of Factory Sirens involved navy ship sirens and whistles, bus and car horns, factory sirens, cannons, foghorns, artillery guns, machine guns, hydro-airplanes, a specially designed steam-whistle machine creating noisy renderings of Internationale and Marseillaise for a piece conducted by a team using flags and pistols when performed in the city of Baku in 1922.

    In 1930, Paul Hindemith and Ernst Toch recycled records to create sound montages and in 1936 Edgard Varese experimented with records by playing them backwards and varying the playback speeds. John Cage started his Imaginary Landscape series in 1939, which combined recorded sound, percussion, and, in the case of Imaginary Landscape #4, twelve radios. [99]

    In the 1940s, Pierre Boulez (who made his name with violently expressive scores and opinionated polemics) embodied a strict sound style shorn of Romantic nostalgia and the detritus of a defunct tradition. [100] Boulez moved on to the rigorously organized technique of total serialism, which organized various aspects of sound—pitch, duration, volume, and attack—into a series of twelve, in line with the twelve-tone system. Under the influence of Henry Cowell in San Francisco, Lou Harrison and John Cage began composing music for "junk" percussion ensembles, scouring junkyards and Chinatown antique shops for appropriately-tuned brake drums, flower pots, gongs, and more.

    In Europe, during the late 1940s, Pierre Schaeffer coined the term musique concrète to refer to the peculiar nature of sounds on tape, separated from the source that generated them initially. Following this, both in Europe and America, other modernist art music composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, G.M. Koenig, Pierre Henry, Iannis Xenakis, La Monte Young, and David Tudor, explored sound-based composition. In late 1947, Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) recorded Pour en Finir avec le Jugement de dieu (To Have Done With the Judgment of God), an audio piece full of the seemingly random cacophony of xylophonic sounds mixed with various percussive elements, mixed with the noise of alarming human cries, screams, grunts, onomatopoeia, and glossolalia. [101]

    In 1949, Nouveau Realisme artist, Yves Klein, wrote The Monotone Symphony, a symphony that consisted of one held note, thereby demonstrating that the sound of one sustained tone made viable music. Also in 1949, Boulez befriended John Cage, who was visiting Paris to do research on the music of Erik Satie. John Cage had been pushing music in even more startling directions during the war years, writing for prepared piano, junkyard percussion, and electronic gadgetry. In Paris, Cage encountered the pioneering electronic composer Pierre Schaeffer, who, after the war, began assembling sound collages made up of pre-recorded pieces of tape. The first of Schaeffer's Cinq études de bruits, or Five Noise Etudes, consists of locomotive sounds that the composer recorded at a train station.

    Back in New York in 1952, Cage constructed his own tape collage, Williams Mix, made up of some 600 tape fragments arranged according to the demands of the I Ching. Cage's early radical phase reached its height that summer of 1952, when he unveiled the first art Happening at Black Mountain College, and 4'33", the so-called controversial silent piece. The audience saw David Tudor sit at the piano, and close the lid. Some time later, without having played any notes, he opened the lid. A while after that, again having played nothing, he closed the lid. And after a period of time, he opened the lid once more and rose from the piano. The piece had passed without a note being played, in fact without Tudor or anyone else on stage having made any deliberate sound, although he timed the lengths on a stopwatch while turning the pages of the score. Only then could the audience recognize what Cage insisted upon: that there is no such thing as silence. Noise that may make musical sound is always happening.

    In 1957, Edgard Varèse created on tape an extended piece of music using noises not usually considered "musical" entitled Poème électronique. Varèse conceptualized his last work in the immersive, conceiving his unfinished Espace as voices in the sky, as though magic, filling all space, criss-crossing, overlapping, penetrating each other. 

    Among the techniques used in this period were tape manipulation, subtractive synthesis, and improvised live electronics.

    On May 8th, 1960, six young Japanese musicians, including Takehisa Kosugi and Yasunao Tone, formed the Group Ongaku with two tape recordings of noise music: Automatism and Object. These recordings made use of a mixture of traditional musical instruments along with a vacuum cleaner, a radio, an oil drum, a doll, and a set of dishes. Moreover, the speed of the tape recording was manipulated, further distorting the sounds being recorded.

    The art critic Rosalind Krauss argued that, by 1968, artists such as Robert Morris, Robert Smithson and Richard Serra had entered a situation the logical conditions of which can no longer be described as modernist. Sound art found itself in the same condition, but with an added emphasis on distribution. Anti-form process art became the term used to describe this post-modern, post-industrial culture and the process by which it is made. Serious art music responded to this conjuncture in terms of intense noise, for example the La Monte Young Fluxus composition 89 VI 8 C. 1:42–1:52 AM Paris Encore From Poem For Chairs, Tables, Benches, Etc. Young's composition Two Sounds (1960) was composed for amplified percussion and windowpanes, and his Poem for Tables, Chairs and Benches (1960) used the sounds of furniture scraping across the floor.

    In addition, a process of anti-form free noise emerged out of the avant-garde jazz tradition with musicians such as John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra and the Arkestra, Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and John Zorn. In the 1970s, the concept of art itself expanded and groups like Survival Research Laboratories, Borbetomagus and Elliott Sharp embraced and extended the most dissonant and least approachable aspects of these musical/spatial concepts.

    Around the same time, the first postmodern wave of industrial noise music appeared with Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and NON (aka Boyd Rice). These cassette culture releases often featured zany tape editing, stark percussion and repetitive loops distorted to the point where they may degrade into harsh noise. In the 1970s and 1980s, industrial noise groups like Current 93, Hafler Trio, Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Laibach, Steven Stapleton, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, Smegma, Nurse with Wound and Einstürzende Neubauten performed industrial noise music mixing loud metal percussion, guitars and unconventional "instruments" (such as jackhammers and bones) in elaborate stage performances. These industrial artists experimented with varying degrees of noise production techniques.

    Other postmodern art movements influential to postindustrial noise art are Conceptual Art and the Neo-Dada use of techniques such as assemblage, montage, bricolage, and appropriation. [102] Bands like Étant Donnés, Le Syndicat, Test Dept, Clock DVA, Factrix, Autopsia, Nocturnal Emissions, Whitehouse, Severed Heads, Sutcliffe Jügend and SPK soon followed. For me, their noise stood in defiance of the limits of ordinary perception and representation. Thus it was about the opposition between the various pleasures of standard music and the transgressive/ecstatic moment. In a sense, it attempted to set up a stable form of ecstatic transgression where I could go back and forth at will. This is perhaps similar to the tongue-in-cheek idea behind the amusing Excessive Machine in the film Barbarella. [103]

    The sudden post-industrial affordability of home cassette recording technology in the 1970s, combined with the simultaneous influence of punk rock, established the no wave aesthetic, and instigated what is commonly referred to as noise music today.

    Lou Reed's double LP album, Metal Machine Music (1975) is an early, well-known example of commercial studio noise music that the music critic Lester Bangs has called the “greatest album ever made in the history of the human eardrum”. It has also been cited as one of the “worst albums of all time”. Reed was well aware of the electronic drone music of La Monte Young. His Theater of Eternal Music was a seminal minimal music noise group in the mid-1960s with Velvet Underground cohort John Cale, Marian Zazeela, Henry Flynt, Angus Maclise, Tony Conrad, and others. The Theater of Eternal Music's discordant sustained notes and loud amplification had influenced John Cale's subsequent contribution to the Velvet Underground in his use of both discordance and feedback. John Cale and Tony Conrad have released noise music recordings they made during the mid-sixties, such as Cale's Inside the Dream Syndicate series (The Dream Syndicate being the alternative name given by Cale and Conrad to their collective work with La Monte Young).

    The aptly named noise rock fuses rock to noise, usually with recognizable rock instrumentation, but with greater use of distortion and electronic effects, varying degrees of atonality, improvization, and white noise. One notable band of this genre is Sonic Youth who took inspiration from the no wave noise composers Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham (himself a student of La Monte Young). Marc Masters, in his book on the no wave, points out that aggressively innovative early dark noise groups like Mars and DNA drew on punk rock, avant-garde minimalism and performance art. Important in this noise trajectory are the nine nights of noise music called Noise Fest that was organized by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth in the NYC art space White Columns in June 1981, followed by the Speed Trials noise rock series organized by Live Skull members in May, 1983. Also notable in this vein is Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, an avant-garde recording by John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1968 consisting of repeating tape loops as John Lennon plays on different rock instruments such as piano, organ and drums along with sound effects (including reverb, delay and distortion), changes tapes and plays other recordings, and converses with Yoko Ono, who vocalises ad-lib in response to the sounds. They followed this recording with another noise recording in 1969 entitled Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions.

    Since the late 1980s in Japan, there has been a prolific output of "harsh" noise music (often referred to as japanoise) by the noise figurehead Merzbow (pseudonym for the Japanese noise artist Masami Akita who himself was inspired by the Dada artist Kurt Schwitters’s Merz art project of psychological collage). Other Japanese noise artists include Boredoms, C.C.C.C., Incapacitants, KK Null, Yamazaki Maso’s Masonna, Solmania, K2, The Gerogerigegege, and Hanatarash. [104]

    Following in the wake of industrial noise music, noise rock, no wave and harsh noise, there has been a flood of noise musicians whose ambient, microsound or glitch-based work is often subtler to the ear. [105] Kim Cascone refers to this development as a postdigital movement and describes it as an aesthetic of failure. [106] Post-industrial noise artists from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s include Alva Noto, Nicolas Collins, Boyd Rice, The Psychic Workshop, Signal, Stephen Vitiello, If, Bwana, PBK Phillip B. Klingler, Aube, Crawling With Tarts, Andrew Deutsch, Randy Grief, Robin Rimbaud, Minoy, Kim Cascone, Master/slave Relationship, Oval, Boards of Canada, Maybe Mental, Kenji Siratori, Thanasis Kaproulias (Novi-Sad), Fennesz, Matthew Underwood, Yasunao Tone, Noise Maker's Fifes, Pole, Arcane Device and Francisco López, among many others. Richie Hawtin, Jan Jelinek, Ricardo Villalobos, Decomposed Subsonic, Trentemøller and other Minimal techno and Microhouse DJs have been using noise elements such as buzz, hum and clicks as sonic flavor since the early 1990s. [107]

    Their noisy view of post-industrial society takes into account the rich ensemble of possible relations (the diversity, the unexpected links, the ruptures, the amalgamations, the connected heterogeneity) that Deleuze and Guattari showed us. Indeed for many artists, myself included, Deleuze and Guattari’s vision of post-industrial life re-opened a way for the production of subjectivity in art [108] by affirming the befittingness of multiplicity coupled with the necessary right to dissension typical of art noise.

    Tabulating Datamatics [ver. 2.0]

    On October 29th, 2007 I attended a concert by the Japanese composer Ryoji Ikeda at the Centre Pompidou in Paris called Datamatics [ver 2.0]. At the time, Datamatics [ver 2.0] was the latest electronic audio/visual creation of Ikeda where he mines data mania for both the material and the theme of his work. The intention is a meditation on the wild relationship between the sound of data and the data of sound today. The effect, however, is a furious formalism that effectively entices, but flattens and thins out the longer it goes on. That said, the macabre grandeur of Datamatics [ver 2.0], with its repetitive super-coded/anti-coded rigor, is stunningly beautiful on début. A furious rhythm of inscrutable data discord is established from the beginning, necessarily entailing a process of attraction/repulsion that intimidated me while spawning some sublime ideas.

    Ikeda makes speed manifest here, including the various speeds and slownesses that extend the retinal limit in a way that would be previously regarded as outside of phenomenological thought. The complex installation work of Tatsuo Miyajima came to mind at points. Specifically Miyajima’s 1996 installation at La Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, where he made two large installations which dealt with the abstract constitution of time in the digital age. Both installations consisted of abundant LED signal-lights that flashed a countless bevy of over-excited digital numbers in what appeared to be a random order. One installation, Time Go Round, had twenty green and red digital modules spinning in various circular orbits against an imposing dark wall. One discerned there a mystifying data constellation in transit, reminiscent of passages from Mona Lisa Overdrive. [109]

    Time Go Round was an attempt to delineate the crisis of time in relationship to the dispersed ontological self in the information age (where digital time as the only time has become non-problematic in computational work environments). Miyajima’s artistic sense of time in crisis served to encourage me to value the freedom of my own interior sense of time.

    By contrast, Ikeda’s evocation of data time is riding high on speed, and tempo here took on the implication of a dark temporal pop-cultural product pit into which my accurate perceptions were poured—even as I resisted fragmentation and remained fixed in the logocentric seat of Renaissance three-point-perspective. This principle of hyper speed coupled to visual overload makes inoperable the usefulness of the term ‘minimal’ in association with Ikeda, as Datamatics [ver 2.0] animates a crumbling of the normal monuments to human difference we construct daily. Ikeda’s mixture of technical precision with perceptual overload presented a significant challenge to experiencing interior time. Perhaps it would have been possible had I been able to divorce the musical experience from the visual torrent.

    Ikeda’s rapid techno music is created from slight electronic hums and pops that build into gargantuan sonic textures, sometimes reaching the noise intensity of Merzbow. Given his cornucopiastic range, Ikeda, quite scrupulously, defies melodious categorization. This range allows for virtuoso moments that provide the opportunity of exploring the intricacy of his hard-edged myriad-colored dexterity as he plays back-and-forth with elaborate but lucid musical aggregates that facilitated mild waves of aural imbrication. In piercing clouds of cacophony I heard traces of Xenakis, La Monte Young, Boulez, and Aphex Twin.

    But Ikeda’s primary tool of coherence is what in acoustics is called ‘duration’, the steady-state of a sound at its maximum intensity. My supposition here is that Ryoji Ikeda takes this musical phenomena of duration and extends it into a general spatial intelligence based on petite bursts of sound. The attraction to such an adjoining structure is strong, but it wanes quickly. I suppose it must be like doing business with a rather spectacular whore.

    Conceptually, Ikeda’s music reminds me that our once basic Euclidean conception of space has been expanded to include the formation of many-dimensional space. In Ikeda’s music, the Euclidean concept of space is modified via excess by enlarging the number of vectors that may be constructed within it from three to some much larger number (designated as n). Such n space implies the existence of a higher-dimensional geometry that mimics Euclidean geometry. Inevitably this approach shaped me as the viewer/listener into an inert subject. The audio is both clean, noisy and hardheaded in such a way that the individual's personal extension into the virtual tends to be blunted.

    There is also, however, another proposed spatial reality relevant to Ikeda, most notably the topological space model of fuzzy space where there exists only a concept of nearness. In this respect he reminds us that hearing and seeing is not an activity divorced from consciousness.

    But really, any account of Ikeda’s sonic dexterity as related to consciousness is inadequate to our actual experience of it. Yes, his music is conceptual in that his sound deprives us of our habitual perceptive boundaries by surpassing them. Through the excessive, Ikeda makes us remember that throughout time there have been consensual realities that have proven to be nothing but vast daydreams. But Ikeda’s music spectacularly fails to be in opposition to what Donald Lowe in his History of Bourgeois Perception identifies as the “bourgeois perceptual field”, a mode that he characterizes as fundamentally linear, non-reflexive and overtly objective. [110]

    So, to conclude, Ikeda’s initially mesmerizing presentation was an experience always about to come. I say ‘about to come’ as Datamatics [ver 2.0] contains much manic machinic stuttering (full of Nietzschean multiple affirmations and shattered teleological art-historical/art-hysterical continuums) that never resolve. The stuttering I am addressing here rests, of course, in the spectral repetitions of his mental-machinic procedures: we see and hear a digital/mechanical shifting again and again and again and again and again and again, but with slight variations full of dazzling élan. So it is a vigorous abstract stuttering I sensed in the work that took me down into a deadening sensation of unfathomable data: the data of anytime-anywhere. Given that implication of mythic indifference, Ikeda’s a/v stuttering could be properly aligned with the Dada artistic legacy of Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara. It is a form of digital-dada, post-conceptual art-music in its absurd machinic indifference.

    How does Datamatics [ver 2.0] achieve this meticulous indifferent stuttering? Ikeda uses the precision of digital technology to fracture data into tangled networks of beeps and lines—initially delightful and exquisite nihilistic manipulations that tease our mind with their multiple syntactical/semantic gestures of sadism, strenuously massacring the social source material along the way. But like Op Art [111] (which it resembles) on crack, this stuttering stuttering stuttering turns tedious and cold, shutting down feeling, reflection and contemplation and hence imagination in my mind. In that sense, Ikeda only created pictographic and aural excavational moments that cannot be sustained, but are instead mental acts worthy of short but frequent revitalizations: again and again and again and again—a visual/audio whiplash that slashes into the burnt annals of symbolist romanticism. To follow Ikeda there is to evaporate into the puzzling archives of some geek heretical doctrine and pop out again into a dead excess vis-à-vis ideology writ large as system. In that sense, he pictures/sounds as an obscene thrashing of, and ongoing onslaught against, innocence.

    Alors? So are these subsequent revelations an abiding labyrinthian form of abject nothingness? Yes, Datamatics [ver 2.0] is a blustering, bursting, blatant, banality, but even so I saw/heard in Datamatics [ver 2.0] the melancholy monstrous traces and dissimilative Dionysian mannerisms of Novalis, Chateaubriand, Nerval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Aragon, Bataille, Lautréamont and Roussel. That is hardly farcical nothing (albeit by way of negation folded upon negation/instrumentalization upon instrumentalization). But what is missing in Datamatics [ver 2.0] for me is vague imagery and sound that does not depend on induction or deduction, and exists prior to these forms of controlling cognitions. In that sense, Datamatics [ver 2.0] cries out for access to the libraries of other people’s subconscious experiences.

    So Ryoji Ikeda’s Datamatics [ver 2.0] is a stuttering in a hygienic but deranged tongue within the vernacular of shattered techno signs and computer music clichés. In that way Datamatics [ver 2.0] is anti-automatismic. We are forced to think creatively and distinctively if we hope to un-pack and self-interpret its quintessentially dancing chaotic vision par excellence. And when we do: we finally do come—enigmatic-lithe jouissance. But the jolt has been sadly self-inflicted, lacking, as it does, the tragic/emphatic psychic dimensions of artificial life (I saw or felt no field of intensities invoking the inchoate and the savage) and the open multiple model of atmospheric free associations. Thus the event went a bit lacking, for me, in what Deleuze suggested to us (via Proust): something real without being actual, ideal without being abstract.

    Tabulating Cecil Taylor

    Ikeda’s concert brought back to mind another concert I attended by Cecil Taylor at Alice Tully Hall in New York on the 28th of February in 2002. Given his gigantic musical range, Cecil Taylor quite scrupulously defies melodious categorization. What we can say is that, with a piano, Taylor creates gargantuan sonic envelopes to float in. This I eerily experienced again at his euphonious performance as he exquisitely explored the intricacy of his myriad-colored dexterity by playing back-and-forth with elaborate/lucid musical paradigms and triumphal aggregates like the virtuoso he is. In clouds of muscularly produced tinkling “cacophony” were heard exquisite dashes of Fats Waller, Xenakis, Bud Powell, La Monte Young, Brahms, John Coltrane, Aphex Twin (drukqs), Sun Ra, John Cage and, of course, Theolonius Monk. His music, then, is a vigorous paradox where customary opposites coexist, coalesce, and connect.

    Cecil began recording in 1955, working with Steve Lacy, Buell Neidlinger, and Dennis Charles. (Neidlinger, an experienced symphonic bassist, once said that no musician he'd ever met, including Stravinsky and Boulez, had musical abilities that exceeded Taylor's, and that he is potentially the most important musician in the western world.) The group had an extended, six-week engagement at the Five Spot Cafe in New York—literally introducing the concept of modern jazz to a club that shortly thereafter became one of its legendary venues—and made an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, which Verve recorded in 1957. In 1958, he recorded with Earl Griffith, Charles and Neidlinger for Contemporary (Looking Ahead), and with John Coltrane for United Artists (Coltrane Time). Taylor also made his own date for that label in 1959, and more Candid sessions through to 1961 (Mosaic collected the complete Candid sessions on a comprehensive four-disc boxed set in 1992).

    Taylor’s primary tool of coherence is what, in acoustics, is called envelope. Envelope, in music, involves the onset, growth, and decay of a sound. Growth consists of the rate of increase of a sound to steady-state intensity. Duration refers to the steady-state of a sound at its maximum intensity, and decay is the rate at which it fades to silence. Envelope is an important element of timbre, the distinctive quality, or tone color, of a sound. My supposition here is that Cecil Taylor takes this musical phenomena of envelope and extends it into a more general peripheral spatial intelligence best called holonogic. [112] Yes, I think it is sensible to make use of the holonogic schematic model of Arthur Koestler (1905–1983) (established in his books Beyond Reductionism and The Ghost in the Machine) [113] when trying to appreciate the music of Cecil Taylor in that no set or frame of perceptions may be experienced in isolation or as a single part of a finite perceptual collection within the holonogic model.

    Taylor’s performance fantastically fits the holonogic paragon starting with its ritualistic beginning (which suggested deep African ceremonial consciousness in dialogue with Taylor’s roots as a tap dance) to its empyrean conclusion.

    The concert began with four intense piano solos, with Cecil producing some muffled and deeply eccentric vocalizations. These solos all imploded and exploded with those detailed musical references cited above. I had to close my eyes to even attempt at hearing all the musical ideas simultaneously present. The acoustics are phenomenal at Alice Tully Hall, though, and they facilitated mild waves of aural imbrication. This made for a rather complex musical reckoning.

    Taylor’s music reminds me that our once basic Euclidean conception of space has been expanded to include the formation of many-dimensional space. In Taylor’s music, the Euclidean concept of space is modified by enlarging the number of vectors that may be constructed within it from three to some much larger number. There is also, however, another proposed spatial reality relevant to Taylor’s music called curved-space—or curved space/time. Curved-space is approximately Euclidean over very small regions, but over large regions all geometrical properties break down. Curvature is combined with Euclidean geometry with the increase of dimensions plotted. There are also a number of other generalized spaces that drop the Euclidean geometry completely, most notably the topological space model and fuzzy space where there is only a concept of nearness.

    Part II of the concert consisted of Taylor’s piano playing with (sometimes within) the dazzling percussion of Jackson Krall. This accomplished performance—which included him sassily playing the mise-en-scène with his sticks—would be appropriate to anybody analyzing noise music and the holonogic principle. The colossal, deep base atmospheric spectrum was handled by Dominic Duval. Playing concurrently, the three sensitively roared. At moments I could hear the majestic universe bellow—and then whimper. Everybody who has ever seen Taylor play live—with or without other musicians—knows this. He does this to the entire room by unframing our mind and ears and expanding the listener’s sensitivity both to noise and to the most delicate tiny musical moments. The music then remains beautiful to recall. In this respect he reminds us that hearing is not an activity divorced from consciousness.

    But like with Ikeda, any account of Taylor’s sonic dexterity as related to consciousness is again inadequate to our actual experience of it. But the holonogic model of cognitive-aural processing is useful for a one-of-many possible accounts of its reverberations. Yes, his music is particularly holonogic as his sound deprives us of our habitual perceptive boundaries by surpassing them. Through excessive deprivation, Taylor makes us remember that throughout time there have been consensual realities that have proven to be nothing but vast daydreams, such as the conviction that the earth is at the center of the universe. Yes, the holonogic model befits Taylor’s adroitness because according to Koestler's holon concept, instead of cutting up immersive perceptual wholes into discrete focal parts, noise immersion should be scrutinized and understood using synthetic sub-whole sets found within ambient space. [114] And Taylor’s music deserves this level of attendant complex scrutiny.

    Such an approach to Taylor’s music is consistent with, and indeed epitomises, the ideals of hermeneutics, insofar as in hermeneutics the central notion is that we cannot grasp the meaning of a portion of a work until we understand the whole, even though one cannot understand the whole until one understands the parts that make it up. However, hermeneutics is not merely a paradox, since hermeneutics indicates that any act of interpretation occurs through time, with adjustments and modifications being made to one's comprehension of both the parts and the whole in a circular manner, until some type of resolution is attained.

    Such an extensively engrossed holonogic/hermeneutic approach towards the music of Cecil Taylor is noise in opposition to the bourgeois perceptual field. Insofar as our adult creativity derives primarily from our conspicuous potential for abstraction (which characterizes our genus) and in our craving and manipulation of abstractions, what is at stake for Cecil Taylor here is our acceptance of our entire atmospheric sensation as our genuine field of conscious creative interest—an abstract field that calls on our tremendous expansive qualities for which the descriptions of the scientist and the doctor have not done suitable justice.

    Tabulating Power Electronics

    My increased involvement in this topic of noise music was launched in downtown Manhattan during the heyday of no wave music. My enjoyment of the music of Glenn Branca, DNA, Rhys Chatham (with whom I played music, but more importantly collaborated with on a no wave noise opera called XS) [115] and others, coupled with my growing knowledge of Fluxus and Minimalist art music as archivist to La Monte Young, led me to curate two noise issues of Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine: [116] Power Electronics (1986) [117] —which led me to meeting Merzbow, and later, Media Myth (1988). [118]

    Figure 3 : 

                  XS the Opera: Shakespeare Theater Boston 1986
    Figure 3
    XS the Opera: Shakespeare Theater Boston 1986

    The basic premise behind Power Electronics and Media Myth was the exploration of the introspective world of the ear under the influence of the era’s high-frequency electronic environment. Since it was difficult making sense of the 1980s’ swirling media society, the general proposition behind Power Electronics and Media Myth was to look for a paradoxical summation of this uncertainty by looking for artists who took advantage of the time’s superficial saturation—a saturation so dense that it failed to communicate anything particular at all upon which we could concur, except perhaps its overall incomprehensible sense of ripe delirium—as the Reaganomic reproduction system pulsed with higher and higher, faster and faster, flows of senseless info-data to the point of near hysteria.

    Perhaps the result of this ripe information abundance was that the greater the amount of Reaganomic information that flowed, the greater the incredulity which it produced, at least for thinking, questioning artists. So, the tremendous load of data produced and reproduced all around us ultimately seemed to make less, not more, conventional sense. Indeed, this feeling became the premise of both Power Electronics and Media Myth.

    This supposition about noise and noise music, it seems to me, plays into the history of abstract visual art which teaches us that art may refuse to recognize all thought as existing in the form of representation and that, by scanning the spread of representation, sound art may formulate an understanding of the laws that provide representation with its organizational basis. As a result, in my view, as mentioned above, it was electronic-based sound art's onus to see what unconventional, paradoxical, summational sense—in terms of the subjective world of the imagination—art might make based on an appropriately decadent reading of our time’s paradoxically material-based (yet electronically activated) media environment.

    Such a basically abstract, artistic, paradoxical/summational fancy began with the presumption that an information-loaded nuclear weapon had already exploded, showering us with bits of radioactive-like informational sound bytes, thus drastically changing the way in which we perceive and act, even in our subconscious dream worlds. It is this internal, subconscious, paradoxical drama of the Reaganomic, 80s—this subconscious contradictory tension—that I found potentially interesting in conceiving Power Electronics and Media Myth and as a subject specifically suitable for electronic-based sound art.

    Electronic-based sound art, by virtue of its distinctive electron constitution of fluidity, floats in an extensive stratosphere of virtuality. Hence, the particular constitution of Power Electronics and Media Myth is best seen, perhaps today, as an osmotic membrane: a blotter of the 1980’s instantaneous ubiquity/proliferation. Consequently, Power Electronics and Media Myth reflected (and worked with) social power. Power Electronics and Media Myth, when viewed as shaped by the de-centered electronic overload of the 80s, is understood today as a flustered code of digital signifiers, a confused collective representation that bewilderingly mutated the ideology of its own reproduction.

    So, the question for these projects was, how could artists symbolically turn these de-centered power codes into artistic abstractions of social merit? Perhaps it was possible because I knew, somewhere, that these symbolic codes—which, after all, helter-skelter, make us up—are positively phantasmagorical.

    This is still, of course, true today. Based on the premises of Power Electronics and Media Myth, perhaps a socially relevant digitally-based audio noise creativity can be found also in today's electronic-based art's ecstatic potentiality—in that electrons partake (and make up) the all-encompassing phantasmagorical/technological sign-field in which we live and which defines us (at least in part). Since prevailing representation is made up of conventional, rigid social signs (and sound art typically of unconventional irresponsible signs—the mode that represents the real arbitrary nature of all signs as it subverts the socially controlled system of meaning), electronic-based sound art may offer us the opportunity for the creation of relevant and applicable anti-social phantasmagorical signs (hence, abstract ecstatic anti-signs) which may continue to mentally move and multiply us without stop. Yet this fancied aesthetic non-knowledge is certainly the most erudite, the most aware, the most conscious area of our current identity, as it is also the phantasmal depths from which all digital representation emerges in its precarious, but glittering, existence. Indeed it was this quivering phantasmal cohesion that maintains the sovereign and secret sway over each and every audio sample—this phantasmal vibrating—which I found interesting in conceiving both Power Electronics and Media Myth; a sway beyond reductive minimalist abstraction into an excessive hybrid abstraction—an audio art, which is in theory opposed to the tabular mental space laid out by classical thought. [119]

    Surely such a hybrid electronica/phantasmal impetus can help release pent up ecstatic energies in that the more overwhelming and restrictive the social mechanism, the more exaggerated are the resulting effects—and hence excel the assumed determinism of the technological-based phenomenon inherent (supposedly) in our post-industrial information society. Therefore, in this way, I hoped Power Electronics and Media Myth served as an ecstatic impulse/phenomena that proliferates in proportion to the technicization of society—as such a nervous electronica-ecstasy may occur as a result of technological society's obsession with the phantasmal character of electronic speed-proliferation.

    My contention is that, as human psychic energies are stifled and/or bypassed by certain controlling aspects of mass technology, such a nervous ecstatic phenomena will increasingly break out in forms of noise art. Similarly, simulation technology—when used in the creation of electronica-based art—promotes an indispensable alienation from the socially constructed self, necessary for the outburst of such nervously ecstatic experiences/acts. Inversely, electronic technology enables the contemporary artist to express nervous ecstatic reactions in ways never before possible. Thus, this nervous ecstatic counteraction provides a phantasmal defiance through transport aimed against the controlling world's blandness and self-destructiveness. This aesthetic noise philosophy provides a fundamental antithesis to the authoritarian, mechanical, simulated rigidities of the controlling technical world.

    May I just say that the nervous phantasmal play of noises found in Power Electronics and Media Myth (using strategies of jamming, non-communication, miscommunication, interference and disruption) has urgent political/social ramifications in our media-saturated society today. The artists’ well-founded but ambiguous phantasmal model for noise art indicates the capacity for electronic media to jolt consciousness, as it provides the explication of the nervous phantasmal links that abet communications. Hence, excessive and noisy audio abstractions, such as those found here, can be (in a sense) the representation of all representation when they attempt to represent the unlimited field of representation via noise, a noise which non-utilitarian phantasmal ideology attempts to scrutinize in accordance with a non-discursive method. An unlimited field of representation that now appears as an abstract din of nerve-noise where excessive abstraction helps us to step outside of representations to posit us outside of the mechanics of uniform and anthropomorphic dogmatism.

    With this art of noise as an unlimited field of representation in mind, we will now open our eyes.


    1. See Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007) on how twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a bewildering variety of sounds that approached the purest beauty to the purest noise (even as I do not accept that dichotomy).return to text
    2. In an interview John Cage refers to a workshop he conducted: "I had the lights turned out and the windows open. I advised everybody to put on their overcoats and listen for half an hour to the sounds that came in through the window, and then to add to them—in the spirit of the sounds that are already there, rather than in their individual spirits. That is actually how I compose. I try to act in accord with the absence of my music”. (Gena and Brent, 176).return to text
    3. Excess here, I wish to point out, may also be of the silent—almost unperceivable—type as well. For more on this approach see the essay “Silence is Sexy: The Other “Extreme” Music” by Thomas Bey William Bailey in his book Micro Bionic: Radical Electronic Music And Sound Art In The 21st Century. return to text
    4. Dadaism tries to expose the impotence of reason and technology while being aware of its social power. In an effort to achieve this goal, an illogical sound-poetry (adapted by Dadaism from Italian Futurism) was common at Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire (founded in 1916 by Hugo Ball Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck). Simultaneous poems by Henri-Martin Barzun and Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi were recited there. For more on Dada as an ongoing active urge, see Andrei Codrescu's Posthuman Dada Guide (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).return to text
    5. That in philosophy which is concerned with theories of knowledge. return to text
    6. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? (London: Verso, 1994) 7. return to text
    7. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987) 21. return to text
    8. Anti-art is the definition of a work of art that may be exhibited or delivered in a conventional context but makes fun of serious art or challenges the nature of art. A work such as Marcel Duchamp's Fountain of 1917 is a prime example of anti-art.return to text
    9. John Cage's 'anti-art' music still operates within an aesthetic abstraction similar to art music, but the aesthetic isolation and abstraction are questioned. Thus, the borders become permeable.return to text
    10. Paul Crowther, Critical Aesthetics and Postmodernism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993) 60. return to text
    11. John Johnston, The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008) 26–8.return to text
    12. Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1961) 42. return to text
    13. Paul Hegarty, Noise Music: A History (London: Continuum, 2007).return to text
    14. Douglas Kahn, Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001).return to text
    15. Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985).return to text
    16. Allen S. Weiss, Phantasmic Radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995) 90.return to text
    17. See Artística de Valencia, After The Net, 5 – 29 June 2008, Valencia, Spain catalogue: Observatori 2008 After The Future (80).return to text
    18. Often using scratched, warped, defective, damaged aspects of recording technology.return to text
    19. Lazlo Moholy-Nagy recognized in 1923 the unprecedented efforts of the Italian Futurists to broaden our perception of sound using noise. In an article in Der Storm #7, he outlined the fundamentals of his own experimentation: "I have suggested to change the gramophone from a reproductive instrument to a productive one, so that on a record without prior acoustic information, the acoustic information, the acoustic phenomenon itself originates by engraving the necessary Ritchriftreihen (etched grooves)." He presents detailed descriptions for manipulating discs, creating "real sound forms" to train people to be "true music receivers and creators”. See UbuWeb Papers, A Brief history of Anti-Records and Conceptual Records by Ron Rice.return to text
    20. “Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing, it is the point where the yes and the no and all the opposites meet, not solemnly in the castles of human philosophies, but very simply at street corners, like dogs and grasshoppers”. From Tristan Tzara’s "Dada Manifesto" [1918] and "Lecture on Dada" [1922], translated from the French by Robert Motherwell in Dada Painters and Poets, Robert Motherwell (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989) 78–9. Leading Dadaists include Hans (Jean) Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Kurt Schwitters, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Louis Aragon, Johannes Baader, Hugo Ball, André Breton, Jean Crotti, Paul Eluard, I.K. Bonset, Marcel Janco, Clément Pansaers, Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter and the lesser known—but one of my personal favourites—Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (née Else Plötz).return to text
    21. Mathew Biro, The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009) 50. Also, I have been informed by Timothy Shipe, the curator of The International Dada Archive at The University of Iowa, that the performance of Antisymphonie was held at the Graphisches Kabinett, Kurfürstendamm 232, at 7:45 PM. The printed program lists 5 numbers: Proclamation dada 1919 by Huelsenbeck, Simultan-Gedicht performed by 7 people, Bruitistisches Gedicht performed by Huelsenbeck (these latter 2 pieces grouped together under the category DADA-machine), Seelenautomobil by Hausmann, and finally, Golyscheff's Antisymphonie in 3 movements, subtitled Musikalische Kriegsguillotine. The 3 movements of Golyscheff's piece are titled provokatorische Spritze, chaotische Mundhöhle oder das submarine Flugzeug, and zusammenklappbares Hyper-fis-chendur.return to text
    22. Watts made a series of spray-painted records for a Fluxus performance at the Fluxstore on Canal Street played by the audience, and as the paint wore off, gradually the music was revealed.return to text
    23. Generally his noise music is created from damaged LP recordings: often cut and glued together or painted over or melted. Hungarian constructivist László Moholy-Nagy did similar noise experiments in the 1920s.return to text
    24. Thomas J. Harrison, The Emancipation of Dissonance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1910). return to text
    25. In Futurism and Musical Notes, Daniele Lombardi discusses the mysterious case of the French composer Carol-Bérard; a pupil of Isaac Albeniz. Carol-Bérard is said to have composed a Symphony of Mechanical Forces in 1910 but little evidence has emerged thus far to establish this assertion.return to text
    26. In 1977, the Historic Archives of Contemporary Arts of the Venice Biennale organized an exhibition of Russolo's work and the curator, Gian Franco Maffina, had five noise-intoners reconstructed for the occasion. (Russolo's original instruments had all been destroyed during the Second World War). See Futurism and Musical Notes by Daniele Lombardi on, originally printed in Artforum as translated by Meg Shore.return to text
    27. In 1912, Marcel Duchamp, along with Appollinaire and Picabia, attended a performance of Impressions of Africa, a play by an obscure author named Raymond Roussel. Roussel greatly admired the works of the author Jules Verne, which he read over and over again, fascinated with their extraodinary voyages and machines, full of bachelor scientists completely absorbed in positivist exploratory dreams taken to delirious extremes. Duchamp later credited Roussel with the inspiration for his The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. In 1912, Duchamp started producing paintings and drawings depicting mechanized sex acts such as Mechanics of Modesty and The Passage from the Virgin to the Bride. At the same point in time, Freud was explaining in his lectures that complex machines in dreams always signified the genital organs. Roussel invented language machines that produced texts through the use of repetitions and combination/permutations. This machine-like logic provided his art with a seemingly pure spectacle of an endless variety of textual games and combinations flowing in circular form. Within this writing process, Roussel described a number of fantastic machines, including a painting machine in his novel Impressions of Africa. This painting machine wonderfully describes and foresees the arrival of computer-robotic technology and its application to visual art which we have available to us today, nearly a century after he envisioned it. Thus it is through Roussel that we might start to map a certain lineage in the avant-garde noise through out our century, passing through Duchamp and the Futurists.return to text
    28. For a fascinating discussion of Cage’s Imaginary Landscape works in relationship to noise, see Allen S. Weiss, Phantasmic Radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995) 49–55 with a focus on Imaginary Landscape #4, 54–55.return to text
    29. Weiss, 45–52.return to text
    30. Weiss, 9–34.return to text
    31. The original Dada model for these art startegies are beautifully exemplified by the early photomontages of Hannah Höch (see Matthew Biro, The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009) 65–103, and the assemblage God (c. 1917) by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Morton Livingston Schamberg that is in The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection. Dada questioned and affected what art can look like, as well as what art can do, and set the stage for many avant-garde movements, including Surrealism, Pop Art, Performance Art and Digital Art. Dada also irrevocably changed the landscape of popular culture, influencing graphic design, advertizing, and film.return to text
    32. Barbarella is a 1968 erotic sci-fi film staring Jane Fonda directed by Roger Vadim based on the French Barbarella comics of Jean-Claude Forest. By appropriately manipulating the keys of the Excessive Machine, a player of this torturous musical instument may induce enormous sexual pleasure, sufficient to cause death by orgasm. In one of the final scenes of the movie, the evil opponent is torturing Barbarella with the pleasures of this machine, but in the end the machine overloads and is destroyed in a burst of noise. Barbarella survives and feels rather grand. return to text
    33. See Paul Hegarty’s essay Full With Noise: Theory and Japanese Noise Music [accessed 28 October, 2010]. return to text
    34. Caleb Kelly, Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009) 6–24.return to text
    35. Kim Cascone, “The Aesthetics of Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music,” Computer Music Journal 24.4 (Winter 2002): 12–18.return to text
    36. Steve Goodman, Contagious Noise: From Digital Glitches to Audio Viruses in Jussi Parikka, and Tony D. Sampson (eds.) The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn and Other Anomalies From the Dark Side of Digital Culture (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009) 128.return to text
    37. In that noise may instigate a decentering of subjectivity.return to text
    38. Mona Lisa Overdrive is a cyberpunk novel by William Gibson published in 1988 and the final novel of the Sprawl trilogy, following Neuromancer and Count Zero. return to text
    39. Donald Lowe, History of Bourgeois Perception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) 18–23; 26. return to text
    40. Op Art: a hard-edge geometrical movement which flourished in the early-1960s largely inspired by various optical experiments of Marcel Duchamp.return to text
    41. According to Arthur Koestler's holon concept (established in Beyond Reductionism and in The Ghost in the Machine, 1967, 45–58), instead of cutting up immersive perceptual wholes into discrete focal parts, immersion should be scrutinized and understood using synthetic sub-whole sets found within the ambient atmospheric spectrum of immersive perception's entirety. It is the exposé of the synthetic atmospheric phenomenology of such holonertic listening (dependent on the linked and amassed sum-total) that will concern us here.return to text
    42. Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine (New York: Hutchinson, London and Macmillan, 1967) and Beyond Reductionism (Boston: Beacon, 1971).return to text
    43. Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine , 45–58. return to text
    44. XS: The Opera Opus was a no wave avant-garde music and art performance created by Rhys Chatham and Joseph Nechvatal in the mid 1980s. Jane Lawrence Smith sang the lead role in the Boston performance and Yves Musard danced the main role. Its theme was the excess of the nuclear weapon buildup of the Ronald Reagan presidency. XS: The Opera, Shakespeare Theater, Boston was the final production and consisted of three soprano singers, 4 trumpets, six electric guitars, base, drums, 35 mm slide projection and dance. The duration was 90 minutes. Choreography: Yves Musard, 35 mm cross-fade art slides: Joseph Nechvatal. See Rosetta Brooks, "Interview-Rhys Chatham & Joseph Nechvatal", ZG, (#12 Fall) and/or Robert Kleyn, "The Shadow Reflected", ZG (#12 Fall).return to text
    45. Tellus was created in 1983 in New York City by myself, Claudia Gould, a curator, and Carol Parkinson, a composer and staff member of Harvestworks/Studio PASS. We began to collect, produce and document the art of audio through publishing works from local, national and international artists. We worked with contributing editors who proposed themes and collected the best works from that genre. Unknown artists were teamed with well-known artists; historical works were juxtaposed with contemporary and high art with popular art, all in an effort to enhance the crossover communication between the different mediums of art—visual, music, performance and spoken word. Tellus is archived on the web at to text
    46. to text
    47. to text
    48. See, for example, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, The Record as Artwork from Futurism to Conceptual Art. The Collection of Germano Celant. Exhibition Catalog, 1977.return to text