noise concept - theorie und geschichte von noise musik

  Short history + theory of noise music
8 entries so far + new article on scratching

Music Noise & Politic by Dror Feiler
Music is more than the reproduction of tones, it is a process of creating and producing sounds and forces. The tone is first of all just a noise that is bound in a canon of rules - and only becomes a tone under these circumstances. The music of the whole occident builds systems, creates models that filter the noise. [read whole article...]

Noise vs. noisy
Buckett made the distinction between 'noise' and 'noisy'. While the latter means that some music contains noise as certain element of its sound/structure the first one designates an attitude. The will to make noise as music, noise-music. The will to belong to that certain style, genre, which is called noise.
As a result you can make noise without making noise-music, whereas you can make noise-music without being 'noisy'.

When I came to Malmö, Sweden, people greeted my with the question: "So, you are a musician from Germany. What's your style like? - Most of your colleages can be filed by four words: Random | Granular | Loop | Noise". While mine would be: Random | Loop | Noise it has to be stated that 'noise' in the first example doesn't refer to 'noise music' but to the way of producing sounds from noise or noisy samples, like featured in subtractive snythesis.

Noise history
The history of noise music for western music dates back to the development of the church organ in the 14th century. Its capacity of imitating other instruments and natural sounds laid the foundation of a perception of something outside the abstract tonal system of western music. (Indeed, it can be claimed that the organ was the first sampler.)

The idea of the "other" became predominant in Romatic music and was called "nature", opposed to society, politics and civilization. The desire to flee the latter resulted in the use of horns, symbolizing the dark quiet forrests, bells, drums and other "natural effects". Romantic organ music made heavy use of the organ's abilities to simulate natural sounds. Extra-european influences, the Indonesian gamelan i.e., enforced the dissolution of the tonal system.

Modern noise music, although already present in the work of Charles Ives and Eric Satie, was first theoretically formulated by Italian futurism. The writings of Luigi Russolo show rich examples of his idea of how noise music should sound like, although unfortunately no recordings exist. It was first of all the environment of the modern city, its traffic and factories, i.e. the world transformed by the machine.
The first realization of a piece of noise music was Edgar Varèse' "Ionization", using drum sets and sirens in 1927. (Russian futurists had already tried to direct whole cities, Baku, as noise "orchestras", but no examples of these experiments prevailed.) Varèse also thought of means of electronically producing sounds, but had to wait another 25 years before being able to realize his dream.
In the meantime, in the late 40s, we see John Cage, Pierre Henri and Karl Heinz Stockhausen extending the developments of the futurists, dadaists and also surrealists in the electronic realm with the help of the tape recorder and vocoder, machines originally built for military purposes.

Recording noise
Friedrich Kittler states that the perception of noise (within music, or as itself) is closely related to the development of recording technology. Before that noise has been filtered out by ears and mind of the listeners. More exactly: score music, i.e. notated music using a fixed range of discreet symbols, made a direct connection between the intention of the composer and the expectation of the listeners. No noise could be possible in such a system. Recording technology mechanized this connection, leaving no room for interpretation by humans. The record stylus mechanically follows the grooves of the disc. Any amount of inaccurancy in this process means noise. Since such a system can record anything there is no mental connection, one could say harmony as well, between the producer and the recepient of sounds, since the machine is in between.
Noise is inevitable in any mechanical recording device, even the most advanced digital ones. A slight noise floor, though nearly unperceptable, is the price for transforming a continuous analogue signal into a digital one consisting of a limited number of discreet value steps.

On making noise
On the foundation of noise music: - not because "noise" is pleasant, as sound, itself. But because noise is the necessary result of the unsharpness (Unschärfe) of the decision process while making music.
Noise is a fundamental critique on the evidence of the making of making music.

Noise and language
It has to be stated that the perception of the phenomenon of noise is closely related (and was accellerated) by the paradigmatic shift in language theory: from a purely psychological towards a phonetical and structural concept of language at the beginning of the 19th century. The discovery of the indian Sanskrit and the studies of extra-european languages led to the idea of language as a phenomenon of sound. Later that century Saussure developped the difference of signifier and signified, with the first being described as the "sound picture" (das Lautbild). Frege, at the same time, called them "Sinn" (sense) and "Bedeutung" (meaning). "Sinn" he defined as "die Gegebenheitsweise" (the way how something is given, or presented). As Kittler already has worked out it was "sense" or the signifier which could be mechanically processed, because in a way they became real (technically), while the remaining signified stayed in the human mind as a psychological entity. To no surprise structuralism and post-structuralism have completely dicarded the signified.

Meaning of 'noise'
Speaking of "noise" as in "noise-music" reveals both the scope and the limits of English language. In German there are at least three different words and connotations of "noise":

  1. "noise" as "Krach", meaning a very unpleasant sonic experience, often at high volume. Like someone coming at one's other party and asking: "What kind of noise are you doing there?". It's mostly this connotation that gives noise-music a bad publicity.
  2. "noise" as "Geräusch", meaning a yet undefined sonic experience: "What kind of noise was that?". It can also be used for refering to the sound of something already known as characterizing it: "The noise of a BMW car." Here we find the root of "noise" as perceived in Italic Futurism.
    It also reflects a certain listening attitude as reported in Heidegger's Sein und Zeit: "It often needs a very complicated attitude to perceive pure noise. We hear a motorcycle coming down the street or a door in the wind." [free quotation] Heidegger called this "hearing facts", i.e. the mototcycle, the door. In his terms it prooves the "Faktizität des Daseins", clinging to facts while being.
  3. "noise" as "Rauschen", meaning technically a well distributed scope of frequencies as in "white noise". It can also refer to the sounds of the leaves in a forrest ("Waldesrauschen"), giving it a Romantic connotation.

From these three examples it must become clear that there is no genuine German word for noise-music. We also use "noise-music" as a technical and imported term for a specific kind of music.

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(to be continued)
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