About Japanese noise

I have just finished reading Paul Hegarty’s article “Full with noise: theory and Japanese noise music” (can be found online here). I want to write down my thoughts now that they’re fresh (it’s quite probable that I will forget them as well later).

Hegarty presents the diverse opinions on noise as a musical and social phenomenon. Most notably, he cites the work of Jacques Attali (one of the most influential books of its time) but also adopts a phenomenological approach to support his arguments. Generally, noise reflects negativeness, as it appears to be sounds that were not meant to be heard. In a sense, noise is a glitch, a malfunction, but also, a system of organised sounds usually undesired by the recipient as Hegarty writes. Aesthetically, noise has no beauty or quality, and you can read Adorno’s essays if you require more information. If you don’t know who Adorno is, you’re lucky, he’s been haunting me the last 7 (or could it be more?) years.

In this article Hegarty argues that noise, and more specifically, Japanese noise, raises questions of subjectivity of its meaning. As every sound, noise could become accustomed to any ear if cultivated properly. If someone were to listen only to Japanese noise and other similar genres since their birth, this music would become their culture, hence, they’d be used to listening to it and anything else could appear as “noise” to them.

I agree to most points that Hegarty makes, however, I’d like to read more why Japanese noise constitutes a genre, and in what way it differs to other countries’ noise music (I think this question shall be answered when I read David Novak’s dissertation on “Japanoise”, many thanks to him for sending it to me!).

It’s all about the conceptualisation of noise and its transformations to a regulated system of sounds and social relationships between its participants. What are the social structures of noise and how do they enact musician’s interaction?

Another thing that I found interesting in this article is the relation of noise to life and silence to death (see part II: scraped subjectivity). My question is: Is silence to noise as death is to life? Or is it another nature-culture duality which extends power relations? Obviously this is quite a problematic approach ex nihilo, because we have to take the assumption that death is the end (Hegelian approach). And how can silence be the end when it takes different forms? What is silence anyway? Whose’ silence? Cage’s silence could be regarded as noise… and hence, life. This is way too philosophical to continue it now.

Alright, that’s all for now.


3 thoughts on “About Japanese noise

  1. Noise is surely about culture and perception, and it is possible to see it as an anti-reaction. As something that we like just because it is -not- all about “music”. But I don’t think that noise is only about a music-culture sort of thing. That if we’re fed with noise through our childhood, it becomes “music”.

    As oldschool as it may seem, I think that the ideas of music as somehow connected with mathematics/geometry/cosmos can be taken into account. Or materiality I suppose. I didn’t read it yet, but perhaps something like this: http://burundi.sk/monoskop/log/?p=1139

  2. Why wouldn’t this be possible though? It’s like Plato’s allegory with the cave… If you’re brought up believing that noise is ‘music’ then anything else may seem like ‘noise’ to your ears!

    I’m for that oldschool idea myself, thanks for the book, I’ll check it! 🙂

  3. I think that the human body is also hardwired for certain reactions to certain frequencies and rhythms. Maybe that is only about very basic affects – as e.g. mentioned in Sonic Warfare. Even if we’re conditioned to dislike a C major chord, I think it won’t be as unpleasent as a mega-dissonant chord, maybe spiced up with a phat wobbly bass 🙂

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