Why like noise? – by Paul Hegarty

In gli.tc/h the glitchbots would like give form to a spectrum of glitch art: from glitch art as (‘cool’) serendipity, a tinkering product, a process —> to glitch art as a concept —-> or even a design (a ‘hot’ end product). It is very difficult to come to terms with such a paradoxical, complex field of art, but I feel we can learn a lot from other similar fields of research, like for instance noise (art), which has existed for a much longer time and of which I personally believe glitch art to be a subcategory.  This is why I asked Paul Hegarty for his perspectives on noise.

Paul Hegarty is the writer of Noise/Music. A History. (New York: Continuum, 2007) and lives and teaches in Cork, Ir. He also performs noise music.

Why Like Noise? 
(Hegarty, Paul. NSF, Aug 25, 2010)
The idea of noise is spreading…. From music into art into politics….
Why? As a synonym of avant-garde: noise as the unexpected, the dissonant and dissident. Its transgressiveness, which is mostly philosophical, has been misunderstood as subversion, a rule-breaking.
Noise is defined in opposition; to meaning, to sound, to music, and, even to noises. But once claimed in its own right, it is more of a parallel universe where it is hard to find transgression, or make it happen.
As noise is not about just finding noises and playing them. That is noise becoming music.

But there is also a lot of noise becoming music. From the 90s ‘ultimate’ noise of Merzbow and other Japanese artists, we have moved to something like noise rock on one hand and harsh noise wall on the other [play Wolf Eyes]. [genres, power electronics, power noise etc… gen(t)rification, (see RM)]

Noise needs to be thought about as an experience – of difficulty, of defamiliarisation, of unpredictability. But also something physical.

Sound art vs. noise
Sound art can be loud and noisy, and use noises, but there is a difference, and it lies in the intent as perceived by the listener.
Sound art sets up environments. Noise is the wildlife.
Sound art is an immersion. Noise is an overwhelming.
Sound art is reflective. Noise is a bodily presence.
Sound art happens in place of art. Noise happens in place of music.
Sound art is listening. Noise is hearing.
Sound art is a meditation. Noise is a meditation.
But: with sound art, the listener joins seamlessly and drifts thoughtfully.
In noise, the meditation is one of loss and failure (following Bataille, in Inner Experience)
Noise does not mind failure.
Noise looks to push until it fails.
This is why it likes analogue technologies, and why overdriven sounds are not just about loudness but also putting machinery under stress.
Noise is not a primal scream.
Or a boot in the face.
But sometimes it seems that way.

Why Like Noise?

Noise is the unwanted. This creates a problem once you like noise music, it would seem. This is why chance and problems are courted rather than avoided. What does it mean to want noise? [is it masochism? Ref. Deleuze idea of masochism as contract and worldview, not literal pain-liking]
Why make it or listen to it?
It depends if your idea of music or art is about familiarity, about the spectator/auditor having control.
For the player of noise, the aim is to produce an ecstatic non-listening, an in-body experience. For the player of noise, noise should have the same hit as powerful rock music or techno. For the player of noise, forms emerge unexpectedly, like in any other improvisatory practice.
but why noise? The fact that we ask the question shows the value of noise: no-one asks ‘why play guitar/write songs’ etc. or if they do, they can guess the range of responses. For sound art, there can be many goals, but we can usually surmise the conveying of particular spaces, times, feel etc. why aim to disrupt this? Refuse this? Because that is what the difference is: noise is a refusal, one that uses forms to become formless, or apparent formlessness to make forms arise.

Why do I do it?
It’s a rush. It’s just rock. It’s a tribute version of Merzbow.
Are some of the answers I usually give. Noise and reflection do not always go well together.
But, what else: it is an expression without content; without technique in the traditional sense; without purpose. So maybe it seems quite a pure expression, like abstract painting. I’m not really happy with this answer, but.
An impure expression? An expression that has little to do with the person making it – precisely the kind of event where the audience is not ‘free to interpret’ but forced to make sense of it. And this won’t really work, but the process of finding meaning and it dissipating, or being crushed, is interesting. The process is more noise than the noises themselves.
Why would an audience like noise? For the novelty, force, oddness or curiosity )is it music? If so, why and how?)
Or – they come because they know. The fans. The experts. The hardcore. For them, surprise is hard. So weirdly, it becomes very musical again – a question of taste, not judgement about the nature of what’s going on.

Is any of that enough?
I meant to say: Noise is never enough. Always too much.
But i’m not going to.

About Rosa Menkman

Every technology possess its own inherent accidents. Rosa Menkman is a Dutch visualist who focuses on visual artifacts created by accidents in digital media. The visuals she makes are the result of glitches, compressions, feedback and other forms of noise. Although many people perceive these accidents as negative experiences, Rosa emphasizes their positive consequences. By combining both her practical as well as her academic background, she merges her abstract pieces within a grand theory artifacts (a glitch studies). Besides the creation of a formal "Vernacular of File Formats", within her static work, she also creates (narrative) work in her Acousmatic Videoscapes. In these Videoscapes she strives for new forms of conceptual synthesis (synesthesia) of sound and video artifacts.
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One Response to Why like noise? – by Paul Hegarty

  1. Nick Briz says:

    Great interview/thoughts/clips Paul/Rosa! A thought: noise at a noise show can unarguably be disturbingly euphoric – but why do you say that noise, “has been misunderstood as subversion, a rule-breaking” – taken out of the noise-show context can it not clearly be subversive (and often times even within that context)?

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