[-empyre-] incompatible research practices - week 02 - performing revolutions // noise and gossip

Marie Thompson marie.thompson at newcastle.ac.uk
Mon Feb 13 22:33:04 EST 2012

Hello everyone, and thanks, Menotti, for the introduction.
Just to explain a little more about what my research is currently dealing with: having felt suitably alienated by both the academic environments and DIY/experimental music scenes that I regularly inhabit, where I often serve a role as ‘token female’, I have turned my attention to what I see as the intimate relationship between constructions of the feminine.  Without going into too much depth here, it is my contention that the philosophical and social constructions of noise and women occupy similar dualistic categories; women/noise as irrational excess, unreason, lack, chaos, darkness, disorder. Pythagoras spell is out nicely: ‘there is a good principle that created order, light and man and a bad principle that created chaos, darkness and woman.’
I have also been interested in the treatment of women’s sounds as noise. Gossip, for example, is seen as frivolous, extraneous, and meaningless. But it also carries with it the threat of noise; there has long been the suspicion that women talking together are out to cause trouble for men. The dual ‘noisiness’ of women’s speech is nicely implied the Bedouin saying that men’s talk is full, but women’s is empty; whenever two women talk there is the devil between them.
So, having been asked to contribute a ‘performance’ or ‘intervention’ within the in/compatible PhD workshop session at Transmediale, I decided to do a performance based around these ideas, in particular, foregrounding the connection between women, noise and machines. While my PhD is ‘officially’ theory based, I’m very much active as a practitioner and I thought this might be more suitable/interesting.
The performance turned out to be a bit of a disaster. First, I was fairly limited in terms of my equipment  - taking home made/ circuit bent electronics on a plane is never a lot of fun in terms of getting through security and I don't perform using a computer. When I arrived, the soundman was not expecting me to play (I think something had got lost in the communication channels) and there was no chance to check levels etc. While I explained very briefly what I was doing to him, I perhaps didn’t make clear enough a necessary component that he had control of: volume. The idea was for the noise suddenly to kick in – quite a sudden interruption, and continue to build. But what actually happened was the noise kicked in, and the soundman turned me right down. From where I was it sounded like the speakers were broken; just omitting a bit of fuzz. There was no bass, none of the higher frequencies and it just sounded a bit rubbish.
I should emphasise now that I’m not in any way ‘blaming’ the soundman, or anyone really, for this. He wasn’t to know what to expect and I’m sure that to his ears it sounded like I’d lost control of the volume. It was, admittedly, ironic that I had introduced the performance by speaking for a couple of minutes about women’s silence as noise abatement and the threat of feminine noise towards male order. I do think this was performed beautifully. But, after I got over my slight embarrassment, it did give rise to some lines of thought that might be interesting for discussion. Alongside my usual thoughts about how it is always important to be nice to the person controlling the sound, I was curious about the disjuncture between academic spaces, art spaces and experimental music spaces. As Menotti put it rather brilliantly: ‘we can research noise, but how noisy are we allowed to be?’ To be sure, working in a music department and talking about gender, feminism and noise has often led to my research being treated as a noise in the system. Also up for possible discussion there is ‘preparing for the unprepared’. While I had planned there to be a sudden blast of noise, and while I could have explained to the soundman what was going to happen, how do we deal with these noises in relation to improvised materials? How much information, as performers, do we have to disclose before be play?
I hope there is some content in there that may be of some interest/use for discussion, and its not all noise!
On 13 Feb 2012, at 06:10, Gabriel Menotti wrote:


Thanks very much to Baruch and César and all the other participants
for the generous input last week!

I don’t mean to interrupt the ongoing threads, but it is time to
introduce some new guests into the discussion: Marie Thompson and
Ioana Jucan. Both their researches engage with a range of practices
not entirely unproblematic to academia, such as experimental
performance and noise improvisation. Biographies below.

*Ioana Jucan*

Ioana Jucan is an interdisciplinary artist-researcher primarily
focused on performance-making, philosophy, and new media. She is
currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Theatre and Performance Studies
at Brown University. In her research, she is interested in exploring
the role of performance in the production of epistemological shifts in
periods marked by major technological breakthroughs, towards
rethinking the notions of the experimental and the revolutionary. In
her artistic work, Ioana combines traditional and experimental
artistic methods in her exploration of performance as a site for the
creation and transmission of knowledge and as a story-telling device.
She is an alumna of the Watermill Summer Program 2011 under the
artistic direction of Robert Wilson. She is also the co-founder and
artistic director of the Listening LabOratory performance group
associated with Brown University.

*Marie Thompson*

Marie Thompson is a AHRC funded PhD candidate at Newcastle University,
based in Culture Lab and the International Centre for Musical Studies.
She has previously studied at the University of Liverpool, where she
undertook her Baccalaureate in Music/Popular Music and Masters in
Musicology. Marie is also a musician, interested in noise-based
musics, circuit-bending and free improvisation. She regularly performs
solo as Tragic Cabaret, in the duo Ghostly Porters, and as part of
Newcastle’s audiovisual collective, Kira Kira.

Also, welcome to Magnus Lawrie, an old member of empyre who also
participated of the in/compatible research workshop and will be
co-moderating the debate from now on.

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>

More information about the empyre mailing list