[-empyre-] Fragments of Noise
cmigone at uwo.ca
Tue Mar 27 11:36:28 AEDT 2018
³Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, we¹d like to remind you that we don¹t
applaud in this here place where we¹re working. So, restrain your
applause. If you must applaud wait until the end of the set and it won¹t
even matter then. The reason is that we are interrupted by your noise. In
fact, don¹t even take any drinks, or no cash register ringing, etcetera.
I¹d like to introduce the musicians...²
- Charles Mingus, intro to ³Folk Forms, No. 1² on the album Charles Mingus
Presents Charles Mingus (1960).
What is remarkable about the above is that the audience is imaginary, this
is a studio recording where Mingus wanted his musicians to play like they
played live. The noise of the audience is silent. Noise imaginary. So even
when absent, ³noise is being asked to do a lot of work.² (David X.
Borgonjon, March 8 post to empyre)
The first sentence of Bring the Noise by Claire Bishop and Boris Groys
used to go as follows: ³As well as bring noted for their avant-garde
painting, the Futurists¹ performances were legendary for their intent to
provoke and scandalise the public.² Unfortunately, the typo has since been
fixed: ³As well as being noted for their avant-garde painting, the
Futurists¹ performances were legendary for their intent to provoke and
scandalise the public.²
There is a link to be made between failure and noise, and thereby the
aesthetics of both.
Pushing that further, perhaps noise is the quintessential hyphenating
agent, it impedes purity, resists totalization (Serre¹s Parasite comes to
Can it therefore be both a human notion which functions as an arbitrary
category (as pointed out by Murat Nemet-Nejat in his post from March 21)
and also one that covers ³the fluctuations of the universe that are beyond
our complete understanding² (Nicholas Knouf, March 22 post)? The latter
formulation easily collapses into the former since it relies on the limits
of our understanding to determine what lies beyond it.
Caitlin Woolsey brought up the noises of the body in her March 9 post.
That is where noise appeared first for me. As a non-musician using sound
as material, the body is a readymade instrument. One of its most
interesting characteristic is that it cannot be played, it cannot be
controlled. Well, at least some of its functions cannot. What I mean is
that the sounds it produces are not always predictable. No matter how
trained a voice might be, the voice is dependent on fallible organic
circuitry. Some of my recording projects have featured body sounds that
are less compliant, less trainable than the voice. I¹m thinking mainly
South Winds (Oral, 2001) and Crackers (Locust, 2000). The former echoes
with Norie Neumark¹s evocation of putrefaction in her March 20 post.
Joo Yun Lee¹s provocative presentation of Ikeda¹s work (March 19 post),
namely its ³rich absence of contents² is one that I cannot help wanting to
oppose. The plunge into the sensorium veers too easily into vacuous
entretainment. But I appreciate being challenged to think through and
question my own desire for content, strive for meaning. The recurring
signal to noise dichotomies several posts have identified do limit the
discussion, so this piqued my interest as offering a potential way out.
Tracking the appearance of the word Œnoise¹ in my Sonic Somatic:
Performances of the Unsound Body book (Errant Bodies Press, 2012) I
noticed that the majority stem from quotes.
Culled just a few of the more pithy ones:
³There is no silence. Your mind makes noise.² (Bruce Nauman)
³The word silence is still a noise² (Georges Bataille)
³The body ignores silence.² (Henri Chopin)
Jumping to silence and listening (brought up Murat in his comment on the
Serres quotes, by Norie, and Sarah Simpson). Given the impossibility of
the former and the subjectivity of the latter, where do the two meet? Only
in the realm of ethics and politics? (Perhaps that¹s enough and plenty).
Murat, what of the subjectivity implicit in the act of wanting to, as you
put it, liberate noise from the subjectivity that humans impose on it?
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