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Noise v. Noise
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Author Noise v. Noise
cmcavoy
What constitutes noise music v. just noise? I have ideas in my head, but I'm interested in other opinions.

I get the idea that the best answer is "noise is whatever you want it to be." I want to apply a thought framework to it, so I can say whether or not something I make is _legitimate noise_ v. _crappy noise_, but that sounds like the opposite of what noise probably is.

Is there legitimate noise? Does noise mean anything at all goes?
crochambeau
Noise is just dissonant sound whereas traditional products of the musical language have been refined through convoluted processes that focus the sound along a particular path. From a wider vantage point, there is little else that differentiates the spectrum.

If you work within the fields of noise and pull something together that is meaningful (or simply legible) to you, congrats, you've done it. Essentially reproducing a convoluted process to create an audio artifact that does not have a historically defined system of creation (ie: strings, drums, etc). Of course, at this point explorations in dissonance have been going on for at least a hundred years..

There will always be people who can maintain a level of entertainment just listening to an old refrigerator run on one end, and people who think anything other than Yanni is noise. So, don't get hung up on the labels and have fun.

Make some fucking noise!
Annie Socoria
Quote:
There will always be people who can maintain a level of entertainment just listening to an old refrigerator run on one end, and people who think anything other than Yanni is noise. So, don't get hung up on the labels and have fun.


^This. Sounds you like are "music". Sounds you don't like are "noise". Labels are for cans. There are no "noise music" police to determine the legitimacy of your art. Express yourself and enjoy yourself.
Spacey Blurr
cmcavoy wrote:
What constitutes noise music v. just noise?


Noise is unwanted sound such as computer noise coming through your monitors because of a grounding issue.
Noise music is combination of sound and form that from a conventional musical standpoint is considered unpleasant.
SEASON
cmcavoy wrote:
Is there legitimate noise? Does noise mean anything at all goes?


Yes!

https://tyrannichorizon.bandcamp.com/album/no-non-human-decision-requi red

This is fun!
jwhtn
Please see DuChamp's Fountain.

No, I'm serious. It's music if you say it is.

There's a video floating around on YouTube of a guy doing generative music on a big modular system, where he points out that generative music is still music, and it's still yours, because you set it up and make the rules, and you get to decide when it's right. Same thing goes for noise.
MarcelP
I have to say any value judgement of your music starts with you - if you think the assemblage of sounds you generate is "legitimate music" (noise music or otherwise) then that is what it is, there is little value added by other peoples opinions. Unless, of course, if you want to shape your music according to other peoples criteria such that they will value it in the same way too. You might want to do that for commercial reasons (you want to sell your stuff) or you want to show off (vanity), etc.

If you want to sell your stuff you might want to categorise it for marketing reasons - to make sure the maximum people who might like your music will hear it (if you want to sell an apple it is a not a good idea to describe it as a banana). Hence categories and labels can have a legitimate purpose or utility. So compare your stuff to other stuff out there and decide what category (or categories) you want your music to belong in. If someone thinks you got it wrong....so what? There is no "music police" out there who can legitimise,or otherwise, your categorisation. The worst thing that will happen is you will miss your target market, or find your potential audience is disappointed or unimpressed (they came for a banana and you gave them apple).

The term "Noise" as a category for music is interesting - noise generally denoting an unwanted sound. If I want to listen to noise music it is then surely not noise to me....? And if I hear a piece of music I really like repeatedly played while I am trying to sleep then it becomes noise quite rapidly...Given the right (or wrong) circumstance ALL music can become noise. Which begs the question - can all noise under the right circumstance become music? Which takes me back to the beginning: if you think it is music it is music, if you think it is noise it is noise. And if you think it is noise music - then that is what it is.
drcz
Excuse my resurrecting the topic after a quarter, but I was exploring the forum and stumbled upon this question, finding it very interesting, and since I am trying to sort these things myself, I decided to try to answer your question (pretty selfish, isn't it?).

TL;DR yes, you are doing legit noise music*, drcz approves! MY ASS IS BLEEDING

"What constitutes noise music v. just noise?" seems to be a special case of "What makes a sequence of sound events music?", in other words "what is music?".
Obviously there are lots of opinions (eg just take a look https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/music/), with no general agreement -- a normal thing wrt to anything you want to precisely define. Even in mathematics notions are being re-defined with time, so let's try to narrow down to "what is music in the beginning of XXI century?".

There seems to be a popular necessary condition for being music, of that there is a listener. This might seem legit but
(a1) it does not help with constructing a thought framework, and
(b1) it creates weird situations, eg when I play Bach's Cello Suite in G major (which most people would agree is musical composition) from CD, and then leave the room turning it into not-music (sorry Johann!).

Luckily there are other characteristics that might help [to build a framework]. Two sentences ago I called the Cello Suite "musical composition", introducing another problematic term "composition"; let's use normative definition: "music is composition of sound events", so that the problem is "swept under the carpet" of establishing what constitutes a composition. Compositions seem to involve:
(a2) intention [of a composer wink],
(b2) structuring (orderings, arrangement).
As of (a2) somebody composes music for a purpose (of being exposed to it); if I use a chainsaw to cut a piece of wood, it is not a composition, if I use it for the sound itself, it is [might be?].
To shed more light on (b2) it would require studying arts, which I am ignorant about, but the generally agreed-upon characteristic of musical structure are tension and release (expectation and fulfillment). I really like this characterization because
(a3) there are papers connecting hormonal activity of human organism to these phenomena (I like to explain to myself "this weird phenomena of having pleasure in listening" as a biological artifact of feeding-and-breeding, sort of cross-talk between very old body mechanisms and the "new, language/culture-producing tissue" of cortex), and
(b3) I believe I can accept all of the recordings I have ever listened to as music[al compositions], in the above sense of sound events intentionally structured to cause expectation/fulfillment "mood patterns".
Let's take a look at (b3) and then we can get back to the original question...
In case of classical European (post-neolithic and pre-late-XX-century) it feels obvious, you can read a lot about it in any book/article on musical composition. What I find interesting are boundary cases. For example classical Indian music, as well as modern drone music, seem to lack expectation and fulfillment pattern in favour of stasis. However I can think of stasis as extremely short cycles of this pattern: when I listen to Eleh's "intuitive synthesis I" I find myself constantly expecting the sound to last, which is immediately fulfilled until the end of the track. In case of freejazz (and many dynamic noise pieces), the expectation is "the unexpected", a constant change -- another extreme of the pattern.
Slightly longer cycles are present in minimal techno or gabba; each ~1s loop of Umek's "Lanicor" causes me to expect it will come back one more time, with little to no suspensions (there are some percussion measures, but of a rather residual nature).
Therefore these non-classical cases have a classical composition, only degenerated to boundary cases.
I wonder if you can come up with counter-example? (4:33 does not count -- it's original form was just an expectation with no obvious fulfillment, until you realize it is already in there).

I also found (well, not true -- it was handed to me by a very wise and crazy person) another characteristic of music: that it is a ritual. But here please cf Crowley's "Magick in theory and practice" (actually rather don't wink).

Finally, getting back to "noise music", as MarcelP points out is [almost] an oxymoron, as by definition noise is a general term for unwanted sound events, and we have just tried to established that music is intentional arrangement of sound events; but, as was also mentioned above, labels are almost arbitrary (not that much really, but it is a topic on itself), and are often coined to provoke, irritate, or just have fun (think Suicide calling themselves "fathers of punk" or Type 0 Negative stating they play "blues music").
It is rather clear that Merzbow and Crawl Unit are noise music artists, while Bach and Madonna are not, for at least 2 reasons:
(a4) because the former declare so and the latter do not, and
(b4) because their audiences think so.
This does not constitute a perfect criterion because of
(a5) word games (above mentioned Suicide and T0N),
(b5) variety of labelings and their changing in time (is it gothic or post-punk or cold-wave or just gloomy disco? Was a Velvet Undergrund's music punk? Did Avraamov compose noise? Haha, at least Russolo bothers claimed they do "noises" so "fair enough"),
(c5) we humans in general have sort of inertia which causes us to reject anything that is completely unfamiliar (and it is "a good thing" as otherwise we would all be dead by trying to eat rocks or poisonous plants, housing wild animals and building houses on active voolcanos -- which most of us rarely do); so there will be a general tendency for "well, _that_ is surely not a rock music anymore". This applies to noise, as it is already a century old genre.

However, this is what you ask for in the explanation of your question -- if you want to know that you record noise music, ask people claiming they do listen to noise music and see their reaction.
Also, as others advise, label yourself "noise artist" and you're done, just as Suicide were. And if you are in doubt whether you are doing music at all, then no worries -- even if your setup is random and unpredictable (generative music, or arranged field recording), you most probably are, as long as you have intention and can identify [or make up?] any expectation/fulfillment patterns.

To sum up:
1. Series of sound events constitute a music if they are intentionally structured to cause expectation/fulfillment "mood patterns";
2. "legitimate noise" can stand only for what the composer and audience want it to stand for (though, which was not discussed above, withing the frames of what we already called/did not call a "noise music" -- but this I believe to be a characteristic of all notions, not just particular music genre).
2alternative: I did not mention that before but the term "noise music" often [eg on wiki] refers to material used, and not the content, just as in "guitar music". This does not make much sense to me in the XXI century, as for quite some time music is made with tools different than "cellos and trumpets by bowing and blowing", and I would not consider eg beatbox to be noise music anyway [9/10 times].

The end.
(No, I do not believe anyone will manage to read it, but am glad I finally wrote down these ideas using full sentences.)

-----------------------
*) while writing this terribly long and useless post I was listening to your
https://soundcloud.com/missushardy/weirding,
https://soundcloud.com/missushardy/give-a-little-whistle,
https://soundcloud.com/missushardy/16-06-12-live-noise, and
https://soundcloud.com/missushardy/eru-the-one
-- they seem pretty legit noise pieces to me.
Btw the second one I really liked (to me it could be slower and longer but I am perverted drone-head). Thanks for sharing!
Bataserpa
"Music is castrated noise"
Nelson Baboon
Spacey Blurr wrote:
cmcavoy wrote:
What constitutes noise music v. just noise?


Noise is unwanted sound such as computer noise coming through your monitors because of a grounding issue.
Noise music is combination of sound and form that from a conventional musical standpoint is considered unpleasant.


And then, if in some number of years, noise music becomes accepted in conventional circles, it will no longer be noise music? I don't think that's quite right. It's not all psychology.
mlaszews
This is ultimately a silly semantic question, but FWIW - Edgar Varese defined music as 'organized sound' and 'organized noises'. This runs into problems, e.g. indeterminacy, so it might be better to think of music as intentionally produced sounds or sounds produced in a systematic manner (so as to encompass everything from John Cage to generative music). As noted above, noise is fundamentally/definitionally unwanted sound (signal v. noise), so 'noise music' is sort of an oxymoron. 'Noise music' is really just musical genre and as such is culturally defined. To your initial question, 'legitimate noise' v. 'crappy noise' - I think this is a false dichotomy and not a useful way to frame things. Bad art is still art... You can start going down the rabbit hole here. Serious aesthetics is super tricky and usually unsatisfying. Do what you like and and make music/noise that sounds good to you.
Phil999
noise music can be a very interesting experience, expecially in a live concert. You see a guy and a table with dozens of effect pedals wired together, and watching the performance can be really interesting.

On the other hand, there are certain releases where track 3 sounds the same like track 1. Which is pretty boring. No wonder there are cassette tape releases for such kind of music.

Wrote this - by accident - while listening to "Le Mont Des Olives" from Band Apart.
Nelson Baboon
mlaszews wrote:
This is ultimately a silly semantic question, but FWIW - Edgar Varese defined music as 'organized sound' and 'organized noises'. This runs into problems, e.g. indeterminacy, so it might be better to think of music as intentionally produced sounds or sounds produced in a systematic manner (so as to encompass everything from John Cage to generative music). As noted above, noise is fundamentally/definitionally unwanted sound (signal v. noise), so 'noise music' is sort of an oxymoron. 'Noise music' is really just musical genre and as such is culturally defined. To your initial question, 'legitimate noise' v. 'crappy noise' - I think this is a false dichotomy and not a useful way to frame things. Bad art is still art... You can start going down the rabbit hole here. Serious aesthetics is super tricky and usually unsatisfying. Do what you like and and make music/noise that sounds good to you.


Words have different meanings in different context. The meaning of 'noise' in 'noise music' isn't unwanted sound. Hence no oxymoron, really. But yeah, the rest of it is right.
Muzone
I've always thought of "noise music" as music made from elements that are usually considered noise but by the skill of the noise-ician have been transformed into music.
It's more just twiddling knobs through a few pedals or knocking out yet another grungy euro-drone , it's a deliberate intent to change the listeners understanding of music &/or communicate the noise-icians feelings/state of mind.
Well that's what I call it anyway........
felixer
cmcavoy wrote:
What constitutes noise music v. just noise?

it's just words ... any verbal description of music is going to fall short ...
ObfuscatedVisuals
I have debated this topic many times over the years.. these days I guess my main consideration is whether there is "noise" in it rather than is it music if that makes sense.

If anybody is interested check out the NoiseWiki
Annie Socoria
My partner and I have a similar ongoing and unsolvable debate about what constitutes "art" in general. It's an enticing yet infinite void that courts madness upon entry.
felixer
Phil999 wrote:

On the other hand, there are certain releases where track 3 sounds the same like track 1. Which is pretty boring.

you mean 99% of current popmusic?
drcz
Fantastic, debate is back!
Nelson Baboon wrote:

And then, if in some number of years, noise music becomes accepted in conventional circles, it will no longer be noise music? I don't think that's quite right. It's not all psychology.

Interesting, why do you think it is not right?
What was coined by Russolo as the art of noises gave birth to industrial and postindustrial, which often seem to be treated as genres distinct from noise. I think in XX century we have witnessed some name changes and acceptance, eg "techno-pop" or "ambient". Also, I don't see anything but psychology (or maybe rather sociology) that might influence that.
Nelson Baboon wrote:

The meaning of 'noise' in 'noise music' isn't unwanted sound. Hence no oxymoron, really.

100% agree, I used "almost oxymoron", because I suspect that in some contexts (japnoise) the name was coined to be an oxymoron, a [quite witty] pun. But no idea.

I just thought that surely it is not unwanted by the one who is playing the tape, but might be for her/his neighbours... but this applies to any other genre, so "a blind alley".

feixer wrote:

you mean 99% of current popmusic?

Had the same thought smile Of course "sounding the same" is not a drawback -- it seems to me that tastes rely on reminescence ("I like to hear stuff similar to what I already heard"); also, the notion of "sameness" (as everything) is very subjective. Some people recognize Tony Conrad's pieces "after a single note", yet others don't know there is more than 1 piece...
drcz
Annie Socoria wrote:
My partner and I have a similar ongoing and unsolvable debate about what constitutes "art" in general. It's an enticing yet infinite void that courts madness upon entry.

Same here, which caused me to construct the normative definition of music posted above. It surely does not cover all of it, but normative definitions save sanity.

Would you mind to share your point, or even better the points of the both of you? At least the part that might apply to music (whatever it is).
needspeed
For me this is noise as it is Machine Music in my mind and runs itself without sequencing or operator input. Noise is individual and subjective to me as some may consider some noise as valuable as others will just be annoyed by it and avoid it........Steve

You decide, I like it but: Noise?????
drcz
needspeed wrote:
You decide, I like it but: Noise?????


It seems this beautiful machine gained free* will, and clearly is willing to be an indierock star smile

*) this is a pleonasm, will is free by definition
felixer
quite obviously 'noise music' has become more respected/loved in time. listen to what happened to guitarsounds over the past 50 years ... i remember the days (60ies) when an engineer would say: 'sorry sir, but we can't record this. your amplifier is quite clearly malfunctioning'. obviously the old fart was a bit behind the times, even then, but it just goes to show how things developed ...
how does this change what we do? in no way, as an artist always goes his own way cool FUCK THE PROLES.
btw i see this whole development as a search for new sounds. and it is an everlasting journey. and in a sense it is driven by what others do: some sounds have been 'used up'. like the phil collins drumsound. remember how exiting that was on the peter gabriel record?
then again, you make to music you like, regardless ...
felixer
drcz wrote:

*) this is a pleonasm, will is free by definition

that is an interesting discussion: is it? how do you know?
i'd like to thing so, but given the evidence i'm not so sure anymore ...
needspeed
felixer wrote:
drcz wrote:

*) this is a pleonasm, will is free by definition

that is an interesting discussion: is it? how do you know?
i'd like to thing so, but given the evidence i'm not so sure anymore ...


Now thats funny. But the is rather deep in nature as long as it does not degrade into twaddle and would need to be moved to another thread to explore more extemporaneously Mr. Green
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