Noise music can feature distortion, various types of acoustically or electronically generated noise, randomly produced electronic signals, and non-traditional musical instruments. Noise music may also incorporate manipulated recordings, static, hiss and hum, feedback, live machine sounds, custom noise software, circuit bent instruments, and non-musical vocal elements.The Futurist art movement was important for the development of the noise aesthetic, as was the Dada art movement, and later the Surrealist and Fluxus art movements, specifically the Fluxus artists Joe Jones and Takehisa Kosugi.
During the early 1900s a number of art music practitioners began exploring atonality. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg proposed the incorporation of harmonic systems that were, at the time, considered dissonant. This lead to the development of twelve tone technique and serialism. In his book 1910: the Emancipation of Dissonance Thomas J. Harrison suggests that this development might be described as a metanarrative to justify the so called dionysian pleasures of atonal noise.
Contemporary noise music is often associated with excessive volume, particularly in the popular music domain with examples such as Heavy metal music, Jimi Hendrix’s use of feedback, and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.
Other examples of music that contain noise based features include works by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Theatre of Eternal Music, Rhys Chatham, Ryoji Ikeda, Survival Research Laboratories, Whitehouse, Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV, the music of Hermann Nitsch’s Orgien Mysterien Theater, and La Monte Young’s bowed gong works from the late 1960s. Genres such as industrial, industrial techno, and glitch music exploit noise based materials.
Luigi Russolo, a futurist painter of the very early 20th century, was perhaps the first noise artist. His 1913 manifesto, L'Arte dei Rumori, translated as The Art of Noises, stated that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. Russolo found traditional melodic music confining and envisioned noise music as its future replacement. He designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori and assembled a noise orchestra to perform with them. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) was met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted. None of his intoning devices have survived, though recently some have been reconstructed and used in performances. Although Russolo's works bear little resemblance to modern noise music, his pioneering creations cannot be overlooked as an essential stage in the evolution of this genre, and many artists are now familiar with his manifesto.
At first the art of music sought purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound.|||Luigi RussoloBy the 1920s, modernists Edgard Varèse and George Antheil began to use early mechanical musical instruments—such as the player piano and the siren—to create music that mirrored the noise of the modern world.
In the 1930s, under the influence of Henry Cowell in San Francisco, Lou Harrison and John Cage began composing music for "junk" percussion ensembles, scouring junkyards and Chinatown antique shops for appropriately-tuned brake drums, flower pots, gongs, and more. Cage started his Imaginary Landscape series in 1939, which combined recorded sound, percussion, and, in the case of Imaginary Landscape #4, twelve radios.
In Europe, during the late 1940s, Pierre Schaeffer coined the term musique concrète to refer to the peculiar nature of sounds on tape, separated from the source that generated them initially. Following this, both in Europe and America, other modernist art music composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, G.M. Koenig, Iannis Xenakis, La Monte Young, and David Tudor, explored sound based composition. Amongst the techniques used in this period were tape manipulation, subtractive synthesis, and improvised live electronics.
I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. |||John Cage The Future of Music: Credo (1937)The art critic Rosalind Krauss argued that by 1968 artists such as Robert Morris, Robert Smithson and Richard Serra had "entered a situation the logical conditions of which can no longer be described as modernist. Sound art found itself in the same condition, but with an added emphasis on distribution. Antiform process art became the terms used to describe this post-modern post-industrial culture and the process by which it is made. Serious art music responded to this conjuncture in terms of intense noise, for example the LaMonte Young Fluxus composition 89 VI 8 C. 1:42-1:52 AM Paris Encore From Poem For Chairs, Tables, Benches, Etc..
Also a process anti-form "free noise" emerged out of the avant-garde jazz tradition with musicians such as John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra and the Arkestra, Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and John Zorn.In the 1970s, the concept of art itself expanded and groups like Survival Research Laboratories, Borbetomagus and Elliott Sharp embraced and extended the most dissonant and least approachable aspects of these musical/spatial concepts.
Around the same time, the first postmodern wave of industrial noise music appeared with Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and NON (aka Boyd Rice). These cassette culture releases often featured zany tape editing, stark percussion and repetitive loops distorted to the point where they may degrade into harsh noise. In the 1980s, industrial noise groups like Current 93, Hafler Trio, Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Laibach, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten performed industrial noise music mixing loud metal percussion, guitars and unconventional "instruments" (such as jackhammers and bones) in elaborate stage performances. These industrial artists experimented with varying degrees of noise production techniques. Other postmodern art movements influential to postindustrial noise art are Conceptual Art and the Neo-Dada use of techniques such as assemblage, montage, bricolage, and appropriation. Bands like Étant Donnés, Le Syndicat, Test Dept, Clock DVA, Factrix, Autopsia, Nocturnal Emissions, Whitehouse, Severed Heads and SPK soon followed.
The sudden post-industrial affordability of home cassette recording technology in the 1970s, combined with the simultaneous influence of punk rock, established the no wave aesthetic, and instigated what is commonly referred to as noise music today. When anyone could produce noise, and anyone could record and distribute it, then noise music provided a way for any person (artist or non-artist) to experiment with sound as a digital artist might with visual material.
Lou Reed's double LP album, Metal Machine Music (1975) is an early, well-known example of noise music that the music critic Lester Bangs has called the "greatest album ever made in the history of the human eardrum". It has also been cited as one of the "worst albums of all time". Reed was well aware of the electronic drone music of LaMonte Young. His Theater of Eternal Music was a seminal minimal music noise group in the mid-60s with Velvet Underground cohort John Cale, Marian Zazeela, Henry Flynt, Angus Maclise, Tony Conrad, and others. The Theater of Eternal Music's discordant sustained notes and loud amplification had influenced John Cale's subsequent contribution to the Velvet Underground in his use of both discordance and feedback. John Cale and Tony Conrad have released noise music recordings they made during the mid-sixties, such as Cale's Inside the Dream Syndicate series (The Dream Syndicate being the alternative name given by Cale and Conrad to their collective work with LaMonte Young).
The aptly-named noise rock fuses rock to noise, usually with recognizable "rock" instrumentation, but with greater use of distortion and electronic effects, varying degrees of atonality, improvisation, and white noise. One notable band of this genre is Sonic Youth who took inspiration from the no wave noise composers Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham (himself a student of LaMonte Young). Marc Masters, in his book on the no wave, points out that aggressively innovative early dark noise groups like Mars and DNA drew on punk rock, avant-garde minimalism and performance art. Important in this noise trajectory are the nine nights of noise music called Noise Fest that was organized by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth in the NYC art space White Columns in June 1981 followed by the Speed Trials noise rock series organized by Live Skull members in May 1983. Also notable in this vein is Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, an avante-garde recording by John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1968 consisting of repeating tape loops as John Lennon plays on different rock instruments such as piano, organ and drums along with sound effects (including reverb, delay and distortion), changes tapes and plays other recordings, and converses with Yoko Ono, who vocalises ad-lib in response to the sounds.
Since the late 1980s in Japan there has been a prolific output of "harsh" noise music by the noise figurehead Merzbow (pseudonym for the Japanese noise artist Masami Akita who himself was inspired by the Dada artist Kurt Schwitters’s Merz art project of psychological collage).
Post-industrial noise artists from the 1980s, 90s and 2000s include Nicolas Collins, Boyd Rice, The Psychic Workshop, Stephen Vitiello, If, Bwana, PBK Phillip B. Klingler, Crawling With Tarts, Andrew Deutsch, Randy Grief, Robin Rimbaud, Minoy, Kim Cascone, Master/slave Relationship, Oval, Boards of Canada, Maybe Mental, Kenji Siratori, Fennesz, Matthew Underwood, Yasunao Tone, Arcane Device and others.
Writer Douglas Kahn, in his work Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (1999), discusses the use of noise as a medium and explores the ideas of Antonin Artaud, George Brecht, William Burroughs, Sergei Eisenstein, Fluxus, Allan Kaprow, Michael McClure, Yoko Ono, Jackson Pollock, Luigi Russolo and Dziga Vertov.
In Noise: The Political Economy of Music (1985), Jacques Attali explores the relationship between noise music and the future of society. He indicates that noise music is a predictor of social change and demonstrates how noise acts as the subconscious of society - validating and testing new social and political realities.
Noise is incomprehensible yet it is noise that we truly seek since the greatest truth lies behind the greatest resistance.|||Morton Feldman from "Sound, Noise, Varèse, Boulez"In music, dissonance is the quality of sounds which seems "unstable", and has an aural "need" to "resolve" to a "stable" consonance. Despite the fact that words like "unpleasant" and "grating" are often used to describe the sound of harsh dissonance, in fact all music with a harmonic or tonal basis—even music which is perceived as generally harmonious—incorporates some degree of dissonance. In common use, the word noise means unwanted sound or noise pollution. In electronics noise can refer to the electronic signal corresponding to acoustic noise (in an audio system) or the electronic signal corresponding to the (visual) noise commonly seen as 'snow' on a degraded television or video image. In signal processing or computing it can be considered data without meaning; that is, data that is not being used to transmit a signal, but is simply produced as an unwanted by-product of other activities. Noise can block, distort, or change the meaning of a message in both human and electronic communication.
White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal contains equal power within a fixed bandwidth at any center frequency. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.
In much the same way the early modernists were inspired by naïve art, some contemporary digital art noise musicians are excited by the archaic audio technologies such as wire-recorders, the 8-track cartridge, and vinyl records. Many artists not only build their own noise-generating devices, but even their own specialized recording equipment and custom software (for example, the C++ software used in creating the viral symphOny by Joseph Nechvatal).