There’s a preconceived notion that noise music is just noise, not qualifying as even bad music. It is also widely believed that producing noise music does not require talent. Yes, its amorphous nature collapses the foundation of traditional music theory. And yes, as such, people argue that noise music deviates too far away from the set of standards we have established to objectively appreciate music. Even among contemporary musicians that have pushed against the traditions themselves, this is often a shared consensus and it further alienates noise music. By its nature, noise music is characterized as chaotic, unfamiliar and offensive. This is accentuated through the use of abrasive frequencies, profuse volume and atonal sound. Arguments against noise music often focus solely on this defiance and rejection of aesthetics, yet I would contend that noise music redefines its own aesthetics and invents a new form of listening experience.
Just go to Naked Noise and you will understand. Presented by Ithaca Underground, Naked Noise could be perceived as a welcoming and inclusive experience for people to enter the world of noise. People both in and outside of the local music scene show up at the event. It is established as an annual large ensemble of improvised ritual drone in the local Ithaca community. As a celebration of the 10th year since its inauguration, the third floor of the Community School of Music and Arts was transformed into an immersive audio-visual experience. The room was encircled by musicians with percussionists in the center and enveloped by a shimmering visual installation that twined the synthesizers and even the moving musicians.
Simultaneously, the artists improvised for two 45-minute sets of noise. Even for these artists with varying and distinct styles, they still modestly endeavored to complement others and find the symmetry amid the turbulence of noise music. As an audience, the experience is intimate, intense and almost interactive. More than merely being the audience, those who were present at the venue were participants of the experience. The audience was encouraged to walk around the space during the performance. To a certain degree, the performance was influenced by the wandering audience. For each artist, their movement signals differing points of accelerations, climaxes and pauses at different parts of the room. The space was flowing like a coalesced soundwave with the rises and falls of the performance.
After all, the intent of experimental music is to constantly critique the current boundaries. Noise artifacts cannot explain the music’s meaningfulness to its artists and audience, yet the collective experience becomes the very content of its own music form. As noise music frames an utter sense of detachment through its prevalent use of machines, it is surprisingly all-inclusive and establishes a common language for opinions and artistry to freely collide. Aiden Kolodziej ’21, who participated in the event, said he feels that “noise music provides an environment in which people can connect more meaningfully and authentically as there are no real expectations of the people or of the music.” From his perspective, it appeals to a primitive part of us that surpasses the barriers of our cultural backgrounds, and as such, anyone can appreciate and feel a connection to it in some ways. We both agree noise music is analogous to the notion of being unclothed as it is stripped of any references. Noise is naked, as simple as that.
Stephen Yang is a freshman at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].