Xdementia’s thread, “Just about the sound” at the Troniks board has provided me some really interesting thoughts to chew on for the past few days. Originally started to pursue the tempting idea that Noise works are perhaps more entangled with overall concept, packaging, and presentation than works in other music circles; I ended up posting about my concept of Noise being meaningless by nature:
As I see it, when you’re trying to say something, that’s not noise. It’s purposeful, it’s directed, even if at first apprehension it seems chaotic. the INTENT is to communicate. Music is a form of communication, and I think all music attempts to be meaningful– I say “attempts,” because obviously some fails. I don’t think it’s important to consider how much, or how complex this meaning is.
On the other hand, I believe noise is sound without intent. Regardless of its complexity, if no message is intended, it’s not communicating anything– even if the listeners chooses to appreciate it as they do art. It is much the same as I might appreciate an interesting mineral or seashell… I can enjoy its form (and perhaps even its sense of order) but I can’t rationally believe that the mineral is communicating something to me.
I’m still very much undecided about whether this makes noise “art” or not, so I’d rather not go that far in the discussion yet.
For me, part of the allure of noise is that, in the most enjoyable instances, it is far too much for me to take in. I become highly aware that I am unable to really hear all parts of the work at once– like trying to hold onto too many items, it seems a few parts are constantly being dropped in order to grasp others.
In this way, I find noise to be a very humbling thing. It resists the urge to for me to understand it, or for me to control it in some way. It is senseless and incoherent, like the ocean– seemingly existing on its own terms, regardless of my will.
Putting meaning to noise fundamentally changes it, because it provides a way for our self to understand it, thus asserting a measure of control. The sounds themselves may remain the same, but the overall experience is quite different. It is very much like bottling sea water… yes, it is still salt water from the ocean, but could we properly call it a sea?
So far, the idea isn’t meeting with much of any positive reception… it’s been called everything from pointless to pretentious! Hal McGee had a few nice things to say, and at least seems willing to consider it… although he seems to feel I’ve painted too bleak a picture to be useful:
“DaveX does make some interesting points, and I think that his definition of what Noise is (or isn’t) is compelling. But I can’t say that I agree with it. Noise as he describes it really only exists outside the sphere of human influence. Noise and music as we know them clearly do exist within the realm of human activity. When I walk down the street and I hear birds singing, and a baby crying, and an automobile engine starting up, etc., I can organize these sounds in my mind.
I make choices about how the sounds correspond to one another. If, for example, I decide that I am going to make a recording of sounds that occur in spite of me or without my involvement, it’s still no good… because the very act of turning the sound recorder on and off are based on choices. Turning the recorder on and off is like putting a frame around the sounds. It’s framing them in a certain way that says these sounds recorded during the time that the recorder was on are part of the audio work and sounds that occurred before and after are not part of the audio work.
Noise in the sense that DaveX explains it clearly exists outside of art, outside of music. Once you record something it’s not noise any more.”
What do you think?