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Noise/Music: A History

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Noise/Music looks at the phenomenon of noise in music, from experimental music of the early 20th century to the Japanese noise music and glitch electronica of today. It situates different musics in their cultural and historical context, and analyses them in terms of cultural aesthetics. Paul Hegarty argues that noise is a judgement about sound, that what was noise can beco Noise/Music looks at the phenomenon of noise in music, from experimental music of the early 20th century to the Japanese noise music and glitch electronica of today. It situates different musics in their cultural and historical context, and analyses them in terms of cultural aesthetics. Paul Hegarty argues that noise is a judgement about sound, that what was noise can become acceptable as music, and that in many ways the idea of noise is similar to the idea of the avant-garde. While it provides an excellent historical overview, the book's main concern is in the noise music that has emerged since the mid 1970s, whether through industrial music, punk, free jazz, or the purer noise of someone like Merzbow. The book progresses seamlessly from discussions of John Cage, Erik Satie, and Pauline Oliveros through to bands like Throbbing Gristle and the Boredoms. Sharp and erudite, and underpinned throughout by the ideas of thinkers like Adorno and Deleuze, Noise/Music is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the louder side of experimental music.


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Noise/Music looks at the phenomenon of noise in music, from experimental music of the early 20th century to the Japanese noise music and glitch electronica of today. It situates different musics in their cultural and historical context, and analyses them in terms of cultural aesthetics. Paul Hegarty argues that noise is a judgement about sound, that what was noise can beco Noise/Music looks at the phenomenon of noise in music, from experimental music of the early 20th century to the Japanese noise music and glitch electronica of today. It situates different musics in their cultural and historical context, and analyses them in terms of cultural aesthetics. Paul Hegarty argues that noise is a judgement about sound, that what was noise can become acceptable as music, and that in many ways the idea of noise is similar to the idea of the avant-garde. While it provides an excellent historical overview, the book's main concern is in the noise music that has emerged since the mid 1970s, whether through industrial music, punk, free jazz, or the purer noise of someone like Merzbow. The book progresses seamlessly from discussions of John Cage, Erik Satie, and Pauline Oliveros through to bands like Throbbing Gristle and the Boredoms. Sharp and erudite, and underpinned throughout by the ideas of thinkers like Adorno and Deleuze, Noise/Music is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the louder side of experimental music.

30 review for Noise/Music: A History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    About as engaging and informative as a review on Pulse Demon written by a 17 year-old RYM user who just discovered the work of Gilles Deleuze and Karl Marx. Both tinged in the same boring pseudo-academia pretenses.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I was initially only going to read a chapter or two as research for a paper that I was writing, but after that paper was done I got completely immersed. Each chapter is set up like a research paper in and of itself, but obviously relating back to the overarching topic of "Noise" - either as music, in music etc. Several chapters in the beginning actually begin as a very in depth study into the history of rock music and "other" music and where other histories of "rock" follow that branch from the B I was initially only going to read a chapter or two as research for a paper that I was writing, but after that paper was done I got completely immersed. Each chapter is set up like a research paper in and of itself, but obviously relating back to the overarching topic of "Noise" - either as music, in music etc. Several chapters in the beginning actually begin as a very in depth study into the history of rock music and "other" music and where other histories of "rock" follow that branch from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones and on to pop music, Hegarty takes a sharp left turn exploring all of the music that didn't get its due, or didn't seek the same kind of popularity as other acts. This work is philosophical, analytical and goes into a high degree of detail citing the works of Bataille, Derrida, Foucault and countless others Hegerty plunges the depths of noise in all of its forms whether they are political, sound oriented, as revolt, as sound-art, as philosophical statement. Basically I doubt there there is a better book out there that serves as an overview of the pop music that takes its cues more from John Cage and Stockhausen than from the blues. The text is dense with ample footnotes, but the chapters are a forgiving length and Hegarty writes in a style that is easy to read and familiar. Though I'm a grad student, and reading it as such, I would suggest this book to anyone interested in contemporary "difficult" music as it provides scores of insights.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Walid

    starts off the discussion of noise on rather interesting therotical foundations, only to ruin things one step at a time with every chapter that is being read. despite his criticism of past teleological approaches to the subject matter (or avant-garde music), i find his book to be too chronological and teleological as it slowly leads the reader to a self-indulgent, culminating panegyric on merzbow (to whom he devotes an entire chapter, instead of exploring the richness of the japanese – or otherw starts off the discussion of noise on rather interesting therotical foundations, only to ruin things one step at a time with every chapter that is being read. despite his criticism of past teleological approaches to the subject matter (or avant-garde music), i find his book to be too chronological and teleological as it slowly leads the reader to a self-indulgent, culminating panegyric on merzbow (to whom he devotes an entire chapter, instead of exploring the richness of the japanese – or otherwise – noise scene with more breadth and depth). not to mention that his theoretical references, though pertinent and interesting at first, slowly build up towards an irksome practice that almost verges on namedropping (as in, oh! let's drop some derrida in here and not bother to explicate the reason behind this reference... or that short bit on deleuze, aptly – if unimaginatively – entitled "deleuze bit," which lands from out of the blue in the middle of a discussion of the grateful dead... i mean, can it possibly get more prosaic than that?). to keep it short (because i could go on and on ranting about this book which sounded so fucking promising at first and ended up being yet another disappointment in my unremitting quest for a decent, well-rounded and challenging book on noise (i mean come on, his chapter on industrial noise was, in all modesty, less thorough and interesting than my undergrad thesis paper, which was written 5 years ago, back when i was still a young and handsome boy)), i think that he should have been more focussed in the scope of his book and try to explore his subject matter more selectively and in-depth, rather than spread himself out too thin. oh, and did i mention that i found the ending too new-ageish to my liking?

  4. 5 out of 5

    M-R-N-D-R

    really helpful book, covers all sorts of western transgressive musics, mostly focusing on the "popular" forms (noise, japanoise, industrial, techno, prog, punk, rock and roll, sound art), and their theoretical precursors. This book has a lot of faults. Unfortunately, free improv is only mildly covered, and classical music hardly at all covered. Both of these Heggarty looks down upon as "high" art, even though I'm not so sure it's that clear cut of a distinction--I think this is just his personal really helpful book, covers all sorts of western transgressive musics, mostly focusing on the "popular" forms (noise, japanoise, industrial, techno, prog, punk, rock and roll, sound art), and their theoretical precursors. This book has a lot of faults. Unfortunately, free improv is only mildly covered, and classical music hardly at all covered. Both of these Heggarty looks down upon as "high" art, even though I'm not so sure it's that clear cut of a distinction--I think this is just his personal prejudice. He's also way too pretentious in quoting Adorno, Bataille, Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, and Baudrillard every possible chance he can, sometimes unnecessarily. His writing is also unnecessarily abtruse, sometimes not to the point at all. But still, this is a good theoretical starting point. I dig, it's worthwhile for what he's after talking about.

  5. 4 out of 5

    pianogal

    Ok, I can't read this book because I totally disagree with the author's viewpoint that noise is bad. The first ten pages of this book (which, admittedly, is all the farther I read) discuss nothing but how noise is chaos, and it's negative, and how all noise is dangerous. All noise is not dangerous...yes, it can be potentially harmful...but the sound of water in the shower is not going to damage my hearing. In fact, I think that most people who fall asleep to white noise machines might also beg t Ok, I can't read this book because I totally disagree with the author's viewpoint that noise is bad. The first ten pages of this book (which, admittedly, is all the farther I read) discuss nothing but how noise is chaos, and it's negative, and how all noise is dangerous. All noise is not dangerous...yes, it can be potentially harmful...but the sound of water in the shower is not going to damage my hearing. In fact, I think that most people who fall asleep to white noise machines might also beg to differ. The writer's style is a little pompus and over the top, so, for me, this one is a pass.

  6. 4 out of 5

    BW Diederich

    Suffers from the dreaded "I HAVE A LOT OF COOL RECORDS" disease, as well as the "REFERENCE THEORY AND PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT DOING MUCH ELSE" disease. There's some good there, but Microbionics, while not doing the exact same thing, is far, far better.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    Well-done work on the phenomenology of noise which utilizes and subverts trends in both academic writing and music criticism, most noticably the sort of A+B=C linear progression of influences and diffusions so well-loved by writers of both aforementioned fields. Hegarty pays some lip service to chronological progressions, utilizing a linear, teleological approach (which could be seen as either hypocritical or self-consciously post-modern, depending on how forgiving the reader is feeling), while Well-done work on the phenomenology of noise which utilizes and subverts trends in both academic writing and music criticism, most noticably the sort of A+B=C linear progression of influences and diffusions so well-loved by writers of both aforementioned fields. Hegarty pays some lip service to chronological progressions, utilizing a linear, teleological approach (which could be seen as either hypocritical or self-consciously post-modern, depending on how forgiving the reader is feeling), while noting that "noise" is an entirely subjective term, referring more to disruptions of established aesthetic properties and movements than to the establishment of properties and movements itself (implicitly arguing, also, that the latter negates the former). I have few criticisms of this work, but those few that I had nagged me throughout my reading. It's obvious that Hegarty is passionate both about philosophy and music (as would befit a man who is both a philosophy professor and noise musician), but while well-versed in both it sometimes seems as if he's writing dual discourses, and while a reader as well-versed in both disciplines could draw parallels, anybody with interests leaning more towards one side or another might find the work difficult to digest (I'm less philosophically-inclined, therefore casual references to Adorno and Deleuze struck me the same way that casual references to Constellation Records or Nurse With Wound might affect the less musically-nerdy - which is to say, not very strongly). My other criticism is that within genres outside a relatively canonical avant-garde, Hegarty relies on a few accepted standbys (Hip hop experimentalism = Public Enemy, Dub = Lee Perry, Metal = barely a footnote) and hardly scratches the surface of a lot of potential material. Basically, there are few books out there which approach this topic with remotely the depth that Hegarty does. This is very obviously a passionately assembled piece of cultural criticism, but one which is bogged down in foot-note heavy, occasionally self-contradictory language which would not necessarily be great casual reading for the average Merzbow fan.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jürgen De blonde

    Interesting book. Interesting insights and statements on the relation between noise and music. Some passages were rather difficult for me but in the end the point he was making always became clear. A whole chapter on Merzbow might seem obsolote or might come across as idolatry, but then again, as a case study and illustration of what noise can be about this was also very interesting and got me into checking some more Merzbow than I actually did. Having opened up for Merzbow once I was kind of bi Interesting book. Interesting insights and statements on the relation between noise and music. Some passages were rather difficult for me but in the end the point he was making always became clear. A whole chapter on Merzbow might seem obsolote or might come across as idolatry, but then again, as a case study and illustration of what noise can be about this was also very interesting and got me into checking some more Merzbow than I actually did. Having opened up for Merzbow once I was kind of biased towards this artist, and not necessarily in the good sense, this has now changed. The final chapter on listening I pretty considered seminal and can, perhaps with some editing, easily stand on its own. Nice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    KC

    ugh. Miles Davis as poster child for Adornian aesthetic theory? no, thank you. a sloppy, uncritical application of Frankfurt School theory to a wide array of cultural productions, further obfuscated by the author's refusal of linguistic consistency. as metafiction, a brilliant burst of failure-as-noise-as-success. as scholarship, an attempt to cash in on noise's brief celebrity that doesn't even reach for substantiality.

  10. 4 out of 5

    sam

    This is an excellent analysis of the evolution of noise from natural to cultural phenomenon. Features chapters on pretty much the full spectrum of noise types. While the specific chapters are themselves, and Hegarty admits this himself in the introduction, not encyclopedic in their scope, overall the book is a great overview of both the sound genre and the aforementioned social appropriations of noise.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    This book was interesting, but horribly written. The first couple of chapters are ok, but after a while it becomes painfully apparent that this was written without an editor. It made me wonder if he was trying to make his writing an analogy to the noise he was writing about. The names he drops are pretty good and reminded me to check out more than a few artists I'd either heard and forgotten about or heard of and never checked out. The discography is really helpful on this front.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christoph

    This is a book about music as noise: why it is, where it came from and how it came to be. Following in the footsteps of Attali's Noise this book extends the concept of noise as cultural jamming instrument and applies it to the modern era in several admittedly arbitrary genres (which would otherwise could not be respected based on the context). Those interested in abstract expressionist music and high-brow snobbery will love this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    I guess this book provided more or less what I expected it to, but it wasn't that much of a joy to read. I think it turns out that listening to this music is more enjoyable than reading about it. No prob, though, it's nice to see a thorough, scholarly take on this broad subject and I'm glad I read it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    Not perfect, but probably the best thing out there on the topic. I would prefer if the author would have stuck to either a purely theoretical-semiotic approach or a strickly formal analysis. It's a mixed bag with mixed results. It gets four stars because I'm in love with subject matter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Whew, welcome to academia! You thought noise music was just scritches, throbs, fubs, whistles, snaps and farts? Nope. According to Hegarty it's Derrida, Kant, Foucault and Masami Akita. Get with the program you Naysayers!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    THE book on noise music. Unsurpassed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Not so much a history as an interpretation, and not nearly as compelling as it could be, at that. David Toop charts a much more readable/engaging course through similar material.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    In the end, this was a good book. Although, clearly the author is into some crazy shit. Like music that consists of nothing but feedback and chickens.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    The book reads more like college textbook than fun historical rhetoric. My entire review of the book can be found soon on Tiny Mix Tapes.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David

    Very rigorous treatment of noise as both musical form and philosophical approach. Can be a bit dry at times, but I wouldn't spite a music book for being theoretically demanding.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris Bissonnette

    Dense and a bit of a chore to read at times. Explores the depths of noise in number of genres.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ross Baker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Keefe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ally Rzeszutko

  25. 5 out of 5

    Herb

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  28. 5 out of 5

    C.Reider

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steven Hess

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louis Vigo

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