01 September 2009

Is There A Noise Continuum? Part 2

Noise has always been the most illusive of all genres in terms of its meaning to the creators, its distributors and at the end of the line, its listeners. Devoid of melody and harmony and full of jarring notes, spiky tones and messy instrumentation of at times non-traditional types, noise emcompasses all and eschews none. As John Cage has mentioned, music that we know of is just organised noise around us. Thus, before the recent solidification of Noise as a recognisable genre or a "sellable" category, noise is what music is not basically. This implies that, anything as rock as punk rock, as arty as Fluxus sound pieces, as transgressive as early industrial, as serious as sound poetry are/were at one time or the other considered as, noise, in more often than not, derogatory light.

The problematic part about tracing the genealogy of noise, is that unlike most genres, noise does not start from a convenient popular culture starting point, like Elvis or Beatles or Duke Ellington or the serialists or Sex Pistols. As the definition of noise is already so full of contradictory accounts, differing perspectives and even geographical provenance which often obscure the awareness of one progenitor of noise from the other till recent years, Noise can at most be seen as a simultaneous slow simmering of tiny bursts of creativity, rebellion and up-yours-ness across the world. Many of them did not even consider themselves noise-niks in the first place. Freaks, junkshop heads, unclassifiable jazzbos, and anyone who has the penchant for discordance and dissonance in their audio soundtracks were the ones who made up the ranks of such breed of din makers.

Los Angeles Free Music Society

The LAFMS is such a collective which arguably forged the current aesthetics of noise based on the millieu which I have traced above. Irreverent, goofy, experimental for the sake of experimental and then some, junkheap derived exercises, audio insanity and fauvist basement rock stylings, are just some of the descriptors for these loosely collected weirdos and geeks. They started operation since the early 1970s, when the USA was having its most barren times musically speaking. Go to: LAFMS

A collective which more than anything else emphasizes the individuality of the constituents of this motley crew, it is more an association or union of noise-makers than a band of aesthletes working within a similar parameter. But what binds them together is their urge to re-draw the meaning of music, sound and noise using non-conventional instrumentation and musical principles.

Doo-dooettes, Smegma, Airway are some of the more "famous" outfits under the aegis of the LAFMS. Besides working alongside fellow travellers within the collective, many of them venture out to collaborate with contemporary art terrorists/artists like Wolf Eyes, Keiji Haino and David Toop for the past few decades. A continuum to speak of? Most probably as they are still on-going today.

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