01 September 2009

Noise As Transgression: Is There A Noise Continuum? Part 3

Noise can mean trangression of any sort as it defies conventions and norms. It breaks people up due to its ability to shock, to horrify and to provoke thus it is unwanted by the institutions, unknown to the people and unbecoming to the powers-to-be in most cases. However, once you experience it, and yes, it is not just an audio thing but it can be extended to include tactile, visual and even olfactory fields of senses, you wil not have a neutral reaction to it. You either shun it by walking away, turning it off, closing your eyes or simply pushing it far far away. It disrupts, it disturbs but most importantly it serves a few purposes: at its best, it forces one to think, to question and to react to it and hopefully from there, one can move on to look around us and start thinking more critically; at its worst, it satisfies, it fulfils and it satiates one desire for something other or different from their daily dredgery. In other words, Noise engages and even empowers.

Noise is never just about the aural reception and translation of it; it should be about an experience, a trip or a "show" even. Thus, in many instances, noise artists emphasise the importance of a total art presentation, approximating the gesamtkunstwerk but without the bourgeois or class connotation. Some of these artistes even stage events, festivals and commune based performances which may or may not involve fans, believers and friends in its presentation. And more often than not, it invites controversy and the law.

Hermann Nitsch

One of the godfathers of the modern noise-thetics, as well as one of four key proponents of the notorious Vienna Aktionists, Nitsch had during his heyday 30 years back for not just shocking the world with their artistic breakthroughs back in the 1960s and 1970s but having as much legal and societal transgressive asides thrown in for good measure too. He is in fact still very active, releasing records and performing. At first listen, his ritualistic music does not so much sound like the in-your-face noise blasts of today. His music however work on another level of disruption and dissonance: which is the inquisition and breakdown of religion, human ritual practice, bloodletting and animal sacrifice together with the experience of an other-worldly trance/ecstatic process of a more primordial and archetypal form. His music mixes marching band, animal sounds, human chants, religious litany, rock instrumentation and atmospheric noise from the performance into something truly transgressive and mind boggling. Noise as transcendance, but not so much to blast our ears and minds into oblivion but more of a partake of a communal rite, a one-mind and "self" shredding passage.

What he does was to give noise a meaning, a human one which when it works, touch base with who and what we are. Noise as elemental force, as a tool to awaken us out of this dreaded capitalist (now post-capitalist) stupor of pure helpless spectacle on our part.

To find out more about Nitsch, go to Nitsch.

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