One thing that really frustrates me about visual art is the reactions of general distaste from my peers towards postmodern projects. Empty clichés masked as snide criticisms (“anyone could make that,” “give me ten minutes and I could pour paint on a canvas,” “it’s just a urinal”) fill the air during discourse and it’s admittedly frustrating. I admit that minimalism and gratuitous abstract mindsets can lead to lazy techniques or general pretentiousness, but it’s hard to ignore regular pot shots towards a whole movement that pushes the boundaries of art, especially when said weak quips subtract any context from the works. Maybe I sound too upset and defensive over criticisms towards an art form. People don’t have to like what they don’t like, but, ironically enough, shouts of laziness and cynicism are often just that, lazy and cynical.
Similarly, it’s hard for me to understand why people still want to exclude noise and, to a lesser extent, musique concrète from the descriptor of “music.” Is this not the kind of thing that art masters like Dali and Duchamp fought against? Rather than letting abstract terms like those maintain fluidity and escape semantics This idea that art or music has a limit, seems exclusive and demeaning to the multitudes of experimental artists who use bizarre tools to craft something representing and relating to our inherently volatile and complex human emotions.
After all, not just anyone could use harsh, demanding sonic landscapes of various moods like artists like Kazumoto Endo, Mo*Te, Tetsuo Furudate, and Werewolf Jesus can (childlike whimsy, acceptable of a forthcoming apocalypse, the tragedy of the fallen hero known as Othello, and misanthropic anger). But still, it seems like the true emotional power noise can represent has to fight an uphill battle against the negative associations with the Whitehouse school of senseless vulgarity and it’s own general learning curve. At first, much of this genre, including subgenres from the pummeling power electronics to the textured force of harsh noise wall, seems like just noise and, in direct association, pointless anti-art (which groups like the Gerogerigegege wear with pride – “ART IS OVER”), but there’s a reason for the subversion of traditional musical methods, just like there is a reason for subversion of the status quo in any artform.
In the case of noise, it almost is the death of music – at least the death of music as we know it. Noise musicians shed their cocoon of melody and instruments (for the most part) and evolve into a new skin. While not completely automated, much of noise shows the ability of technology-wielding outsiders to overtake human constructs of music and use cold, mechanical whorls and deep, destructive oceans of robotic screeches to tell stories of the sorrowful, the grotesque, the heinous, and/or the intense.
A part of what makes these pieces so genuinely disturbing to me is how they reach a deep, primal feeling in the pit of the soul. The inanimate wails of agony and pleasure seem like everyday objects shouting like primitive man, confused and frightened by the world around them. This primal feeling is taps into the psyche in an possibly unintentional way, juxtaposing our evolutionary past with the exponentially evolving technology that surrounds us. This battle between man and object, beast vs. the fruit of its creation, is also at the heart of postmodern art, which often seeks to provide meta-commentary on our everyday lives and the things that surround us.
My reasoning for writing this isn’t to tell you how to see any kind of art, it’s more so an insight to the worth I see in the passion and fire of noise and its place in music. You can see it however you want, but if all you see is paint on a canvas or noise from a machine, you should consider looking deeper. You never you know what might lurk inside. –Sean H.