Noise? Its origins rise from the futurist art movement of the early 20th century. It kicked on speed, technology, youth and violence, and was implicit in the development of noise as an aesthetic. Jefim Golyscheff’s “Antisymphony,” a 1919 concert performed in Berlin, is a key example of music embracing a kind of anti-instrumentation, lots repetition and atonality, and it blew minds and subverted conventions.
Machine sounds, noise, static, ear-splitting feedback, distortion, atonality, droning modulations echoed off the walls at the repurposed warehouse-cum-performance space at 191 Toole last week as a small but earnest crowd gathered for the Tucson Noise Symposium. An event co-presented by To Stretch Yr Ears, Sound+Noise, Bank Notes, Detritus.net, Pushing Buttons, Mullarky, and Exploded View; with support from University of Arizona: English Dept, School of Information Science, LGBT Institute. Heavy hitters to be sure.
Nodding to the lit works of J.G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft as well as controversial journalist/editor/publisher Adam Parfrey, the artist performing under the moniker ijustswyoudie describes his music as blackened ambient meets synth-wave and darkwave. “It’s a combination of electronically composed music and random noise that I derive from expression pedals, distortion as well as samples.”
Purposefully trying to avoid melody, Vicki Brown, a classically trained violinist, has an ambient project incorporating her virtuosic violin stroking, electronic bits and loops that she builds and layers to weave a tapestry. She says, “I don’t have any parameters in front of me, other than time. This is music for floating.”
“I took my obsession with ambient noise, mixed it with tracks, live electronic drums and field recordings," says the artist known as Need about tools he uses to create.
Performing outdoors; Igloo Martian bashed his drum kit savagely, stomping an electric guitar with disdain while it groaned dissonantly, then he erratically took off on a bicycle while a paper flag from his handmade handgear trailed in the breeze. “It’s freeform ideas," he says.
Utilizing a repeater, multitrack looper, rack effects and some hand-built electronic equipment, the artist known as Skin Cage cites Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Dead Voices on the Air as musical influences and describes his music as “a way of getting into a filmic space without watching a movie.”
Electronic elements and loops, slide and violin-bowed guitar comprise the main elements of Fawn Bones’ music. ”I really like ambient sounds and traditional blues music. So, I wanted to meld those two together. Cinematic. I feel that my music might inspire visions,” says Bones, describing her music.
Nathan Youngblood & William Merkle
This duo's set combined sampled electronic bits, live guitar riffs looped in realtime while knobs on a plethora of electronic gear was endlessly tweaked and manipulated to ooze sonic weirdness.
Based in Tucson, ambient music and jazz artist, Jeff Greinke, describes his music simply as “musical landscapes.” Greinke cites David Moss, Brian Eno and Arvo Part [Estonian composer of classical and religious music] as his musical influences.
With 25 albums to his credit and appearances on a glut of other recordings this gifted and prolific artist says that he is presently “working on another album.” Indeed.
Mark Hosler (of Negativland)
We had a chance to catch-up with featured performer Mark Hosler after his mind-warping set.
How do you describe this music?
“I’ve been doing this for 37 years. Many years ago I might have called it noise. But now there is a known genre of noise; ear splitting, intense, harsh, feedback, generally not too dynamic. It’s kind of become a new form of punk rock. However, I can’t use that word anymore.
“What I do, I am trying to sculpt something. I do it in quadraphonic sound that surrounds you. Like bees are behind you. With Negativland it is different. But when I am performing solo. It’s improvised. But It’s an evolving, alien insect, ear candy soundscape.”
What kind of gear do you have there?
“Some of it is commercially available. Normal kind of stuff. Delays and reverbs, ring modulators, drum machine and a DJ-style CD player. But the secret ingredient is ’boopers’ [an electronic device] made by other people in Negativland. And that is what is making some of the most unusual electronic sounds. It is based on feedback and heavy modulation. And that is what creates some of the crazy cartoon insect sounds that you hear.”
What’s next for you and Negativland?
“Well, Negativland ... we are working on another album. But given what has been happening in this country politically, although some people might think that it would give us a lot to work with...we are living in a moment now that is so bad...It’s like the dark justice league super-villains took over.
“We are not sure what a good artistic response is. Everyday we are waking up not sure what is going to happen. We are living in horrifying times. Seriously, I don’t mean this to be hyperbole. We are going through a form of low level trauma/abuse. If you are any kind of political artist, you want to do something. What can you do?”
Through your art and visual presentation are you making political statements?
“What I do solo is mostly sound. In Negativland, along with the electronics and sound experimentation we use tons of cut up voices from TV, movies, talk radio, commercials, etcetera etcetera. We’ve done stuff on religion and guns, capitalism and copyright laws. That’s where we make things that are a more interesting, creative critique of what is going on.
“We can’t make a record that tells people how fucked we are. Everybody knows that. I am, right now, absolutely bewildered. In Negativland we have a bit of a platform. We’ve got a lot of ideas in the works. But what the fuck do we do? So right now we are waiting. Except I don’t think that the dust is ever going to settle. I think that we are in this perpetual psycho freefall with these sociopaths that are running the country right now.”