- Noise as a Political statement in Riot Grrrl and Tweecore (Rachael Neiman)
- Xenakisian Sound Synthesis, Its Aesthetics and Influence on 'Post Digital' Computer Noise (Christopher Haworth)
- Releasing the Inner Idiot: Noise Music, Marginality and Madness (Marie Thompson)
- The City as an Aural Map (Deepa Ramaswamy)
Reproduced below is the abstract of my presentation, which I submitted to the call for participation. Inspired by Ian Svenonius' "Rock 'n' Rolligion" essay in The Psychic Soviet, it grew out of an idea I first kicked around here several years ago: that the theological analog of noise music was atheism. As I'll be elaborating next week, I quickly decided this wasn't a compelling comparison: noise rock, as typified by its early American practitioners, is more directly paralleled by Pentecostalism.
A few things have changed between by initial proposal & the final paper, especially how I frame noise music in Japanese society; the conclusion has also taken on a more theoretical tone. But the gist is essentially the same. Anyone not attending the conference who has an interest in reading the paper, please e-mail me. Endnotes are included in the comment section.
Make a Joyous Noise: The Pentecostal Nature of American Noise Music
American noise music is intrinsically different from that of other, less-religious cultures. European noise music can be understood as a response to “the collapse of the industrial city,”(i) while Japanese noise music may be an uncanny inversion of traditional ongaku (“enjoyment of sound”). But American noise music finds its symbolic roots in another American original: Pentecostalism. A nation forged by religious die-hards and prone to recurrent flurries of theological fervor, the United States is a professedly Christian country. Yet since the Second World War, religion has been supplanted by pop music as America’s sociocultural fundament. According to punk polemicist Ian Svenonius, this “radical transformation… from the Christian doctrine of denial to a new capitalist religion of eating a lot”(ii) was a consequence of postwar wealth and power, as rock ‘n’ roll was constructed as “a capitalist cult”(iii) that “worship[ped] the tenets of the market economy: consumerism, newness, and planned obsolescence.”(iv)
In order to seduce converts, rock and pop music necessarily resemble the Christian template, down to its constituent sects: “Work cults like indie rock resembled Seventh-day Adventists, garage and rockabilly purists resembled the Amish (for whom history had stopped at a certain moment),”(v) etc. Noise music is modeled upon Pentecostalism, a movement born (again) in 1906 “designed to reproduce in contemporary time the church originally established on Pentecost, A.D. 30.”(vi) This reductionist approach was constitutional to the late-1970s No Wave scene (wherein American noise music became recognizable as such), whose bands abandoned canonical (blues) forms and “rearrang[ed] the basic building-blocks of music.”(vii)
Dispensing with constrictive protocols and hierarchical divisions between “conduit” and audience, both noise music and Pentecostalism are “drawn to the irrationality posited by the possibility of any, all and no meaning,”(viii) baptizing its participants in “the power of a spectacle that is physically oppressive”(ix) – volume for the former, the Holy Spirit for the latter. Further, both seek to return its participants to a pre-lingual, pre-subjective state via “abandonment of the priority given to consciousness, knowledge and the mediations of language… creat[ing] new affects and compounded emotions… for which there is no language.”(x)
Ultimately, the same dangers threaten to extinguish both noise music and Pentecostalism as potent forces. The first is institutionalism: the ossification of practice and “a rapid accumulation of stock gestures”(xi) that signify “authenticity” while betraying the opposite. The second is success. Noise music that ceases to be noisome loses its essence, becoming mere music. Meanwhile, should Pentecostals live to see the Second Coming, it would put a literal end to their faith. “Success would, in any case, signal the end…”(xii)