In 1997, Jacques Attali made great claims on behalf of noise in his book Noise. Noise would be a revolutionary force within music and, indeed, society—the name of resistance to symbolic violence and “channelization.” This essay examines what has happened to the discourse and the practice of noise since this moment. In the first part, the focus is on Michel Chion’s writings that deal with noise—both conceptually and linguistically—across a variety of media (including theater, film, and music). Chion’s work is exemplary of a movement away from noise as paradigm-shifting to heterogeneity and attenuation. The second part of the article examines how noise has been practiced as a musical—or perhaps antimusical—form in Japan and considers the possibility of extending Chion’s arguments about language, sound, and culture to the Japanese context. The article considers the noise artist Merzbow as a representative of the model of noise associated with Attali and the emergence a movement known as onkyou (sound) as a countermodel.
James A. Steintrager; Speaking of Noise: From Murderous Loudness to the Crackle of Silk. differences 1 December 2011; 22 (2-3): 249–275. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1428915
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