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Noise music is a genre of music that is characterised by the expressive use of noise within a musical context. This type of music tends to challenge the distinction that is made in conventional musical practices between musical and non-musical sound. Noise music includes a wide range of musical styles and sound-based creative practices that feature noise as a primary aspect.
|Cultural origins||1910s, Italy|
Noise music can feature acoustically or electronically generated noise, and both traditional and unconventional musical instruments. It may incorporate live machine sounds, non-musical vocal techniques, physically manipulated audio media, processed sound recordings, field recording, computer-generated noise, stochastic process, and other randomly produced electronic signals such as distortion, feedback, static, hiss and hum. There may also be emphasis on high volume levels and lengthy, continuous pieces. More generally noise music may contain aspects such as improvisation, extended technique, cacophony and indeterminacy. In many instances, conventional use of melody, harmony, rhythm or pulse is dispensed with.
The Futurist art movement (with most notably Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori and L'Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises) manifesto) was important for the development of the noise aesthetic, as was the Dada art movement (a prime example being the Antisymphony concert performed on April 30, 1919, in Berlin). In the 1920s, the French composer Edgard Varèse, when New York Dada associated via Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia's magazine 391, conceived of the elements of his music in terms of sound-masses; writing in the first half of the 1920s, Offrandes, Hyperprism, Octandre, and Intégrales. Varèse thought that "to stubbornly conditioned ears, anything new in music has always been called noise", and he posed the question: "what is music but organized noises?"
Pierre Schaeffer's musique concrète 1948 compositions Cinq études de bruits (Five Noise Studies), that began with Etude aux Chemins de Fer (Railway Study) are key to this history. Etude aux Chemins de Fer consisted of a set of recordings made at the train station Gare des Batignolles in Paris that included six steam locomotives whistling and trains accelerating and moving over the tracks. The piece was derived entirely from recorded noise sounds that were not musical, thus a realization of Russolo's conviction that noise could be an acceptable source of music. Cinq études de bruits premiered via a radio broadcast on October 5, 1948, called Concert de bruits (Noise Concert).
Later in the 1960s, the Fluxus art movement played an important role, specifically the Fluxus artists Joe Jones, Yasunao Tone, George Brecht, Robert Watts, Wolf Vostell, Dieter Roth, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Walter De Maria's Ocean Music, Milan Knížák's Broken Music Composition, early La Monte Young, Takehisa Kosugi, and the Analog #1 (Noise Study) (1961) by Fluxus-related composer James Tenney.
Contemporary noise music is often associated with extreme volume and distortion. Notable genres that exploit such techniques include noise rock and no wave, industrial music, Japanoise, and postdigital music such as glitch. In the domain of experimental rock, examples include Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and Sonic Youth. Other notable examples of composers and bands that feature noise based materials include works by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Helmut Lachenmann, Cornelius Cardew, Theatre of Eternal Music, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Ryoji Ikeda, Survival Research Laboratories, Whitehouse, Coil, Merzbow, Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV, Jean Tinguely's recordings of his sound sculpture (specifically Bascule VII), the music of Hermann Nitsch's Orgien Mysterien Theater, and La Monte Young's bowed gong works from the late 1960s.