Noise Music: A History

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Noise/Music looks at the phenomenon of noise in music, from experimental music of the early 20th century to the Japanese noise music and glitch electronica of today. It situates different musics in their cultural and historical context, and analyses them in terms of cultural aesthetics. Paul Hegarty argues that noise is a judgement about sound, that what was noise can become acceptable as music, and that in many ways the idea of noise is similar to the idea of the avant-garde.

While it provides an excellent historical overview, the book's main concern is in the noise music that has emerged since the mid 1970s, whether through industrial music, punk, free jazz, or the purer noise of someone like Merzbow. The book progresses seamlessly from discussions of John Cage, Erik Satie, and Pauline Oliveros through to bands like Throbbing Gristle and the Boredoms. Sharp and erudite, and underpinned throughout by the ideas of thinkers like Adorno and Deleuze, Noise/Music is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the louder side of experimental music.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826417272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826417275
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces

Customer Reviews

Great read. Used it as a reference for a …

 on August 16, 2014
By Lincoln
Great read. Used it as a reference for a paper I wrote in one of my communications classes. Really interesting look at the roots of the modern noise music genre I have seen over the past couple of years.

Great Background and Analysis

One person found this helpful.
 on January 13, 2008
By rdf
Hegarty comes at the topic from the standpoint of an avid listener and performer, explaining and exploring what the various artists are trying to achieve. His coverage of historical and contemporary performers/composers is exceptionally broad and adds a invaluable context for the work — even if some influences are only mentioned in passing.

Satisfied Me, Regarding To Noise Music

One person found this helpful.
 on July 31, 2011
By Mariodemon
Recommended if you are interested in the history behind all the use of noise in music to noise music itself, in philosophical and various critical angles, considering the vast bibliography studied for the making of this book.

Good noise theory;not too hard,not too soft.

 on February 9, 2008
By A. Sykora
Hegarty’s book is not a dry,excessively detailed history but rather a work much more usefull to myself and perhaps all noisicians and sound artists.It tries very well to reason why we make noise.If you make or dig noise,even if you are a philosophical novice,read this book.

The best in theory and a wide open gate to musical skies

16 people found this helpful.
 on September 3, 2007
One of the books we had been longing for and dreaming of for a long, very long time, since the time when Pierre Schaeffer or Pierre Henry invented concrete music in the early 1940s. Finally out and so rich. Noise music is an old, very old human activity but it is finding a new vital energy in our modern world. There is no real difference between noise and music. Both have to be listened to to be heard and eventually appreciated in a way or another. If you don’t listen you won’t hear the thunder and you may miss the warning it may represent to us. And yet it is only noise. The only difference between noise and music is that music is noise that has been worked upon to create a rhythm and a harmony that did not exist originally in the noise itself and had to be worked into the noise. But any noise, any sound in the world is potential music. It only takes one composer to transform the noise of a rattle into music, or the noise of a washboard into music. The second idea of importance is the change of the general meaning of noise and music in our world over the last twenty-five centuries. It used to be only (was it really true) some dressing up of rites, mainly religious rites and rituals, but also military or festive rituals or actions. Little by little it became a pure entertainment (but is it only that) in our modern world with the invention of concert halls, theaters, museums, and particularly the radio that enabled jazz and some other types of music to emerge and impose themselves as pure entertainment. And television, not to speak of the Internet, Youtube or Myspace Music or the iPod. The final essential idea is that the world has completely changed technically. The radio was only the very beginning of that revolution. The final phase is that of digitalized music, sampling and virtual composition and performing. And that goes along with the change it all brings to the younger generations. They live today in a constant musical world and they develop new capabilities. The hearing band is getting wider. The sense and feeling of rhythm and harmony have completely changed in intensity and concerns so many more people than just twenty years ago, not to speak of two centuries ago. And now our modern machines and their tools, computers and digital music software enable everyone who is not deaf to gather sounds, then to sample them, then to build some kind of architecture that used to be called composition. That revolution leads more and more young people who live in continuous sound to reject the old discrimination between noise and music and they start using noise, plain ordinary everyday sonic pollution (meaning sounds that are produced as a collateral side-effect of some motivated and profitable activity), in order to produce music, to transform it into music. And that’s exactly what the author tries to explain and explore, at times a little bit theoretically and not enough musically. But it sure is a rich and enticing introduction to what we used to call concrete music and is today called noise music.

Totally yes

One person found this helpful.
 on May 6, 2016
By Yvonne D Forte
This book is wonderful. It could be part of a course on sound art. I am a jazz trombonist who has “crossed over”. I totally recommend this. My personal favorite noise/sound artist is I’d m thfft able. Sometimes google misspells his name as I’d M Theft Able. Yet noise occurs in so many ways, including eco sounds, syn, tape, collage, and industrial. If you’re cool enough to take it, try some noise. I am a 1st year MFA candidate concentrating on experimental music composition. That is what brought me to the doorstep of this book.

Entertaining AND informative

14 people found this helpful.
 on November 4, 2007
By J. Bjorne
Sometimes the writing tends to be a tad dry, but this is a serious work of scholarship regarding the “noise” movement through the history of music so one wouldn’t expect a page turner. There is a whole chapter devoted to Japanese Noise music, as well as one specifically on Merzbow, who is like the god of noise. I appreciated the fact that in the introduction the author did mention that he only touches on Coil, Nurse With Wound, and Current 93 b/c they have their own book (“England’s Hidden Reverse” by David Keegan). Several mentions of Throbbing Gristle are made as well, though the book “Wreckers of Civilization” by Simon Ford is an excellent read on that wacky troupe. I was entertained by the author’s description of listening to specific pieces of music, and he raised my interest in several artists I wasn’t familiar with. This was a gift, but I would have gladly paid full price for this excellent book.

Dissection of Noise Into Its Component Sonic Fragments

6 people found this helpful.
 on September 17, 2007
By directions
In high school physics I was given an assignment to comprehend the entire mathematical equation of the respiratory cycle. Fortunately, here the subject is noise music, a bit closer to my interests. To say this book is pretentious would be to do it a dissevice. In fact, “Noise/Music A History” is actually more scientific, an examination of noise, music, their relation and the various manifestations of which have existed and continue to exist. From John Cage to free jazz to industrial music to Merzbow, it has the feeling that someone is using sonar equipment to measure the sonic vibrations at a Masonna concert and presenting a thesis of the results. Fortunately, there are footnotes so that you can fill yourself in. Be prepared for a quiz.

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