This is a web-news-video-article thing about “noise” music and a recent show that we (Dodecazurvan) played at the unfortunately soon-closing Bela Dubby along w/ the legendary Robert Turman and police-stunted-yet-still-formidable Fat Worm of Error. While the article is well put together, the editing is nice, and it generally communicates some of what is going on—there is something missing.
This missing is first seen in the title of the piece, “‘Noise’ is Music That Requires Earplugs.” Before moving forward, all music should require earplugs if you wish to avoid hearing loss later in life. I’d imagine that a teenager going to the latest arena tween show is more at risk for hearing loss than someone enjoying small venue soundscapes. Hearing loss is a serious issue and anyone serious about music should carry (and use when needed) earplugs. More on this on the WIkipedia page for noise-induced hearing loss (and yes, this is a different kind of “noise”). It could be argued (won’t be anymore here) that the average teenager damages their hearing far more than a “noise” fan or musician.
Further onto the tagline, “You could do anything and still get applause.” This sets a condescending tone and implies that “noise” music is somehow not real music, not a real effort, nor worthy of applause, since “hey, anything could get applause.” This neglects the fact that much non-traditional music is more obviously an artistic and personal construct than the latest Top 40 hit. Applause at non-traditional shows is applause not only for the performance and artists themselves, but for the DIY spirit and the huge amount of effort that bands and artists put into this. Sets are not haphazard, random assortments of noisy sounds (and even when they are, they aren’t) but quite the opposite—an infinite pallet holding swatches of time/space and each carefully attended to by the musicians and artists. This is music by people who are passionate about what they do. This is an inarguable, raw passion that means music is made, records are put out, shows are promoted, and all this goes on for just a small group of likeminds who find something transcendental in the scene they elect to be a part of.
The tone of the article allows Mr. McEwan to keep a distance from less-traditional musics (or “noise” as Mr. McEwan seeks to encompass things). It allows Mr. McEwan and the Lakewood Patch to view non-traditional musics as abrasive and amateurish and thus dismiss these musics as a “trend” for hipsters to “flock to.” To those of us deeply involved in this nameless scene, this strikes as offensive and clearly off-point.
The problem here is that Mr. McEwan isn’t trying to overtly deride the non-traditional music scene in Northeast Ohio, I believe he actually enjoyed the show and found it new/exciting. For lack of a better umbrella Mr. McEwan chooses “noise,” a vague term that barely begins to do justice to the wealth of sonic exploration that takes place at events like these every night all over the world. This is another point completely, terms like “noise” and “experimental” are the new “avant-garde.” Sounds are either so new or specialized that traditional, familiar genres defy and we default to the closest emcompasser. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many fans will use these vague terms to connect and identify and can thus sort out the endless genre stratification on a personal (often intuitive, languageless) basis. That sorting is more difficult for someone like Mr. McEwan so we can’t blame him when he says “noise” or that “noise is loud.” Or maybe we can.
It wouldn’t be a false statement if Mr. McEwan visited the Bela Dubby on a night when harsh noise bands were playing. Harsh noise being the furthest extreme of sonic maximalism, where speakers are assaulted at full volume. That music is easy to call noise and easy to call loud. The show that Mr. McEwan visited was a show that featured no “harsh noise” and began w/ a fairly ambient, restrained set and followed with beautiful sound sculpture from Turman. Fat Worm rounded out the night with an epileptic interpretation of the traditional rock band structure, yet still even they were not quite the “noise” that Mr. McEwan describes. Sure the night got loud, but it was also awfully quiet at times and this leads me to wonder if Mr. McEwan was listening. If he was he would have heard a small sampling of the eclectic worldwide community and sounds and musics produced by this community. This is a place where genres become arbitrary signifiers, able to be latched upon when necessary, yet also easily disposable in the pursuit of art, expression, and just taking part in the generation of really cool, completely new sounds.