Some Music and a Whole Lot of Noise

There is music, and then there is noise. At least that’s what I thought until very recently. But apparently, things have changed in the 2.0 world and now noise has become music. If you are thinking of noise music as groups  of young men that perform with wooden sticks on garbage can on the streets, you got it all wrong. According to Wikipedia, in noise music NOISE is the primary aspect of the sound and this includes pretty much anything, such as:

…live machine sounds, non-musical vocal techniques, physically manipulated audio media, processed sound recordings, field recordings, computer generated noise, stochastic processes and other randomly produced electronic signals such as distortion, feedback, static, hiss and hum.

So while noise might seem to some like a bunch of people who don’t know how to play an instrument or sing, but want to be musicians, to others it is actually a sophisticated musical style.

Dear reader, if you know ask yourself: “Why the hell is she theorizing about noise music??” I am trying to set up a theoretical, sound background because from here on, it’s going to get craaaaaazy, (well, somewhat) and I always feel that it helps to help some science to hold on to when the world is going mad around you.
Let’s beam ourselves to Dayton, Ohio on a late summer night. What seems like a small, sleepy town will become the Pungent Dungeon. Literally, because that is exactly the name of the place/house/basement where we are headed. WE includes: my boyfriend and me, our friend G – who is actually going to perform at the noise concert – his dog Guapo (imagine an overly eager BIG and HEAVY puppy riding in the back with you, and ON you, while occasionally spreading his saliva all over you) and two other friendly fellows, C. and A, who are by the way BOTH allergic to dogs. Finally at the Pungent Dungeon, WE humans and the dog are probably equally happy to get out of the car and into the (drum roll): dark dungeon! Dark because the first thing I see is 6 guys, sitting on the couch, all dressed in black. Pretty soon it becomes obvious that is is the way to dress and look at a noise party, if you are male: long, messy hair; facial hair is a plus, biker jeans and a jeans vest (!!) and a black T-shirt with some obscure band name written on it. If you are a girl, at least at this noise party, it seems you’re there because of your boyfriend. I spot a total of maybe 20-30 guys and about 4 girlfriends (including me). We are all standing, sitting, lounging around in a Christmas lights lit basement (the infamous Pungent Dungeon) and everything is slightly foggy because this place is clearly an all-smoking zone. Everybody’s waiting for the noise to start.
G. is the first one up – and I am actually impressed. He manages to mix sounds from a tape recorder, feedback, his voice on a loop and drum beats to a very entertaining musical experience. Unfortunately, this is already as good as it gets. G’s act is followed by the probably most boring use of distortion pedals I have ever heard, only to be exchanged for the most disturbing use of distortion pedals that I have ever heard. There seems to be some unwritten law though that you cannot leave during a performance. Not because it might seem impolite, mainly because it’s interpreted as weak. You cannot show that the noise, as much as it might hit the most sensitive nerves in your ear, got to you and you gave in. You just have to listen through it. Luckily, I have this really bad habit of looking through people’s drawers in the bathroom, and here I find: ear plugs! At this point, I am ready to glorify and worship the person who invented ear plugs. With the help of my little friends in my ear, I actually make it through the rest of the concert. On the way out, I run into another girlfriend. She seems really upset: “My boyfriend’s in there, doing what he loves most – talking about himself. So I left.” I am not sure what to say, we seem past the point of saying “hi”, introducing ourselves and exchanging basic information. So I simply ask: “That sucks. Which one is your boyfriend?” She explains: “The one with the jeans vest, the black T-shirt and the beard.” “Ohhh, HIM!” Luckily, our little group has gathered around me, including a ready-to-roll Guapo, and saves me from having to guess which one of the 20 guys that fit the girl’s description is the egocentric boyfriend. We are ready to leave the world of noise music.
Well, Pungent Dungeon, it was a pleasure, thank you for the musi… NOISE! I am not quite sure what kind of experience it was but it was definitely an experience! One, I wouldn’t want to miss!

Interested in the obscure sounds of the Pungent Dungeon? Check out this short clip:

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