The Aesthetics of Noise

Torben Sangild writes:

Apollo represents appearance, form, individuality, beauty and dream; the Apollonian aesthetics is an embellishment of suffering, a self-conscious lie, a veiling of cruelty by use of form and elegance, a semblance of beauty. Dionysus, on the other hand, represents ecstasy, being, will, intoxication and unity; the Dionysian aesthetics is a direct confrontation with the terrible foundation of being, an absurd will driving us all in our meaningless lives. In the Dionysian ecstasy individuality is transgressed6 in favor of identification with the universal will – a frightening yet blissful experience. Frightening, that is, because it is a death-like giving up of the Ego, if only for a few seconds; blissful in letting go of the responsibilities of being a subject. The Dionysian experience is a “metaphysical comfort”, knowing that suffering is a necessary part of the effects of the eternal will – the destruction of things in order to create anew. In the Dionysian ecstasy one is no longer concerned with one’s individual suffering, seeing instead things from the universal point of view.

In music, the ecstasy of noise is undoubtedly a Dionysian effect, as opposed to the Apollonian melody and form.7 As mentioned above, the German words Rausch (ecstasy) and Geräusch (noise) are related, pointing towards this fact. The Dionysian is that which is not totally controlled or formed, e.g. screams and noises. The Apollonian elements are seductive, inciting the listener to enter the ecstatic bliss of the Dionysian, enabling the listener to dare the confrontation with the dreadfulness of existence. Therefore, Nietzsche says, the Dionysian needs the Apollonian.

Merzbow is so demanding exactly because he refuses this; he does not soften the harshness of noise with any Apollonian elements. Listening to Merzbow is thus a very different experience from the Sonic Youth maelstrom.

One of the reasons for the ecstatic effect of noise is its sublime character. The sublime is that which exceeds the limits of the senses, perceived as chaos or vastness. Despite our ability to put these words to it, the sublime goes beyond making sense – we never really understand it. The complexity of noise (in the acoustic sense) overloads the ears and the nervous system and is perceived as an amorphous mass, incomprehensible yet stirring. The delight of the sublime is the satisfaction of confronting the unfathomable.

Full Story: Ubu Web: The Aesthetics of Noise

(Thanks Adam and Ryan!)

The Quest to Find the First Soundscape

Alexis Madrigal on his quest to find the first recordings of the urban soundscape:

Could I go back a hundred years and listen to New York or Paris?

When it comes to film, you can see all kinds of old places. Sometimes even in high resolution, thanks to the work of archivists like Rick and Megan Prelinger. These films are incredibly important records for historians and citizens alike. They give us eyes in the past.

There’s an amazing film sequence of San Francisco in 1905. A camera was placed on a streetcar and driven down Market Street, the diagonal that cuts through the city’s core. Pedestrians, cars, carts, horses, the whole dizzying array of urban life before electricity and the automobile turned our cities inside-out. We recognize our buildings, but not our city. Similar recordings exist of most major cities.

I figured that there had to be similar documentation of the metropolitan soundscape, or any soundscape really.

But there isn’t.

Full Story: The Atlantic: The Quest to Find the First Soundscape

Cymatics Scientist Says Sound is a Bubble, Not a Wave


John Stuart Reid proposes that sound is not actually a wave, as has been thought for centuries, but a “bubble” and that this is what creates the amazing patterns we see captured with cymatics.
In his article, The Physics of Sound, Reid says that sound has previously been thought to travel as a wave because of the graphical, wave-based representation we have used to capture sound visibly in the past…

“The graphical representation of sound ‘waves’ in the past is why the term ’sound waves’ is used, causing the false impression that sound travels as a wave.”

…but that cymatics allows us to realize that the true form of sound is actually spherical, or bubble-like, in nature.

Journal of Cymatics: Cymatics Scientist Says Sound is a Bubble, Not a Wave

(Thanks Wes!)

© 2021 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑