sssssssssss ssshhhh !!!
It’s getting harder and harder to find quiet. It’s not just that the world is louder now than it was when Lucy first stepped out onto the veldt, but that we have become increas- ingly suspicious of a priori distinctions between ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ events; between foreground and background; between privileged ‘sound’ and disenfranchised ‘noise.’ If we no longer trust the divisions our culture has handed us, we have no choice but to listen to everything. The hi-fi-guy’s obsession with the ‘signal to noise to ratio’ is becoming figuratively, and mathematically, irrational: what to do as the numerator approaches infinity while the denominator slips away toward zero? One man’s noise is, we discover, another man’s signal. The ticks and skips of vinyl are no longer distractions, speed bumps on the road to musical enjoyment; they are the music itself, the material of a new CD. And the glitch of one errant CD begets the next CD.
To be sure, while noise has tiptoed across the border into signal, there has been the occasional reverse migration: my corner bar in Amsterdam, close by the Concertgebouw, was much loved by musicians because it was the only pub in town that played no music – occasionally some of signal’s most skilled craftsmen spurn their own product as noise. Whether John Cage’s 4’33” was the catalyst or merely the first (in)audible public symptom, since that 1953 performance in Woodstock, non-intentional sound has been getting louder. There seems to be a growing love for the ephemeral, the ancillary, the residual, the inadvertent […]