Friday, December 3, 2010

Above is a video of Merzbow, AKA, God. The rest of this post is on Prurient, but I think it would piss people off to watch and listen to a video of him.

Hopefully you've watched/listened by now, so I can smile at potentially pissing your ears off.

I think something unique about noise is how undefinable it is--it isn't this, and it's not that, etc--but this clearly makes it difficult to talk about. I read many reviews and critical discussions about noise, though none of them have allowed me to see any deeper into the genre--they feel more like orbital debris than anything else. This is particularly troublesome for me because I'm trying to write a paper on noise artist Prurient for this class, and, though I think my intuitions about him are relevant to both critical theory and media consumption in general, I don't feel I'm adding anything to the essence of Prurient's body of work. I have the vocabulary to describe his sounds, but that vocabulary doesn't really serve a purpose, aside from potentially allowing me to play semantic games. As much as I rant about how important inter-disciplinary research and discussion is, doing a simple close reading of Prurient just ends up producing a long stream of bullshit jargon, which sucks.

I like the way Prurient grabs my ears and makes them reel with pain, because it pushes out thought and gives me a feeling of helplessness. This is of course a masochistic response, but I find it interesting that so many people have that same response... as if pain produces an ultimately euphoric feeling--the feeling that one is taken care of by the universe, precisely because he can't take care of himself, which, I hear, many people acquire when they assess their own lack of power in relation to the world, "religion is the opiate of the masses", blah blah. I think this is, potentially, a large part of catharsis. And this is, to me, a manifestation of manipulation, possibly even coercion--and don't we read what we read because it forces us to go somewhere, whether we want to go there or not? And does music potentially do this better than language?

1 comment:

  1. Isn't music the universal language?

    It's interesting, Oceania, to think about how this genre of music actually defies language. To quote Macbeth, is noise music signifying nothing? If so, is Merzbow the proverbial idiot, telling us his nonsense tale?

    In his book White Boys, White Noise: Masculinities and 1980s Guitar Rock, Matthew Bannister talks about how many (male) indie groups use noise in a colonial fashion--as a way to pummel their audiences. I think this framework functions quite nicely to the extent that it allows us to talk about power--the power of the male performing body--as well as exploring concerns about colonialism and language, the last of which, of couse, is what postcolonial studies are all about.

    Perhaps all of this becomes even more charged when we think about Merzbow's nationality: as someone who is Japanese, how does his use of noise potentially break down cultural barriers? Arguably, noise is placeless, right? Of couse we also know that decisions about what constitutes noise can be culturally determined. Nevertheless, as a rather lousy musician myself, I make lots of noise, but very little music. And I'm American.

    Which leads us back to Prurient . . .