Music. The art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. When music is mentioned, a couple of things that come to mind are rock music, country music, rap, hip-hop, etc. But is the topic of noise music ever a thought that crosses the mind? It usually never does. Noise music, and noise subgenres, are a lesser-known musical genre. It challenges the conventional definition of what is musical and non-musical, offers a distinct listening experience, and has a distinct effect on the brain.
It is called noise “music”, but is it really defined as music? Listening to “Woodpecker No. 1” by Japanese noise artist Merzbow challenges this distinction of what is and what isn’t music, and what criteria needs to be met for something to be labeled as being music. Currently, for something to be officially considered music, it must have melody (sequence of specific notes), harmony (notes that create a harmonic chord or chord progression), rhythm (consistent pattern of sound), and timbre (perceived sound quality of a song/sound). The interesting thing about noise music is that it does not (usually) have a melody, harmony, or rhythm. It only possesses timbre, and even then, certain genres of noise such as Harsh Noise Wall (HNW) do not possess timbre. Timbre is essentially just the distinction of sounds, such as instruments of the same family being distinguished from one another (e.g. oboe and clarinet both being woodwind instruments). Noise offers a distinct listening experience, and the history of the genre is over 100 years old. The first recorded appearance of noise music was in 1913, and it was a manifesto by Luigi Russolo called The Art of Noises. He explained that “the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds.”
Most people enjoy music. It helps us relate and regulate our emotions, and noise music is no exception. Noise music appeals to me personally, because it is in sync with my brain. It gives me a sense of composure and a massive hit of dopamine from the harsh, loud sounds it brings. It is also quite interesting to me because of the sheer uniqueness of it; It is such an abstract piece of creative work and self-expression. It is also appealing to many because of its unpredictability; with conventional music, the listener can get a sense of where the song is going, and guess what might happen. They may assume, “here comes the guitar solo”, or “there’s a beat drop coming up”. Noise music, especially harsh noise, is completely chaotic and arbitrary. It is nearly impossible to “predict” what is going to happen next or where the song might go.
The effect of music on the brain has been studied extensively for a long time, so we already know that it evokes emotion, affects our mood, and can change the way we think about certain things. The harshness and aggressiveness of the music can cause odd comfort to the soul and acts as almost a white noise to replace a silent room, or perhaps to block out the sound of a roaring one. Noise can give a way to express one’s energetic and aggressive side in a form of creative flow. While definitely not for everyone, it is worth a listen, especially for those who are fans of experimental pieces of work.
Custom noise playlist, for those who are interested in delving into the genre.