Synopses & Reviews
Noise, an underground music made through an amalgam of feedback, distortion, and electronic effects, first emerged as a genre in the 1980s, circulating on cassette tapes traded between fans in Japan, Europe, and North America. With its cultivated obscurity, ear-shattering sound, and over-the-top performances, Noise has captured the imagination of a small but passionate transnational audience.
For its scattered listeners, Noise always seems to be new and to come from somewhere else: in North America, it was called andquot;Japanoise.andquot; But does Noise really belong to Japan? Is it even music at all? And why has Noise become such a compelling metaphor for the complexities of globalization and participatory media at the turn of the millennium?
In Japanoise, David Novak draws on more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States to trace the andquot;cultural feedbackandquot; that generates and sustains Noise. He provides a rich ethnographic account of live performances, the circulation of recordings, and the lives and creative practices of musicians and listeners. He explores the technologies of Noise and the productive distortions of its networks. Capturing the textures of feedbackandmdash;its sonic and cultural layers and vibrationsandmdash;Novak describes musical circulation through sound and listening, recording and performance, international exchange, and the social interpretations of media.
andquot;Edgy, compelling, and sharply insightful, this is the definitive book on and#39;Japanoise.and#39; Drawing on his personal involvement in Noise scenes across two continents and over two decades, David Novak takes readers into the experience of Noise: its production and performance through apparati of wires, pedals, amplifiers, and tape loops, through its intensity on the stage and in oneand#39;s ears and body.andquot;
andquot;This is a striking book: theoretically exciting, aesthetically intriguing, and well crafted. Japanoise is an extreme case study of modern musical subjectivity that demonstrates how core cultural ideas are formed on the fringe. David Novakand#39;s treatment of circulation as embedded in the creative process will shift the debate in ethnomusicology, popular music studies, and global media studies.andquot;
andquot;David Novak goes inside the Noise scene and presents an astounding perspective: historically astute, inspired, and completely shell-shocked.andquot;
“Novak is at his best when he describes the performers in their element. He captures the energy, intensity, and passion these artists display. There were often times I really wanted to be in the place he was describing and to experience what he experienced because the noise shows seemed so exciting. Novak is also a good storyteller. He’s the scene historian who can guide the reader effortlessly through the important names and places in the history of the Japanese noise scene. He makes it interesting and educational at the same time.” - Kurt Morris, Razorcake
andldquo;While Japanoise gives a fantastically detailed account of Noiseandrsquo;s history and evolution, it is also interesting to see it framed as a true representative of what has come to be known as andlsquo;Cool Japan.andrsquo; As the government promotes sugary sweet pop acts that cause toothaches abroad, the grassroots noise scene (OK, it might be causing earaches) is making real progress in keeping Japan cool.andrdquo;
“Novak successfully dissects Japanoise, specifically constructing around it an academic discourse that elevates it to pure performance art. . . . Novak’s commitment to listen to the sounds live, despite the risks to his own hearing, make for a lot of engaging field reports, increasing the value of his research.”
andldquo;Novakandrsquo;s contribution to sound studies is to encourage us to deal with the fragmented complexity of sonic environments and contexts, especially those where noise plays a crucial part. . . . What sets Novakandrsquo;s book apart . . . is how his ethnographic approach allows him to approach Noise music from both the macro-perspective of its historical context and the micro-lens of his personal relationship to it.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;The major strength of Novakandrsquo;s book lies in its ability to describe the goings on at various gigs in both Japan and the United States in such a way that the reader is able to sense something of what it must have been like to be there, just enough, perhaps, to wish that s/he had actually been there. For a reader such as this reviewer, indeed, there is much envy-inducing material here. In this respect, Novakandrsquo;s book is very much in the David Toop school of writing, and as such there are many passages that provide the reader with truly engaging, fascinating and beautifully written accounts of some musical events the like of which will never be heard again.andrdquo;
andldquo;Novak succeeds in highlighting the cultural implications of Noise in ways that productively broaden scholarly inquiries about music and culture. This book is an invaluable, groundbreaking contribution for ethnomusicology that is applicable to scholars across disciplines with interests in transnationalism, technology, and globalization.andrdquo;
andldquo;This is a thought-provoking book that is well written and researched, and it made me reflect on not just Noise as experimental music that pushes the boundaries of aesthetics and physical listening but also on listening to a variety of sounds in daily life, on our relationship to technology and our ability to shape sound through it, and on the collaborative connections and blurred identities that exist among artists, distributors, and consumers.andrdquo;
Drawing on more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States, David Novak traces the "cultural feedback" that generates and sustains Noise, an underground music genre combining distortion and electronic effects.
About the Author
David Novak is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Table of Contents
1. Scenes of Liveness and Deadness 28
2. Sonic Maps of the Japanese Underground 64
3. Listening to Noise in Kansai 92
4. Genre Noise 117
5. Feedback, Subjectivity, and Performance 139
6. Japanoise and Technoculture 169
7. The Future of Cassette Culture 198
Epilogue: A Strange History 227