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Paul Hegarty

Noise/Music: A History [Continuum Press]

July 17, 2007  |  12:00am
Paul Hegarty

From Boyd Rice to Wolf Eyes, sounds that are—by traditional definitions—unmusical have irrevocably entered the modern musical vocabulary. In this rigorously researched deconstruction of noise, Paul Hegarty explains how the concept is entirely contingent upon social norms and how its inevitable emergence into music, which is simply organized noise, unfolded.
Hegarty begins by arguing for the concept of noise as a socially undesirable “them” to the musical elite’s “us.” He then leads us on a dense yet speedy tour of pivotal moments in the evolution of noise into a component of music, focusing on salient benchmarks—the Italian Futurists, recording technology, Fluxus, John Cage, Merzbow and hip-hop. By the time Hegarty arrives at modern manifestations of noise, genre neophytes will consider themselves experts. But be warned: This is not a pop history. It’s an academic survey with a distinct poststructuralist flavor—an informative read, but not a particularly fun one, unless of course you read Derrida for giggles.

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