Noise Identities. Toward a Noise-Based Concept of Identity in Recorded Music

Melle Jan Kromhout | ‘Noise’ is often referred to in opposition to ‘sound’ and ‘music’: an abject, transgressive or disruptive element, a threat to identity. Contrary to this view, recording practices, musical developments and listening habits show that noise is actually an important feature of recorded music. Based on this, the project argues noise is not just the antithesis of identity, but also a formative agent in the formation of singular identity in recorded music. The importance of noise is based on its decisive role in defining the identity of sounds: its noisy first instance (the ‘attack’) influences each sound’s specific overtones. This ‘noise-logic’ – noise determining sonic identity – became pivotal in recorded music, since recording is all about specific sound. The resulting concept of ‘noise identities’ is used for assessing the meaning of sound in the age of technological media: recorded music only seems to become meaningful when noise is accounted for.

Although the importance of noise for the formation of identity in recorded music was discovered in practice, it has hardly been theorized. This project aims to do so by asking: how to conceive identity in an age of noise? It entails an historical and theoretical revaluation of noise in a mediaparadigm and introduces the concept of ‘noise identities,’ which is developed through several case studies as a tool for the analysis of musical, as well as non-musical practices.

Supervisor | Sander van Maas