Interference Journal Issue 3

The noises of a society are in advance of its images and material conflicts. Our music foretells our future. Let us lend it an ear. – Jacques Atalli

We wanted to begin this issue with an acknowledgement that ‘noise’ today is not necessarily a disruptive force operating outside of what is being disrupted. Taking this as a starting point, how might we think of noise as a constructive set of audiosocial tactics that disturb systems (genres, institutions, orders) from within? This means thinking about noise not only within traditionally sonic categories such as tonal dissonance or vibrational force, but inviting an expanded view that considers how sonic strategies intersect with broader social, technical and political forms of conflict. Here an array of sonic considerations, from unwanted sounds, chaotic frequency distribution, deconstructive remainder, systemic glitch or excess, blend and gesture both to cultural practices of dissent and their broader socio-political resonances.

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This essay will consider the phenomenon of stuttering on two levels: firstly on how this specific communication pathology breaks with language by means of speech, and secondly, how this phonic break opens up the potential of the static. In the first part of the paper, language will be looked at from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory that it is an abstract machine (Deleuze & Guattari, 2010) which is divided into systems. It will draw on the social implications in language for the individual as well as the disruptive qualities it embodies when a certain linearity is not respected. On one hand, language is about giving life orders, while life listens and waits (Deleuze & Guattari, 2010). On the other hand, it is about opening up our perception by means of change. The second part will be about the disruption that is caused by the act of stuttering. The disruption will first be explored on the level of speech, categorizing it as an accident. On a second level, stuttering will be explored as a language in itself, revealing its potential for language but also as a new type of language. The third level of this disruption will consider stuttering as a means of passage, which makes language accessible to variation by exposing it to the static. Throughout this essay, stuttering will be characterised as noise mainly because in linguistic terms it is considered as a pathology.

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In this paper I will discuss the implementation of cybernetic music systems based on feedback. As a case study, I will present my projects for human-computer interaction performance and autonomous interactive sound installations, LIES and SD/OS, describing their characteristics from a systemic perspective, their structure, and the concepts behind these works. Concepts such as complexity, self-dis/organisation, emergence and chaos are crucial to these works, as are those of autonomy and synergy. Feedback, a mechanism that makes the subversion of technology possible, is the key for the design of these systems and for establishing a strict coupling between environment, performer, and machine. It will be shown that in such music systems ‘noise’ can be the sole source of alimentation, and that sound affects itself, becoming a continuous perturbation for the spontaneous behaviour of such systems.

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In 2010, inside the walls of the heritage-listed grounds of the old Callan Park Hospital in the suburb of Rozelle, a small group of staff and students from Sydney College of the Arts established a modest garden. The project was dubbed TENDING. Taken at face value, TENDING is simply a garden developed to produce food and to provide an alternative gathering place for staff and students. There are millions of such gardens in the world and recently there have been numerous art projects established around gardens. However, behind the simplicity of the project resides a complex noise of voices, interest groups, heritage, power, ownership and conversation. This paper will unravel the noise just below the surface of the seemingly idyllic and silent spaces of Callan Park. It will look at how the simple act of creating a garden laid out the complex interactions between culture and nature, and signal and noise.

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Technologies of the day such as radio, film and public sound amplification were crucial to the production of an immersive effect in both theatrical and political demonstrations of the 1930s. The dynamics of amplification were pushed to extremes in order to engulf the public and get them caught up in a spirit of revolt alongside actors in theatrical productions and strikers on the front lines in labour battles. In this article I will examine two case studies of live subversive sound techniques inspired by new media of the time. These traverse the theatrical and political realms of worker’s culture of the late 1930s: the Living Newspapers of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Theatre Project, and the Flint sit-down strike of 1936-37. The two interconnected moments in US cultural history reveal a startling ingenuity that, driven by the aesthetics of theatre, radio and film, moved the public and changed the course of American politics.

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Hillel Schwartz’s Making Noise (2011, Zone Books) takes its place in the growing library of literature on acoustic pandemonium, the hubbub of the masses, the eternal cacophony of nature, the din of industry and military, the cry of the distressed, that certain ringing in the ears… noise, in short. Or From Babel to the Big Bang & Beyond, as the subtitle has it. This topic is popular at the moment, judging by the proliferation of conferences and publications. If it does nothing else, this volume convinces that noise has always been a hot topic, from the very birth of the universe, through the gestation of human culture, right on down the line to the (near) present.

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