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Information vs. Noise, John Cage vs. Merzbow

Amophrast's picture

Merzbow takes its name from the word “merz”. In reference to Dadaism and surrealism, merz means art made of rubbish. I was wondering how Merzbow would be taken as a live performance, so I searched and found the following:

I’m not an authority on what is and isn’t art, but it’s hard for me to see something performed so casually as important as a meticulously composed piece of music.

I was thinking of a video someone showed me once of John Cage performing his piece Water Walk for a game show with a live audience. Most of the time was spent with the audience laughing at him, though Cage didn’t seem to mind, having told the show’s host that “laughter is preferable to tears.”

Cage says that his sounds are not accidental. They are very purposefully and mathematically calculated—he carries the stop watch in place of a metronome or other traditional time-keeping piece in music.

“I know you teach a class in experimental sound…” Cage corrects him here: “experimental music.” So the two aren’t equivalent in his mind. Then what is music? Cage says “I consider music the production of sound.” This makes it seem as if the process is the important part, rather than the end result. I would be interested to know if he made a difference between the production of sound and the reproduction of sound.

So according to Cage’s theory, that music is the production of sound, Merzbow is indeed music, meaning that it should have some value as information. This is, of course assuming that John Cage has any value as an artist and that we should be listening to him at all.

But it seems that if we can't pull meaning or interpretation from something then it becomes disregarded as unimportant or "noise" rather than information. I think almost everything is information...but regardless, I can't find a taste or sense of respect for groups like Merzbow.

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