Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Is Noise Music?

spreston's picture

A topic that came up in today's class with Tian that really interested me is the difference between noise and music.  At the beginning of class, when he performed by standing in silence to show us that in Cage's (I think that was the composer's name?) view, all noise can create music.  This idea was further explored when we sang the raindrop song, a kind of song that can never be repeated exactly as it was sung before.  Both of these examples brought me back to a book from my Politics of Music class. 

In Jacques Attali's Noise, he writes explicitly about the difference between noise and music.  Attali claims that "Noise is a weapon and music, primordially, is the formation, domestication, and ritualization of that weapon as a simulacrum of ritual murder" (24).  In his very dramatic language, Attali goes on to explain that while noise (unorganized noise, that is) creates violence and chaos.  To me, Cage's performance is chaotic: unorganized noise that has no harmony.  Music, Attali says, creates order out of the violence that is noise.  In a particularly juicy section of the book, Attali says, "The game of music thus resembles the game of power: monopolize the right to violence; provoke anxiety and then provide a feeling of security; provoke disorder and then propose order; create a problem in order to solve it" (28).  The idea that music makes order out of disorder intrigues me because it shows the way in which music can so often make us feel relaxed, calm, at ease.  In Noise, Attali definitely convinces me that noise and music are separate, but that music clearly cannot exist without noise.  For anybody who found today's class really cool and interesting, I would definitely recommend this book - it explains the power of music in society, economy and politics and it's dramatic writing style makes it fun to read!!



smile's picture

Panel 2

In this coming panel I want to speak about the political groups of the young people in the Arab world during the revolutions against their regimes.

I see that their use of technology helped them a lot in being in contact and sharing their ideas and updates, especially in Egypt ...

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
16 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.