Yesterday, I caught myself closing my eyes and smiling at the sounds of a construction site—the irregular but driving rhythms, the low frequency rumbles of machinery, the glissed screams of chop saws. I was the only one standing there contentedly. People pushed past me while I subtly nodded to the rhythms. I felt that strange, giddy flutter deep in my ears as I listened to, and felt, the noise. It seemed profoundly beautiful and I felt absolutely alone.
Hyper-idiomatic artistic language is always being lamented and debated. There is this seemingly accepted divide between the cerebral and the visceral, and perhaps a parallel divide between readings of what is consciously expressed and what is sincerely emoted. Noise doesn’t function within a layman’s “musical” vocabulary and seems to fall victim to the same criticisms of high art/abstraction/contrived language that haunts so much visual art. If one is especially invested in a sense (say, the way a composer is invested in the sense of hearing), that individual is often open to the profound experiences through that sense in every day life; they’ve trained their ears to be receptive. They often hear beauty in the mundane. The difficulty doesn’t seem to lie in capturing a moment of aural ecstasy, but in how to invite a listener into the language. I keep coming back to this desire to submerge my listeners in these aural experiences—to share with them a taste of profound beauty in noise—but the coded language has offered some stumbling blocks. We know what noise compositions are: they are loud, and aggressive, and uncomfortable (which is not a bad thing, I have some loud, aggressive, and uncomfortable compositional tendencies myself). They are arty and nerdy (again, not unlike myself). But then those preconceptions so quickly cheat us out of rich sensual experiences--in concert halls and out in "the world." And they often make one feel like a horrible dork for smiling contentedly at beautiful noise, whether in the concert hall or out in "the world"...
A recent (and frustrated) sketch of "beautiful noise"