by Biba Kopf
NOISE, THE way the French economistlcritic Jacques Attali describes it, was the tremendous discord sounded through history by composers attempting to free themselves from the patronage of church, state and merchant bank. Their resistance to the demands of their patrons ruptured the order of things - harmony in other words - and, argues Attali, thereby prophesied broader social upheavals. Well, things are different in the 20th century. Today the order of things is the harmony of cash registers tinkling in time to the blithe whistling of musicians readily accepting their pigeonhole for the sake of greater returns. The one significant change is the locus of power from state to industry. The musician thus composes patterns of order in harmony with the industrial power that licences his or her right to exist and discord is sounded by those who do not fit in the economic order. The switch in power relations has thrown up the irony of composers whose work is considered non-commercial (therefore anti-social) once more seeking the state patronage their ancestors fought to free themselves from . . .
In Europe, the odd anomaly of the state supporting those artists who would seem to intend them most damage is commonplace. Possibly the most extreme example is the German Goethe Institute's support of Berlin noise supremos Einstiirzende Neubauten as cultural ambassadors to USA and Japan. Their latter visit is the subject of 29-year-oldJapanese director Sogo Ishii's brilliantly imaginative video exposition of the group's raison d'stre, called Halber Mensch. The same director's feature film debut Crazy Family is a blackly hilarious transcription of a similarly destructive character to a domestic setting . . .
Whatever the ambiguous relation between makers and state, noise is commonly received as anti-state and anti-corporate. Its antithesis is muzak, the ultimate corporate-controlled and controlling tool; as such it's the target for abuse of the Decoder movie soundtrack. Not yet seen here, the German production, starring Neubauten's FM Einheit, satirically proposes civil uprising (Burgerkrieg) in hamburger junk food joints. The soundtrack's inverted muzak and high noise counts are its chosen modes -6 resistance . . .
Harmony is founded economically in the music industry's network of repetition, ie market conformity. The Berlin Dada group D i e Todliche Doris (Deadly DorisIDeadly Dose) regularly confounds the network. Their releases have included a boxset of doll's records and a single accompanying a catalogue of natural catastrophes (a perfect correspondence between noise and nature's true face). Now here's their "commercial" record Unser Debut (4). Capitulation? Not exactly. Unser Debut is the component part of an invisible third LP that materializes only when the first is played simultaneously with a second, called Sechs, to be released shortly. Here, the network is truly ruptured, music is opened up for renewal and the mind is fucked as part of the bargain . . .
Jacques Attali: NOISE - The Political Economy Of Music (ManchesterPress ) Sogo lshii: Crazy Family (Other) and Halber Mensch (still no UK outlet) Decoder soundtrack (What's So Funny About . . . German import) Die Tiidliche Dori~:Unser Debut ( 4 )and Sechs (Atatak - German imports) (Records available from the usual import outlets.)
Copyright Biba Kopf f o r Nada Ltd 1986