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Full Conference Programme

MONDAY 16th December

9.00 – Registration/Reception

9.30 – WELCOME & KEYNOTE ONE: Paul Hegarty [The Boiler House]

[tea/coffee]

SESSION ONE: 11-12.30

Panel 1A: Punk, Noise & Geopolitics

Room G.11, Armstrong Building

Michael Hepworth (Sunderland University) – ‘Punk, noise and transgression: Anarchy in the UK? Adult migrants make some noise!’

John Parham (University of Worcester) – ‘Extinction’s Noisy Rebellion: A Punk Anthropocene?’

Lyndon Way (University of Liverpool) – ‘Punks’ political opposition in Turkey: Noise against authoritarianism’

CHAIR: Paul Hollins

Panel 1B: Scenes, Settings, Systems

Room G.15, Armstrong Building

Ellen Bernhard (Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia) – ‘Crowdfunding a Scene: GoFundMe, Norms of Reciprocity and Social (Media) Capital in Contemporary Punk Rock Communities’

Theo Gowans (Leeds University) – ‘How Disruption Within Noise Performances Creates a Unique Capacity for Nonhierarchal Socialising’

Adam Denton (Newcastle University) – ‘Locating the Scene(s): Where Shall We Put It?’

CHAIR: Stewart Smith

Panel 1C: Aggression/Abjection/Transgression 1

Room G.17, Armstrong Building

Céline Murillo (University of Paris 13 (Sorbonne Paris Cité)) – ‘From Aggression to Transgression: No Wave Films and Their music’

Laura Way (Bishop Grosseteste UniversityLincoln) – ‘Why punk? Exploring women’s initial exposure/attraction to punk and how this is negotiated alongside gendered ageing’

Renée Steffen (University of Basel) – ‘Abjection in Queer Film and Video’

CHAIR: Marie Thompson

[lunch]

SESSION TWO: 13.30-5.00

Panel 2A: Scenes & Localities

Room G.11, Armstrong Building

Grainne Milner-McLoone (Newcastle University) – ‘Punk/Noise and Aggression in Northern Ireland’

Stewart Smith (Music Journalist & Independent Scholar) – ‘Beyond The Valley of Ultrahits: Some Observations of the Glasgow Underground’

Karina Barbosa (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Brazil) – ‘“I Am Proud To Be How I Am”: Gender and Sexuality Statements in Brazilian Punk Feminist Music Scene’

CHAIR: Matt Grimes

Panel 2B: Aggression/Abjection/Transgression 2

Room G.15, Armstrong Building

Benedict Quilter (Co-Founder Independent Woman Records, NZ) – ‘Oedipus Rex: On the Myth Of Transgression In Noise Music’

Adam Soper (Newcastle University) – ‘Swastika Girls: The Use of Nazi Imagery in Popular (Oc)culture and the Neo-folk’

James Anderson (University of Sunderland) – ‘Punk, Porn, and Politics: Pornographic Profanity in British First-Wave Punk’

CHAIR: Lyndon Way

Panel 2C: Punk Through Narrative & Identity

Room G.17, Armstrong Building

Jessica Blaise Ward (Leeds Beckett University) – ‘Who remembers post-punk women?’

Melodie Holliday (Editor & Educational Development Shades of Noir) – ‘“It was different” Navigating Punk While Black’

Louise Barrière (University of Lorraine, France) – ‘A “Very DIY Music” For Punk-Feminist People? Doing and listening to noise music in Ladyfest-inspired festivals’

CHAIR: Jessica Schwartz

[tea/coffee]

SESSION THREE: 15.30-17.30

Panel 3A: Text & Context

Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre, Armstrong Building

Kevin Quinn (Central Saint Martins, UAL) – ‘The New Musical Express: Reporting the Southall Riot (1981)’

Arin Keeble (Edinburgh Napier University) – ‘Jawbreaker: Literary Punk and Authenticity’

Pete Dale (Manchester Metropolitan University) – ‘Indie Noise’ and Industry Incorporation: Fuzz and Feedback in the 1980s’

Gary Charles (University of Birmingham) – ‘Skillz 2.0: Anyone Can Play AI’

CHAIR: Craig Pollard

Panel 3B: Interrogating Contexts

The Boiler House

Daniel Blumberg (Mute Records) & Elvin Brandhi (Akademie de bildende Künste, Vienna) – Bakh

Peter J Woods (University of Wisconsin, Madison) – ‘Fluxus Event For Academic Conferences’

Yol (Independent scholar, Hull) – ‘REPEATED/FRACTURED/MEANING’

Phame* (Si Paton & ykxa s) – ‘Throwing Shade (No, Fuck you)’

* Simon Paton (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University) & Jessica A Schwartz (UCLA)

CHAIR: Russ Bestley

EVENING SHOW 19.00-22.00 [TOPH @ Alphabetti Theatre]

Guttersnipe, BLØM, Elvin Brandhi + Plastiglomerate X Territorial Gobbing

TUESDAY 17th December

9.30 KEYNOTE TWO: Marie Thompson [The Boiler House]

[tea/coffee]

SESSION FOUR: 10.30-12.00

Panel 4A: HarshNoiseWall & Its Discontents

The Boiler House

Lexi Turner (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY) – ‘Ballet Shoes, Butchers Knives and Black Leather Gloves: Narrative of the Body in Harsh Noise Wall’

Peter J. Woods (University of Wisconsin, Madison) – ‘Defining Noise-As-Gesture: Mapping the Politics of Abjected Sound Through Con-Dom and Moor Mother’

Michael Blenkarn (Newcastle University) – ‘Anxiety Silenced: Harsh Noise Wall as a Means of Attenuating the Experience of Anxiety’

CHAIR: Gretchen Aury

Panel 4B: Anti-Professionalism

Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre, Armstrong Building

Ian Trowell (Independent scholar based in the Fens) – ‘Where the system starts: Throbbing Gristle vs Architectural Association’

Chris Bailey (Plymouth College of Art) – ‘Imperfect Orchestra – A Battle Between Performance and Ethos’

David Howcroft (No Audience Underground Tapes) – ‘The Manifesto’

CHAIR: Charlie Bramley

[lunch]

SESSION FIVE: 13.00-14.30

Panel 5A: US Hardcore, Punk & Dissemination

The Boiler House

Daniel Makagon (DePaul University, Chicago) – ‘Punk’s Decisive Moments: Seeing the Scene through Photozines’

Jessica Schwartz (University of California, Los Angeles) – ‘Los Angeles Punk Through Noise & Nausea’

Craig Pollard (Newcastle University) – ‘Exposing (and exploding) contradictions: particular trajectories of US hardcore’

CHAIR: Pete Dale

Panel 5B: Metal Machine Music vs. the Harsh Noise Wall

Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre, Armstrong Building

Marko Djurdjic (York University, Toronto) –  ‘“My week beats your year”: On Listening to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music

Elvin Brandhi (Akademie de bildende Künste, Vienna) – ‘Punk Conference’

Paul Hollins (University of Bolton & Leeds College of Music), Sean Albiez (Author and Independent Scholar) & Anthony Roocroft (University of Bolton) – ‘The Best Worst Noise Ever Made? (A Non Discursive, Discursive Experimental Performance Piece)’

CHAIR: Arin Keeble

[tea/coffee]

SESSION SIX: 15.00-16.00

Panel 6A: Curation & Disruption

The Boiler House

Francis Stewart (Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln) – ‘Sounds of the (marginalised punk) underground: the use of noise in punk curation and narration’

Russ Bestley (London College of Communication, UAL) – ‘Visual Noise: Punk Graphic Design and Visual Disruption’

CHAIR: Ellen Bernhard

Panel 6B: Mythologies’ Interwoven Extremities

Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre, Armstrong Building

Clive Henry (Independent scholar, Southampton) – ‘Modern HNW is Rubbish’

Tom Cardwell (Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL) & Mark Gubb (University of Worcester) – ‘“Hiraeth” – a collaborative project’

CHAIR: Will Edmondes

16.00 KEYNOTE THREE: Sezgin Boynik [The Boiler House]

17.00 [CLOSE]

Punk/Noise Keynote Three: Sezgin Boynik

Sezgin Boynik is a theoretician based in Helsinki and Prizren. He has published on experimental film, punk music, the critique of nationalism, zaum poetry, the underground history of communism and conceptual art. He completed his PhD on Yugoslav “Black Wave” cinema. He co-edited Nationalism and Contemporary Art: Critical Reader (MM & Exit, 2007) and History of Punk and Underground in Turkey (BAS, 2008). Recent publications include Noise After Babel: Language Unrestrained (Spector Books, 2015, with Minna Henriksson), In the Belly of the Beast: Art & Language New York Project (Rab-Rab Journal Vol. 4, No. 2, 2017, with Michael Corris) and Coiled Verbal Spring: Devices of Lenin’s Language (Rab-Rab Press, 2018). He is currently working on a publication called “Free Jazz Communism” focusing on Archie Shepp and Bill Dixon’s concert in Helsinki Socialist Youth Festival in 1962.  He is the founding editor of Rab-Rab: Journal for Political and Formal Inquiries in Art, and Rab-Rab Press, an independent publishing platform based in Helsinki.  

Punk/Noise Keynote Two: Marie Thompson

Marie Thompson is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Lincoln’s School of Film and Media. She is the author of Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism (Bloomsbury, 2017). Marie co-leads, with Annie Goh, Sonic Cyberfeminisms, an ongoing project interrogating the relationship between gender, sound and technology. Marie’s current research concerns the intersection of sound technologies and biosocial reproduction. 

Punk/Noise Keynote One: Paul Hegarty

Paul Hegarty is Chair of French and Francophone studies at the University of Nottingham. He performs in the noise band Safe and is the author of several books including Noise/Music: A History, Rumour and Radiation: Sound in Video Art, Georges Bataille: Core Cultural Theorist and Reverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics of Noise (co-authored with Benjamin Halligan and Michael Goddard). A new collection of essays, Annihilating Noise, will be published by Bloomsbury in July 2020, in which Paul discusses how noise offers a way of thinking critical resistance, disruptive creativity and a complex yet enticing way of thinking about the unexpected, the dissonant, the unfamiliar.

Punk/Noise Panel 6B

Mythologies’ Interwoven Extremities
Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre

Clive Henry (Independent scholar, Southampton) – ‘Modern HNW is Rubbish’

Harsh Noise Wall (HNW) has a history of being scorned by the wider noise genre, often derided as being lazy, skill-less, and utterly homogeneous. The paper’s title references an album by the pop band Blur, states that HNW is rubbish, and further states that modern HNW is rubbish; these are the paper’s key themes. It will explore HNW’s relationship with a trash/pop music disposability (and broader pop music sensibility), discuss how HNW-ers have seen this relationship, and how HNW has been viewed in terms of ‘high’/‘low’/anti-art. The paper will also address the fundamental evolution of the HNW scene from a small, dedicated, elitist community based around one online forum, to its contemporaneous form as a sprawling, Facebook- and Bandcamp-driven scene where ‘anyone can do it,’ with little sense of shared values or community; this will address ‘anyone can do it’ in terms of musicianship but also the early HNW conception of ‘obsession.’ I would ideally like to include a short ‘challenge’ pitting myself against an non-HNW-er in the construction of walls, hopefully to prove that ‘anyone can do it’ is too simplistic an accusation! The paper will be based on my long involvement in the HNW scene, and research previously carried out for an HNW chapter in Fight Your Own War (Headpress, 2016).

Tom Cardwell (Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL) & Mark Gubb (University of Worcester) – ‘“Hiraeth” – a collaborative project’

This paper will present the ideas behind ‘Hiraeth’, a collaborative artwork currently in development by S. Mark Gubb and Tom Cardwell, which proposes an album and performance for an invented Black Metal band. ‘Hiraeth’ is an untranslatable Welsh word that describes a sense of longing for home.

The album will comprise of songs based on a series of Welsh, pre-Christian, tales called ‘The Mabinogion’. First compiled in the C12th-13th, they are the source of much Welsh folklore and, for many years, were never written down, being passed on through the oral tradition of the bards. For the artists, this relates to the fiercely underground early Black Metal scene – a scene remarkable for its conscious adoption of noise and lo-fi recordings – and how it was developed through word-of-mouth and fan-to-fan exchanges. It also places this Celtic mythology in a relationship with the Norse mythology so often referenced in the lyrics and ideologies of early exponents of Black Metal.

It is envisaged that the completed project will centre around a live performance of the album, complete with stage costumes and sets, as well as further visual outcomes including record sleeves, patches, etc. which will subsequently be shown in an exhibition context.

In specific relation to the conference theme, we also draw influence from Hugh Lupton’s historical fiction ‘The Assembly of the Severed Head’; a fictitious account of the first transcription of the tales by monks and their transgression of the, by then, dominant Christian moral position.

Both Gubb and Cardwell share a research interest in art practice that responds to metal and punk subcultures. Previous projects include ‘Metal Militia’ a live music performance at Berwick Visual Arts (Gubb) and ‘Still Life and Death Metal’ a battle jacket research project (Cardwell).

Punk/Noise Panel 6A

Curation & Disruption
The Boiler House

Francis Stewart (Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln)
‘Sounds of the (marginalised punk) underground: the use of noise in punk curation and narration’

Music is brilliant at crystallising emotional memories but sometimes – and punk was one of those times – it can also transmit a set of values. Within punk a significant means of transmitting those values is through the sounds it creates: musical, vocal, technological, shouting, chanting, feet stamping, bodies slamming, hands clapping, and sometimes, body parts breaking. Sounds of worship, value transmission, communal effervescence and really good (or bad) music can all be located within punk shows, performances and activism. These are all key parts of what being punk is about and are often encapsulated in the phrase “punk rock is my religion” but all take place in specific spaces designed to interact with sound in specific ways. So what happens to those sounds and what can it tell us about punk, when they are put on display in a different setting – one in which sound is almost an interloper – to memorialise the subculture? Utilising two sound recordings made at the British Library’s exhibition, this paper seeks to consider the role of sound in relation to punk and the norms of space. It will focus on marginalised punks to ask what is the relationship between sound, space and punk; how social norms and hierarchies within punk are reinforced through sound; the connection of sound and sacred; and how marginalised punks use sound to transgress and challenge troubling norms.

Russ Bestley (London College of Communication, UAL)
‘Visual Noise: Punk Graphic Design and Visual Disruption’

This paper explores the notion of visual noise and disruption as a key theme within punk aesthetics. While punk music embraced the rhetoric of do-it-yourself from the outset, the ambition to retain complete control was far more difficult in practice and the relationship between the origination of music and its reproduction and distribution needs to be carefully considered (Bestley 2018, Dale 2018). In parallel to the raw immediacy of some of the music produced under the banner of ‘punk’, a new generation of visual artists and designers helped to establish a visual language for the new movement that attempted “to capture, and communicate, the aggressive or discordant tone of the lyrics and music” (Bestley & Noble 1999). Like the music itself, while origination may have been relatively simple – even rudimentary – in practice, reproduction (of flyers, fanzines, record covers, posters and other graphic ephemera) brought its own complications.

In contrast to some reflective accounts, the originators of punk’s visual style were often far from amateur enthusiasts: a complex mix of inspired beginners, up-and-coming illustrators and designers and seasoned professionals within the music industry helped to establish a palette of punk-inspired and punk-reflective approaches that would become inseparable from the subculture. A desire to step away from ‘standard’ aesthetic conventions of harmony and composition, to embrace a sense of discordance, awkwardness and disruption, united a diversity of punk graphic design objects and artefacts. This paper explores a wide range of visual examples in order to highlight some commonalities in their approach to graphic design and typography and to underline their disruptive, ‘noisy’ intent.

Punk Noise Panel 5B

Metal Machine Music vs. the Harsh Noise Wall
Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre

Marko Djurdjic (York University, Toronto)
‘“My week beats your year”: On Listening to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music

On a masochistic whim, I listened to Metal Machine Music.

In its entirety.

And upon hearing its cacophonous grind, I realized that there is nothing to ‘get’ about MMM. As ‘music’ alone, it is abrasive, relentless, Pentecostal. Taken with Lou Reed’s liner notes, however, it is repositioned as philosophy, an avant-doctrine awash in exquisite brutality.

Philosopher Henri Lefebvre claimed that exultations such as “‘Change life!’ ‘Change society!’”[1] (or in this case, ‘Change music!’) mean nothing “without the production of an appropriate space”[2] where these changes can occur. With MMM, Lou Reed envisioned a new ‘space’ for the listener, one borne out of uninhibited electronic noise. His transgressive work embodies “the dialectical relationship between ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’,”[3] where Reed’s subjective belief in the work’s (i.e. his own) genius complements its objectively enigmatic and difficult content and form. Thus, MMM’s liner notes are integral to ‘understanding’ The Noise.

In this presentation, as the record’s four sides play simultaneously, I will confront Reed’s work through Lefebvre’s notion of the social production of space, in order to antagonize the hegemonic proclamations contained in the liner notes. Reed’s megalomaniacal words denote sociopolitical and religious aspirations, positioning the work as a manifesto that points “towards the space of a different (social) life and of a different mode of production”[4] for both listeners, and music itself. Lou Reed loved MMM, and this dichotomy—between the self-aggrandizing liner notes and the alienating musical presentation—both defines the record, and is responsible for its continued relevance within pop culture.

Elvin Brandhi (Akademie der bildende Künste, Vienna)
‘Punk Conference’

Paul Hollins (University of Bolton & Leeds College of Music), Sean Albiez (Author and Independent Scholar) & Anthony Roocroft (University of Bolton) – ‘The Best Worst Noise Ever Made? (A Non Discursive, Discursive Experimental Performance Piece)’

In 1975 Lou Reed released his most controversial album, Metal Machine Music (MMM). Sonically described as ‘The tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator’ and ‘A night in a bus terminal’ (Rolling Stone 1975), the album that provided ‘an insight into the turbulent spirit of the age’. (Morley 2010).

More despised than admired when originally released it consisted of four individual tracks entitled MMM Parts 1-4 each of 16.02 duration with side four ending in a continuous loop of ‘locked groove’.

Since its release and subsequent early withdrawal from sale, the ‘composition” has continued to polarize opinion amongst scholars and critics. The recording described sarcastically as the ‘greatest album ever made in the history of the human eardrum’ (Bangs 1975) and ranked number 4 of “the 50 ‘worst records of all time’ (Q Magazine 2005), as a joke and as the seminal Noise album.

What was Reed’s intention with MMM ? Was the recording a dissident riposte to perceived record company subservience or an authentic work of creative genius ?

In this performance the authors will present Reed’s masterpiece in its entirety remixed into a palatable (?) 16.02 minute experience accompanied by a William S Burroughs inspired critique consisting of key words and phrases presented through ‘punk’ experimental performance.

In the spirit of the original it is anticipated that the performance will polarize opinion, that attendees may leave more confused than satisfied with the  non- conclusive outcomes of the session !

Punk/Noise Panel 5A

US Hardcore, Punk & Dissemination
The Boiler House

Daniel Makagon (DePaul University, Chicago)
‘Punk’s Decisive Moments: Seeing the Scene through Photozines’

In 1982 Glen E. Friedman published My Rules photozine. Although other photozines had been released prior to My Rules, the size of the print run (10,000) combined with the emergence of hardcore to mark My Rules as something special. The unique aesthetic of punk attracted photographers to this culture, but hardcore added another layer of action at the shows that created different photography options for documentary photographers. This presentation analyzes the historical development of punk photozines in the United States, with a primary focus on zines about hardcore bands and shows. I discuss the different types of photographic storytelling presented in photozines and how photozines changed over time. I pay special attention to the role of photozines in the current cultural context, where high quality photos are easily shared instantly through web sites and social media. There seem to be very few punk rock photozines published each year relative to other types of punk-identified zines (e.g., music zines, personal zines, and comix); however, the photozines that are published often go out of print quickly and generate a lot of buzz among punks.

Jessica Schwartz (University of California, Los Angeles)
‘Los Angeles Punk Through Noise & Nausea’

This paper traces LA punk aesthetic shifts and the policing of bodily difference through the filter of noise, particularly two interrelated concepts that play on an aesthetics of disturbance and the threat of being purged or expunged: noise and nausea, whereby the former derives from the latter.1 Noise is disturbance in a signal or communication; nausea occurs from perceptual unease or disease related to the gut and nose but also the ear through balance. For a signal to be perceived or nausea to subside, noise or the disturbance in the movement must be expunged. There is the threat that noise and nausea, left untreated, will becoming all consuming. With this preliminary relation of sound to body politics, I explore the significance of queer, feminine, and disabled punks and punks of color in the contemporary LA punk scene fusing nosiness into hardcore and articulating this nosiness to their political bodies and body politics, lyrically (and in ways that disturb lyrical communication, i.e. through noise). My work shows the artistry and provocative bricolage not as amateurism but rather as visceral disruption of the work of hardcore in policing certain punk(ed) bodies beginning in 1980s LA. I share a genealogy of punk musicians’ grappling with nausea through visceral cries that are heard as noise to be policed and silenced by controls placed on bodies (e.g. shaming).

Drawing on UCLA punk archives, political history, primary source materials, and the Decline of Western Civilization film (Spheeris, 1980), I read the stylistic contrast between early LA punk in the city and 1980s suburban hardcore. My readings offer insight into the work of hardcore as containment of noise and policing of bodies thought to be diseased and contagious. I situate such politics in Reagan conservatism and argue that in a move that mirrored white flight a generation earlier, hardcore participants traded the nosiness of the city for the quiet of the suburbs. In the 1980s, with the (in)visibility of HIV and AIDs, immigration issues, and the push-back following 1960s liberation movements, the 1970s punk scene became a target for purification through hardcore that adopted a straightforward sound and gatekeeping mechanisms, often through violence, that pushed out the artistic, experimental bands, such as X, the Germs, and the Bags. While they challenged Reagan’s political philosophies, hardcore bands clearly articulated their codified messages and endeavored a purging of punk’s nosiness: its queerness, femininity, disability, vociferous amblings (“gimme a beer”), and non-whiteness. Hardcore politics of the body often expunged difference, preferring the homosocial and ableist masculinity. Today, Trump plays up xenophobia and aligns boundary crossing with invisible threats. I reflect on punks’ corporeal and geographical mappings that have re-infused noisiness into hardcore to engender an aesthetics of nausea or disgust with the political environment to which it has been historically tied.

Craig Pollard (Newcastle University)
‘Exposing (and exploding) contradictions: particular trajectories of US hardcore’

This paper will suggest that punk and diy communities emerge in response to fundamental socio-political cracks and contradictions implicit within the world as it exists. The paper will think specifically about ‘american hardcore’ and some its more interesting offshoots, and will attempt to trace a lineage pairing Guy Debord and the situationists with groups such as Nation of Ulysses, Beat Happening and Bikini Kill.

Punk/Noise Panel 4B

Anti-Professionalism
Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre

Ian Trowell (Independent scholar based in the Fens) – ‘Where the system starts: Throbbing Gristle vs Architectural Association’

In March 1978, the musicians Throbbing Gristle performed at the Architectural Association in London, a rare appearance of the band and an even rarer incorporation of live music performance into the confines of the Architectural Association. The band, a transformation of the avant-garde performance artists COUM Transmissions instigated in October 1976 as a part of the controversial art exhibition Prostitution, were coterminous with the nascent phase of UK punk rock. Using the cultural zeitgeist of punk to gain access to a wider audience demanding new practices of confrontation and controversy, Throbbing Gristle promoted their philosophies and explored the codes of performance. They sought to go beyond punk and expose its limitations and inherent inflexibilities, such that live appearances were marked by extreme reactions of the audience. Coining a new genre of industrial music, the band provoked an architectural dialogue at multiple points: they drew motivation from a fierce critique of the built environment of industrial society, they sourced and manipulated the direct sounds and experiences of that environment, and they questioned the spatial codes and possibilities of where music can be performed and consumed. In addition, the band utilised the tactics of embellishment and mythology, and the subsequent remembering of their performance at the Architectural Association has been subjected to this process. This paper, as a part of a wider body of research examining the live appearances of the band, explores their intent and assesses their success in creating a critical dialogue with architecture.

Chris Bailey (Plymouth College of Art) – ‘Imperfect Orchestra – A Battle Between Performance and Ethos’

A reflective case study of Imperfect Orchestra that explores the transition from “a bunch of punks making a film score” to an “ensemble of amateur musicians commissioned to produce contemporary performance art”, and the impact this has had on our methods of production, membership and ethos. 

Imperfect Orchestra began as a tongue-in-cheek dig at class based notions of a traditional “Orchestra”. It began as a group of friends producing a Film soundtrack for live performance by Dr Allister Gall (Imperfect Cinema) in 2013. The process was socially anarchic: all members were instrumental in writing music that supported the development of that first score. Anyone who kind of played an instrument – and several who couldn’t – were invited to be a part of it. 

Since then, we have worked with a range of artists, collaborators and commissioners, and have received thousands of pounds in funding. As the years have progressed and our work has increased in scope, our methods have evolved. Developmentally, we have become more proficient in working as a collective but the range of people who are involved has shrunk, the amount of ‘non-musicians’ involved has dwindled and we have begun to morph subtly into a legitimate “Orchestra” with classical instruments and notation.

So how does an organisation hell bent on using the word “orchestra” as a means of class-based subversion, end up fighting with itself to remain relevant and to justify its name and ethos as something “Imperfect”?

This case study would draw on material in our archive – available at www.imperfectorchestra.com

David Howcroft (No Audience Underground Tapes) – ‘The Manifesto’

David Howcroft the owner of N-aut (No Audience Underground Tapes) a diy cassette only label based in Northumberland that documents and archives the “no audience underground” scene in the Newcastle and Gateshead region presents a transformation from Morrison Blockader (41N-aut) to Tesco Blockader(93N-aut) addressing the statement ‘noise’ and the question whether ‘anyone can do it’.

This seminar will present ‘The Manifestio’ to attendees and create the environment for a Socratic discussion.

All welcome please bring with you your DeBono hats !

Punk/Noise Panel 4A

HarshNoiseWall & Its Discontents
The Boiler House

Lexi Turner (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY)
‘Ballet Shoes, Butchers Knives and Black Leather Gloves: Narrative of the Body in Harsh Noise Wall’

This paper seeks to investigate specifically the “harsh noise wall” movement and in particular the work of Richard Ramirez (Black Leather Jesus, Werewolf Jerusalem) and Sam McKinlay (The Rita), as a mode of investigation of the body’s experience of power, in scenarios of sexual fetishism, extreme violence, and the consistent imbrications of the two in horror – and especially ​giallo ​- films, whose titles and stills have historically adorned so many of their album covers.

The generally considered illegible nature of harsh noise, of course, establishes tensions of narratology – ​can ​these records really be said to be ​about a​ nything at all? What role does the ​a priori necessarily play in our reception of releases such as ​Confessions of a Sex Maniac​ and ​Thousands of Dead Gods​? Should we view titles, liner notes and photographs as accompanying, yet separate pieces of art, designed to catalyse our exogenous projections onto the cacophonous blank canvas of feedback loops, or can we surmise an emotive, even narrative, ontology within the noise after all?

Noting the personal turn in Ramirez’ and McKinlay’s output, revealing and engaging with their own orientations and philias: the gay BDSM / leather scene in Ramirez’ work, and nylon / foot fetishism in McKinlay’s, we may begin to envisage harsh noise as an avenue of introspection and personal development on the part of the noise artist, surprisingly akin to the emotive trajectories associated with the figure of the singer-songwriter. Accordingly, whilst it may be true that “anyone can do ​it​,” this paper wishes to deny the implication that “anyone ​else c​ ould do ​this.”

Peter J. Woods (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
‘Defining Noise-As-Gesture: Mapping the Politics of Abjected Sound Through Con-Dom and Moor Mother’

While multiple scholars have drawn connections between theories of noise and the abject, extant literature focusing on noise music often conflates conceptions of abjection with notions of transgression, shock value, and taboo breaking (see Thompson, 2017). This leads to an overemphasis on certain “extreme” genre tropes and discursive practices within noise music and its various subgenres (i.e power electronics) (Atton, 2011). In this paper, I address this issue by revisiting formative conceptions of the abject (Bataille, 1970; Kristeva, 1982) and reframing the noise/abject connection through these works. I begin with a critical literature review of both the abject and noise music, recentering the abject within the intentional use of noise in music (what I call noise-as-gesture) and considering the ethico-political considerations of abjection within this practice. Next, I utilize this newly defined understanding of noise-as-gesture, along with Foster’s (1996) critique of abject art, to analyze two different artists that rely on divergent conceptions of abjection: Con- Dom and Moor Mother. In doing so, I argue that the use of the abject-via-noise within all forms of music, including the noise music genre, holds the potential for a liberatory praxis but only if it creates space for the abject to speak instead of reinscribing the condition of abjection onto othered bodies. By returning to the source of the abject as a theoretical technology, this paper proposes a rich understanding of the ethics of noise within music (and noise music in particular) and produces a new set of theoretical tools for further analysis.

Michael Blenkarn (Newcastle University)
‘Anxiety Silenced: Harsh Noise Wall as a Means of Attenuating the Experience of Anxiety’

Harsh Noise Wall, described by Sam McKinlay of The Rita as the ‘powerful minimalist deconstruction of the harsh noise object’, offers one plausible endpoint for the mode of Harsh Noise driven by the creation of a positive feedback loop within an electronic system. As exemplified by a noisemaker like Vomir, it is the form that Harsh Noise takes when human intervention ceases, and the overwhelming sound occurring within the system is permitted to achieve a saturated homeostasis.

Reaching beyond the question of whether ‘anyone can do it’, HNW poses more pressing questions, such as ‘is anyone doing this?’ or ‘is anything being done?’ Some makers of Noise deride the form as the epitome of lazy, throwaway music; but it is this edge position in the field of practice that makes HNW amenable to some surprising applications.

My personal use of HNW is not to produce a musical object or experience, or as a vehicle for exploring ‘content’; it is a purely functional practice to attenuate the experience of unwelcome anxiety. This attenuation is possible because the unique combination of liveness, stasis and space encountered through HNW, embodies what Novak calls ‘a Noise that surrounds me and becomes my world’. I argue for the appreciation of HNW as a practical means of ameliorating the affective experience of anxiety, and support this argument with reference to Eysenck’s Four Factor Theory of Anxiety – a cognitive model based on the production of a positive feedback loop within a modular system of psychological processes.

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