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Between morphological research and social criticism: notes on the aesthetics of noise in avant-garde music

Abstract : The present article aims to retrace the history of the progressive increase in the share of noises in the avant-garde music of the 20th-21st centuries, from the proliferation of dissonance and noise at the start of the twentieth century to Agostino Di Scipio's "audible ecosystems". It is possible, schematically, to think of this progression of noise according to two main categories. On the one hand, noise can occur according to a morphological logic. Here, musicians are interested in noise for its sonic, musical potential, for the pleasure that the listener can take in being invaded by complex sounds, interesting from a sonic point of view. The second major way for avant-garde music to generalize noise is criticism, whether it be social, political or other. In this sense, noise replaces the dissonances for which Theodor Adorno, referring to Schoenberg, wrote in his Philosophy of New Music: "The dissonances that frighen them [the listeners] speak of their own situation", implying the condition of the alienated. The article is divided into five parts. The first evokes the generalization of dissonance in Stravinsky'work or the American "bad boys" of the years 1910-30, before focusing on the bruitists and on Edgar Varèse, who intertwine morphological research and criticism in their generalization of noise. The second part deals with the immediate post-World War II era when, fitting with the logic of technocratic progress that characterizes the avant-garde (serial music and musique concrète in particular), morphological research is predominant. With the years 1960-70, criticism seems to gain the upper hand: the histories of rock, free jazz and, for the avant-garde, of such composers as Luigi Nono or Helmut Lachenmann are evoked. In the fourth part, we acknowledge the generalization of of noise and, ultimately, its trivialization in recent years, and analyze the proposals of Agostino Di Scipio and Hildegard Westerkamp, which form two distinct trends. By way of conclusion, the article goes on to sudy the case of Iannis Xenakis, a composer who successfully interweaves morphological research and critical positioning, in works where background noise or plain noise itself invades the musical fabric.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03153994
Contributor : Makis Solomos <>
Submitted on : Friday, February 26, 2021 - 9:07:21 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 6:46:48 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 7:07:21 PM

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Makis Solomos. Between morphological research and social criticism: notes on the aesthetics of noise in avant-garde music. 2021. ⟨hal-03153994⟩

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