read as a series of debates concerning what, sonically and experientially,
actually constitutes music in the commonly understood way, and what then
constitutes, or can be termed as, and typically dismissed as, non-music.
Such debates are class-ridden, evidence racial prejudices and profiling,
continually undermine traditional musicological assumptions, radically
problematize the commercial framings of music, mark all pivotal shifts in
music across at least one hundred years, relentlessly advance the ‘death of
the author’, are called upon to define time, place and national identity, and
outmanoeuvre demarcations of high art and low culture. Answers provided
have formed the methodological foundations of the conservatoire as well as
journalistic and academic approaches to music, and now pull in their wake
a judicial apparatus of ownership, censorship and reparations.
Technologies have been calibrated to answers provided too: reproductions
of sound that invariably brag about ‘noise reduction’. Noise, to music,
is typically byproduct, accident, the unwanted, the unpleasant. And yet
noise is inevitable and imminent to music: that inexorable presence that
mixers and sound engineers do their best to exorcize, that gig-goers reflexively
block out, plugging fingers in ears, when it takes the form of feedback.
The exception that proves the rule in terms of contemporary music is folk:
‘natural’ sounds and pre-modern instruments (and, often, affectations) as
a respite from the noise of the real or urban world and the noise of the
musics that the real or urban world taints – a kind of bucolic, aristocratic
asceticism, and one that implicitly casts noise as detrimental to musical, and