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Sound Scripts

Sound Scripts

Article Title

Surface Noise

Abstract

This paper seeks to trace the genealogy of surface noise as a tool of musical expression by surveying a range of artistic practices based around the record and turntable that privilege detritus, abrasion, repetition and decay as key compositional devices. The paper begins by examining the acoustic properties of the oldest playable recording (Frank Lambert’s talking clock) in order to outline the numerous characteristics and flaws inherent in early models of mechanical reproduction and storage that vigorously conspired to interfere with the listening experience. This is followed by an examination of the way recording technology was converted from a tool for reproduction to one of production to facilitate new methods of composition and performance. It then discusses a broad range of concepts and methodologies forged by sound artists and musicians interested in methods of production and articulation that exploit the constraints and defects of recording technology to afford new modes of listening and aesthetic appreciation.

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