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Title: Beyond unwanted sound : noise, affect and aesthetic moralism
Authors: Thompson, Marie Suzanne
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis uses Baruch Spinoza’s notion of affect to critically rethink the correlation between noise, ‘unwantedness’ and ‘badness’. Against subject-oriented definitions, which understand noise to be constituted by a listener; and object-oriented definitions, which define noise as a type of sound; I focus on what it is that noise does. Using the relational philosophy of Michel Serres in combination with Spinoza’s philosophy of affects, I posit noise as a productive, transformative force and a necessary component of material relations. I consider the implications of this affective and relational model for two lineages: what I identify as a ‘conservative’ politics of silence, and a ‘transgressive’ politics of noise. The former is inherent to R. Murray Schafer’s ‘aesthetic moralism’, where noise is construed as ‘bad’ to silence’s ‘good’. Instead, I argue that noise’s ‘badness’ is secondary, relational and contingent. This ethico-affective understanding thus allows for silence that is felt to be destructive and noise that is pleasantly serendipitous. Noise’s positively productive capacity can be readily exemplified by the use of noise within music, whereby noise is used to create new sonic sensations. An ethicoaffective approach also allows for an affirmative (re)conceptualization of noise music, which moves away from rhetoric of failure, taboo and contradiction. In developing a relational, ethico-affective approach to noise, this thesis facilitates a number of key conceptual shifts. Firstly, it serves to de-centre the listening subject. According to this definition, noise does not need to be heard as unwanted in order to exist; indeed, it need not be heard at all. Secondly, this definition no longer constitutes noise according to a series of hierarchical dualisms. Consequently, the structural oppositions of noise/signal, noise/silence and noise/music are disrupted. Finally, noise is understood to be ubiquitous and foundational, rather than secondary and contingent: it is inescapable, unavoidable and necessary.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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