William Hutson is a PhD student in Performance Studies at UCLA. His current research is in the field of sound studies, where he investigates the role of the sonic in performance and installation art. He also reviews noise and experimental music for The Wire.
"Abrasive Nostalgia: A Noisescape of Deindustrialization"
While noise music has become a popular topic within hip continental discourse— with Ray Brassier and Quentin Meillassoux recently writing about, or in collaboration with noise artists— the messy questions of sociality, identification and affect are elided in favor of formal philosophical analysis. In this presentation I will address the impolite issue of noise artists’ use of racist imagery, reading that racism as displaced rage at the failed promises of white privilege and ‘the good life.’
Noise is a specifically urban pollution. It is the sonic accumulation of traffic, sawmills, slaughterhouses, factories, and large groups of people living very close to one another. In the 1970‘s and 80‘s, the noise music subculture sought to amplify the cacophony of city life, but US performers were forced to adapt as global movements of capital took manufacturing to distant shores. When work disappeared and factories quieted their clamor, noise took on a meaning apart from the one it previously held, developed an aura of nostalgia and loss. This presentation will read Macronympha’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1995)— widely considered the greatest American noise LP— as a phantasmic evocation of an industrial soundscape in a city evacuated and quieted by deindustrialization. Amplifying discarded pieces of steel looted from abandoned factories, the performers struggle to construct a model of white working class masculinity through labor in the sonic, while in the album’s liner notes and titles, blame immigrant and non-white populations for the city’s poverty.