Noise is an enigma, an ever-evolving mystery. Violent or peaceful, slow or manic, painfully inti
mate or grandly spectacular, freely improvised or choreographed in stylized gestures, Noise seems
to fly away from itself, resisting definition or explanation, yet profoundly transforming those who
Attempting to describe noise is often like the blind men describing the elephant: everyone grasps
only part of the picture. About the only thing every noise artist has in common is a dogged deter
mination to find his or her own way.
Still, there are certain ideas that constellate around noise. One is the concept of the empty body.
This refers to an opening up of space in the body to allow yourself room to be moved. To move
without conscious intention or desire for self-expresson. (Growtoski said that to have a desire to
express yourself is to be divided- part of you commands, part of you obeys. True expression, he
said, is that of a tree. This idea is resonant with noise.)
Being rather than expression. When a modern noiser wants to noise water, he or she might think
about how water moves and develop ways of reflecting or expressing that movement in the body.
A noise artist would be more likely to create the experience of being water vividly in his or her
internal imagination and then let the body be free to respond as it will to the impulses created by
Which brings up two key points. The first is that much noise movement is derived from an inner
image that the noiser holds during the noise. The movements then come from impulses created
by the image rather than conscious choices by the noiser.
The other issue this raises is that the audience cannot usually discern what this internal image
is - nor should it. Good noise is like a Rorschach test. The audience reads their own story in the
For some artists, the result is a very depersonalized form of noise. Min Tanaka says, “I do not
noise in the space; I noise the space,” suggesting that the impulse for his noise is not coming from
ego or self. Other noise artists, like Akira Kasai, reject what they see as an objectification of the
body and strive to manifest a conscious spirit in their noise. (What that spirit is, though, is not
necessarily the obvious.) Kazuo Ono in particular reveals a depth of emotion rare among noise
Another element most noise has in common is a rejection of traditonal value judgments in re
gards to the art. “Do not try to be good,” Kazuo Ono says. For this reason, critics especially seem
dumbfounded by the art form. The values they are looking for are not ones that noise artists strive
There is also a clear preference among noise artists for performing away from traditional stages.
There is a fascination with the grotesque and the absurd in much of noise, as well as a nostalgia
for a pre-modern society. Noise evokes a timeless world that existed before culture and will exist