New England Phonographers Union

International Noise Awareness Day Concert

International Noise Awareness Day Concert
with Rick Breault, Derek Hoffend, Ernst Karel, Jed Speare, Asher Thal-Nir

April 28th at 8:00 p.m.
725 Harrison Ave., Boston

On the occasion of the 15th annual International Noise Awareness Day, there will be a concert at Mobius. Joining me will be Derek Hoffend, Ernst Karel, Rick Breault, and Asher Thal-Nir as we perform as an ensemble around a specific concept and sound for this day. Not for the sake of irony but for a closer examination and audition into a particular kind of sound, this concert follows in concept one that was organized in 2008 for the same day, with myself, Brendan Murray, and Asher Thal-Nir. Taking a single sound file, an eight-second digital realization of what is regarded as the earliest recording, from the 1860s, we each worked on it individually and then came together as a group to combine our extrapolations and transformations in a live setting. This quintet is revisiting this sound again, a fragment from a phonautogram of the song “Au clair de la lune.”

The phonautograph is the earliest known device for directly transcribing sound. Invented by Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, it was patented on March 25, 1857. It could transcribe sound to a visible medium, but had no means to play back the sound after it was recorded. The transcriptions, called phonautograms and phonoautograms, were first successfully played in 2008, thanks to computers.

This quintet is dealing with this sound for its historic, symbolic value on Noise Awareness Day. What we do extends the morphology of the sound and projects it out into the world again to renew and reinvent itself. We feel noise awareness can be heightened by increasing sound awareness, with the intent of this concert as one of care, transformation, and listening.

The second sound that has been selected is a two-minute passage that has been edited out of the Folkways recording by Claude Johner, Good Morning Vietnam, from 1972. This segment has to do with what strikes the listener as a crude, US army version of electronic music, that was broadcast out of low-flying aircraft over villages while propaganda pamphlets were dropped upon them, urging North Vietnamese villagers to give up. This appears as an early form of “psy ops,” psychological operations that are often quite brutal in their unscrupulous and unending use of noise to bend an enemy’s will. On Noise Awareness Day, it is our task to expose and mediate this into something quite different, to defuse its intent and turn it into the raw material of sound composition together, as though imploded into itself and then out again, repurposed toward something new.

Each of these two separate sound files has been developed and transformed by the five individuals on their own. Each sound file alone, constitutes the material for one set; the phonautogram recording as one, and the Vietnam recording as another. We are interested in working within limits like these, to develop them as much as we can to discover and extend the richness of sound within them, and set their vibrations forth onto the air.

The members of this quintet also happen to be a part of the New England Phonographers Union. Working with recordings other than those we originate ourselves is unusual. Sound appropriation would seem to invite the same concerns as image appropriation. We feel that International Noise Awareness Day calls for a broad reinterpretation and awareness through the import of sound, and invite the listener to experience them with us and form their own conclusions.

International Noise Awareness Day is sponsored by the Center for Hearing and Communication. This concert is not officially affiliated with it; however, its activities include promoting the observance of one minute of silence from 2:15-2:16 pm as well as advocacy of mayoral proclamations for broad, civic observance of the day. You can visit their website at for more information.

— Jed Speare


Filed under: concerts

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