Recording under the moniker NOISH~, Oscar Martin has released an album for the Free Software Series, a label that spotlights experimental music, produced using free software. For this experiment NOISH~ has described his process as a “transcodification of the book noise&capitalism to an audio release, where he used a Shell Linux console and the command:
Now for some context. There are a few dimensions to this release that should be considered. Firstly, there is a difference between using software that is free, and software created by individuals with a strict philosophy regarding how their tools should, or should not be used, distributed. If you are a bit hazy on the details, check them out at GNU Operating Systems – The Free Software Series definition.
I tend to stay away from making value judgments on artists political preferences on software, or methods of creation; ie paying money for something could contribute to an economic system that maybe deemed unsavory. Discriminating at this level might lead down the path of making aesthetic judgments based on socio-anthropological-economic concerns, and I am not an anthropologist or ethno-musicologist. Also my degree in economics doesn't really contribute to the field of music criticism, but I find it interesting how much Marxist theory gets unpacked in Noise & Capitalism, which for the uninitiated is a compilation of essays by various writers and musicians.
That said, I do love discussing the technical concerns of hardware and software possibilities, and I do think a “part” of the Free Software movement, is empowering people to explore creative expression without having to spend a lot of money.
The other dimension to this release, is that NOISH uses a text source, as a starting point to synthesize a product, that is indeed noise, and perhaps a “meta-critique” of the varying viewpoints contained in Noise & Capitalism. In essence, we have ideas, which are converted to binary code which a digital audio engine converts back to analog sound for our ears to transmit/transcode for our brains to interpret.
"Noise & capitalism" (edited by Mattin & Anthony Iles) attempts to describe the nexus of “noise” to copyright, and capitalism. More specifically, "... Noise & Capitalism, is a tool for understanding the situation we are living through, the way our practices, and subjectivity are determined by capitalism. It explores contemporary alienation, in order to discover whether practices of improvisation, and noise, contain or can produce, emancipatory moments, and how these practices point towards social relations to extend these moments.”
On a release titled trAnsCodE 2010 Oscar Martin illuminates his artistic motivations…"What fascinates me about digital media, is having the possibility to transform whatever you can decode into 0 and 1, and been able to dump it into different shapes, and even languages (audio can be turned into image, DNA from a cauliflower into a sonora piece...) I find here a retro flavour of the poetic absurd DADA; some kind of situationist deviation, or perhaps a shoot of machine-desire connection..."
Using a software combination of Shell, Pure Data and ARdour, and other devices; tape recorders, cassettes, feedback mixers, NOISH processes the output to an extreme universe of sonic dynamics. Here is my personal log of the twenty six minute listening journey.
00:00:00-00:00:32 ear prickling stereophonic grit begins
00:00:33-00:01:30 three to four various timbres of static interspersed with feedback
00:01:30-00:02:25 white noise floodss the mix the track is nowing raging loud
00:02:26-00:03:10 circuit bendy type bleeps and noise
00:03:11-00:05:40 a noise swell followed by random deeper bass tones erupt
I realize that my monitors are going through a serious workout, and although I feel sorry for them, it is quite entertaining to watch the speaker cones dance.
00:05:40-00:08:33 little random waved shaped tone blips do their little “sample and hold” dance
00:08:33-00:09:15 waves of granulized sound swing back in forth like a pendulum…next a transition
00:09:15-00:10:53 motor-like noise with a subtle drone in the distance, a time for reflection
00:09:15-00:12:22 soothing static starts to wiggle into recognizable patterns as 60 hertz hum rises
00:12:23-00:15:50 RF interface, loud rumbles and sine tones fight for the spotlight while more flavors of white noise are mixed and panned around. It gets louder and louder.
00:15:51-00:19:06 A thinning out occurs, noise subsides to allow one skittering electronic voice which eventually evolves into a rapid fire machine gun serenade
00:19:07-00:20:43 I think I have reached the valley of BUFFER OVERIDE
00:20:44-00:24:13 a resonating metallic sound undulates amidst a dense forest of harsh scraping static
00:24:13-00:26:11 the slithering digital beast makes its way back to its cage.
If you make it this far and still curious, I believe the strengths of this release rely on what I consider Martin's vision of composition, and not a simple machine translation of the data. As far as I can tell, NOISH only uses his Shell Linux trick, to gather sound for inspiration. There are a plethora of other post-processing tricks, mixing and stereo panning to aggregate the noise into a finished piece. It is worth a listen if you appreciate anything DSP, and its not as academic as the premise may suggest.
Review by Derek Morton