It is a right of passage for nearly every generation to experience the music of their youth getting filed under “oldies,” and to interpret the music of the following generation as a bunch of noise. While this is a general truism, some folks embrace the concept of noise in a whole other way. This Saturday, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) will host the seventh Santa Ana Noise Fest which will feature performances by 14 noise music acts.
Incorporating non-traditional sounds / noise into music may have been pioneered by Italian artist Luigi Russolo, who used noise within the context of classical music compositions, such as Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917). Russolo's work featured noise-making devices called Intonarumori, which basically sound like lawnmowers and shop machines. Decades later, proper noise began to make its way into that racket known as rock music. A couple of the most influential rock artists who incorporated noise into their music were The Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth. Furthermore, the entire genre of industrial music is based on the concept of using found sounds as musical elements.
OCCCA's Executive Director, Stephen Anderson, who also performs noise music under the name Jesus is Dead, spoke with the Weekly about how Noise Fest got started and what guests of the festival can expect to experience. He recalls, “It developed from me and a few friends starting to produce experimental type concerts at the OCCCA, giving bands that are not mainstream a chance to play. That attracted more like minds and bands, [and] Steven Antonio suggested a noise band type event. Since Steven was in a noise band / project, he took the lead in gathering other bands.” This first Santa Ana Noise Fest (SANF1) featured all of the noise acts on the roster performing at the same time. This proved to be a fairly overwhelming experience, and subsequent festivals would see the participating bands each having their own set time.
Anderson points out that it was the idea of Mark Soden, from Phog Masheeen, to have the three bands of the festival set up next to one another. Each band then has a brief set, and then the next three bands set up their gear. Since the event has grown, more acts have expressed interest in performing. Currently, the acts of each Noise Fest are determined on a first come, first served basis via an open call for bands on the festival's Facebook page. Most of the bands are from OC, but the current show features some who are native to Northridge, Tracy, Riverside, and Los Angeles.
Anderson says that many of the acts who participate include a visual component to their performances; this can take the form of a pre-made video or, as Anderson points out, Phog Masheeen brings a VJ to create a live video presentation. Improvisation is generally an inherent aspect of noise music, but Anderson says, “I, myself, (JID) always practice my set leading up to the event, and I bring a different arrangement of my gear / pedal effects and theremin to each performance.” On the variety of experiences guests can expect, Anderson says, “Endometrium Cuntplow, for instance, brings a performance art aspect to his set…One time he was dressed as a cat and wandered into the audience on all fours [letting] people pet him, while his rig was feedback looping.”
Anderson points out the accessibility of this artform. He says, “You don't need to know how to read music or play a guitar. It's rather freeing, very expressive, and immediate.” The doors of OCCCA will open for SANF7 on Saturday at 4:00, and the event is scheduled until 11:30. For more information, visit their page.
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