“‘Le bruit,’ noise with imitative effects, was introduced into art (in this connection we can hardly speak of individual arts, music or literature) by Marinetti, who used a chorus of typewriters, kettledrums, rattles and pot-covers to suggest the ‘awakening of the capital’; at first it was intended as nothing more than a rather violent reminder of the colorfulness of life.
Every movement naturally produces noise. While number, and consequently melody, are symbols presupposing a faculty for abstraction, noise is a direct call to action. Music of whatever nature is harmonious, artistic, an activity of reason—but bruitism is life itself, it cannot be judged like a book, but rather it is a part of our personality, which attacks us, pursues us and tears us to pieces. Bruitism is a view of life, which, strange as it may seem at first, compels men to make an ultimate decision. There are only bruitists, and others. While we are speaking of music, Wagner had shown all the hypocrisy inherent in a pathetic faculty for abstraction—the screeching of a brake, on the other hand, could at least give you a toothache.
Bruitism is a kind of return to nature. It is the music produced by circuits of atoms; death ceases to be an escape of the soul from earthly misery and becomes a vomiting, screaming and choking. The Dadaists of the Cabaret Voltaire took over Bruitism without suspecting its philosophy—basically they desired the opposite: calming of the soul, an endless lullaby, art, abstract art. The Dadaists of the Cabaret Voltaire actually had no idea what they wanted.
Simultaneity is a direct reminder of life, and very closely bound up with bruitism. Just as physics distinguishes between tones (which can be expressed in mathematical formulae) and noises, which are completely baffling to its symbolism and abstractionism, because they are a direct objectivization of dark vital force, here the distinction is between a succession and a ‘simultaneity,’ which defies formulation because it is a direct symbol of action.”
En Avant Dada: A History of Dadaism (1920), Richard Huelsenbeck.
We seem thoroughly persuaded that looking is active while listening is passive. So looking is always liable to become a violating, objectifying and diminishing action, while listening is thought of not only as harmless but as positively nurturing and concernful. Looking is proscriptive, listening is permissive. When you look at something, you put it in its place; when you listen to something, you let it be where it is.
Typically, of course, being a good listener has been thought of as female, the assumption being that women, deprived of the authority of the voice, have become delicately expert in the more passive and pacific arts of the ear.
There is certainly oppressiveness in being forced to listen. If sound is power, then listening seems like submission, even, as Fred Kraus (2004) suggests, a kind of masochistic submission to that power.
Sadistic Listening, Steven Connor.
The Driller Killer (1979), Abel Ferrara.
Noise has the power to provoke ecstasy.
The drawings are from The Laughing Vampire Vol. 2 by Suehiro Maruo. It’s a collage, not the real layout of the comic page.