Noise and Experimental Music Is for Everyone
Dreamcrusher is a rising star in the world of noise and experimental music. Here our host Linda Diaz meets up with them to talk about their sound and the diverse history of experimental music. From artists like Sun Ra and Julius Eastman to musicians like Wendy Carlos and İlhan Mimaroğlu. We also got to see a socially distanced, life changing Dreamcrusher performance.
- When we asked who you wanted to see on Sound Field,
this is what you said.
In the world of avant-garde music,
historians mostly talk about white man's contributions
to the genre.
Oftentimes overlooking the presence and musical offerings
of the LGBTQ, black and POC artists.
We wanna explore noise music, its origins
and the underrepresented artists who create noise
and experimental music.
One of those artists is the rising
underground musician Dreamcrusher.
- I should make this very clear.
I mainly call myself a noise musician
because white people hate when I do that.
My music's a bunch of different stuff.
You could like classify it as noise,
but I'm really not into the whole genre purism thing.
I think it's really whack.
- My usual co-host Nahre Sol is off working on her album.
So I asked musician and vocalist Linda Diaz to meet up
with Dreamcrusher in New York city.
- Who comes to your shows?
And if it is a lot of like black queer people
and or artists, how does that influence them?
Or how do you feel
like that impacts them at your shows?
- Historically with punk shows or noise shows or whatever.
So many queer people
and just young people in POC, like don't feel comfortable.
Like a lot of queer kids come to my shows now.
It is nice to like say that you're a thing
and people who are also that thing feel affirmed
by it and show up and show their face
to you and tell you how your work affected them.
That's like, it's amazing.
And it gives more meaning to the work, which is cool.
- So what is noise music?
Noise is hard to define and most people agree
that it's subjective.
As music theorist Torben Sangild put it,
"What is noise to one person can be meaningful to another;
what was considered an unpleasant
sound yesterday is not today."
The term noise dates back to 1913 when futurist artist
and musician Luigi Russolo published
his groundbreaking manifesto,
'The Art of Noises'.
Russolo said that the industrial revolution created
an entirely new landscape of sounds to explore.
The noises of metal screeching and the construction
of skyscrapers gave listeners a
greater capacity to experience new sounds.
Another influence on composes of the era was
World Wars one and two.
Life was a lot bleaker back then
which led a lot of musicians and composers to experiment
and move away from melodic music.
Since then, the genre has been shaped
by art movements such as Dada and Surrealism.
One of the greatest influences
in noise has been the Fluxus movement.
These artists emphasize the artistic process
over the finished product.
Listen to Ben Patterson's paper piece
which was created by giving five performers pieces of paper
and directions on how to crumble, scrub, and twist them.
Ben Patterson, a black artist born in 1934 was one
of the co-founders of the Fluxus movement.
But his contributions are often overlooked for his peers
like Yoko Ono and John Cage.
This gets us back to Dreamcrusher, performing
at Saint Vitus bar in Brooklyn, New York.
What does your music sound like
or how do you make a song?
- There was this kid that like, had never gone to a show
of mine before that like walked up to me.
It was probably in Philly.
I feel like kids are a lot more vocal in Philly.
Then he walks up to me and he goes,
"That sounded like a plane crashing
for like half an hour."
I make all my music mainly on a computer.
More recently I've been using a lot more samples.
Yeah I make like 90% of my own sound effects
and stuff like that.
I just downloaded a program.
Honestly I still don't know what I'm doing.
I just like mess with stuff.
And then like, hopefully it comes out right.
- What program did you start on?
Like, was it like a garage band situation?
Was it like a phone, voice note type thing?
I still do most of my vocals on my phone.
I still use FL Studio for literally the first 12 years
that I made anything.
It was the trial version
and I couldn't save anything.
And then if I like, didn't like how it came
out I would like just do it again.
Dreamcrusher's ability to record,
distribute, and design their own handmade tapes
and albums, perform hundreds of shows
and create heavily nuanced soundscapes with socially
and politically charged lyrics has made them a staple
in the world of postmodern noise music.
- I mean, put it like this
like, one of the times we played together
and Allusive saw you, was just like, Oh, it sounds
like a planet is being born.
And I was like, yeah, yes.
- That's what he said?
But essentially, yeah, you were a world builder
and also just like a sweet, like projecting
of love type of person.
You know what I mean?
Like there was a genuine sort of sense
in your spirit and what not, so.
- Like when you first moved
to New York, how many shows were you playing?
- Oh yeah, oh yeah.
I've played like, I think 108 shows in 2015
when I first moved here.
- [Linda] What!
- I didn't have a place to live and whoever I was playing
with, I would just like, hey, anybody got a couch?
And I was like sleeping at Penn station for a little bit.
It was like, that was a mess.
But like I made it to shows on time,
did sound check and everything like, ay.
- [Linda] Do a lot of people think
of you as like the first to do what you're doing?
- I think a lot of people think
that, or it's the first time they've seen somebody
like me make it.
And that's a lie.
Although Dreamcrusher exerts their strong beliefs
on individualism in their music and art.
They also consider themselves to be a part
of a community of black, POC and queer noise musicians.
They told the fader,
"I always ask people to research the history
of people of color in noise and queer people in noise.
People aren't paying attention to that.
So my main mission is that I want people to stop treating me
like I'm an anomaly.
Because I'm not."
One of Dreamcrushers musical influences
is the renowned Japanese noise artist Merzbow.
Since the 70s and 1980s, Japan has been a
leading creator of noise music.
So much so that the music scene inspired its
own sub-genre called Japanoise.
Music Journalist Cleary Mallard writes,
"Noise takes it further than any other genre.
Rhythm, melody, lyrics, standard instruments:
all forgotten... Across the world
people experiment with this style, but Japanoise was one
of the greatest catalysts for its existence today."
Fans like Hijokaiden and Melt-Banana thrashed
into the North American music lexicon creating
a globalized alternative, and more importantly, a level
of equality with white noise bands like Sonic Youth
and Psychic TV.
Dreamcrusher was even featured
on a compilation curated by Adult Swim, entitled 'noise'
alongside the music of Merzbow and Melt-Banana.
But wait, the connection runs even deeper.
Masami Akita of Merzbow and Dreamcrusher
are both influenced by free-jazz and the other worldly
music experimentalists Sun Ra.
Free-Jazz is a form of tonal experimentation
which approaches jazz improvisation in unconventional ways
such as deconstructing chords and tempos
to create discordant compositions in the 1950s
Artists like Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor,
and poet and musician, Amiri Baraka, all rejected
traditional jazz composition to map new territory
and open doors for experimental black artists to rebel
against resonant, syncopated, politically neutral music.
Instead, these artists spoke their minds
about the times they were living in.
The rise of modern recording and sound processing
techniques, specifically distortion also influenced
the development of electronic and noise music.
An example of this is the practice Musique Concrete.
Where the composer edits and distorts recorded
sounds to make a piece of music.
Listen to 'Wings of The Delirious Demon'
by Ilhan Mimaroglu, composed
by manipulating the pitch of a clarinet recording.
The invention of the Moog synthesizer
in 1964 was a breakthrough for experimental musicians.
These instruments are the precursors to a lot
of computer generated sounds heard in experimental
and noise music.
The instrument was brought into the mainstream
by transgender artist, Wendy Carlos and her album
'Switched-On Bach' in 1968.
She later went on to produce synthesize soundtracks
for Stanley Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange' and 'The Shining'.
So how were you inspired by Wendy Carlos?
- My mom's a big cinephile and one of the first like movies
from like her era was 'Clockwork Orange'.
It's so sick to see like something
like that, because, so I don't know.
I just, almost every other image of music I ever saw was
like people playing real instruments.
- New York's downtown music scene was also an influence
on the formation of noise music.
Set off by Yoko Ono in 1960 when she opened
her downtown loft for unconventional music performances.
The live music downtown differed
from the more traditional classical music played uptown
by the Lincoln Center.
One of the musicians of New York's downtown scene
what's minimalist composer, Julius Eastman.
A lot of his avant-garde compositions focused
on his identity as a black queer man.
Why do your fans love you so much?
Why do they love your music?
- I hope it's because they escaped through my work.
I hope that it's because I provide
something very unique musically for them.
I don't see a lot of black non binary people like being
in Pitchfork and Stereogum like on NPR or PBS.
But like, I hope that like, people seeing
me will like open the, not open the flood gates necessarily.
Cause hey, they ain't that many of us, but there's enough
of us to like, come on.
- Do you feel like it is a political act,
the art that you make,
or you as an artist?
- I'm just making things that make me happy.
If that's what it takes to affirm other black queer artists
or people of color who want to make
something that they didn't grow up around
or like get any affirmation from it.
And it's like, all right, like I want
to like be able to make space for them too.
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