Preface - earlier this year, I was approached by Yuri Bruscky, writer for Revista Continente in Brazil, to answer some questions relating to my usual assigned topics (sound art, 'noise', etc.) Though the responses are maybe nothing 'new' for people who have been following my work, it is still fairly new for me to have pieces of mine printed in Portuguese, which the original full text of this is (the version below is in English, however.)
I'm unaware what the current publication status is of the article which features me, and have been out of touch with Yuri for a while, so if anyone has information on this, please contact me.
1.How do you situate the importance of the idea of noise and its impacts on music of the twentieth century, taking as reference the publication of the Art of Noises by Luigi Russolo?
An interesting thing about the theories of Russolo and other Futuristi was that they directly impacted the production and presentation of popular music, as well as what we would now refer to as 'noise,' 'difficult music' etc. For example, their disdain for symphony orchestras led to their unique instrument designs, which in turn influenced the development of music synthesizers. They seem to be among the first artists to conceive of an inversely proportional relationship between the complexity of a performer's 'setup' or performing apparatus, and the richness of sonic output that can be generated by it.
So, as such, they were the progenitors of the avant-electronic music lineage that has become well known for its reliance on small, visually unimpressive but versatile expressive tools, from shortwave radios to turntables (already used by Russolo and Pratella in 1915!) and laptop computers. But, again, they were also the unwitting precursors to a whole other world of techno-pop producers, who utilized the tools inherited from Futurismo and yet discarded much of the ethos of Russolo and company (more on this below, since I realize one of your later questions relates to this.)
All this aside, I believe the most important aspect of Futurist noise music for 20th century art was its desire to create art that does not (quoting Russolo) "limit itself to reproductive imitation." It was a concept which was echoed later by Cage's need to nurture "sounds themselves," while also itself being a necessary rejection of 'program music' and a modern application of Carl Dalhaus' 'absolute music' ideals. So, the Futurists proposed a new way that was, ironically, an atavistic return to perceptual essences. Lastly, it was very much the same modus operandi of much abstract painting that would appear contemporaneously with Russolo's work- that of creating form or finding an "equivalent to life" rather than just finding a more articulate means of mirroring life.
2. In which way the explorations in sound art and noise music (with its corresponding theoretical background) modified aspects of the process of composition, performance and perception of the sound material in the West since the mid-70s?
Honestly I think that, while compositional technique and even theory hasn't advanced dramatically since that time, perception of these forms definitely has. And that's largely a result of the decreasing exclusivity of forms like electronic noise or acousmatic music (by which I mean their being available for interpretation by non-academics or by amateur producers.) In the mid-late 1970s in particular, the introduction of equipment like Portastudios and higher fidelity cassette tapes injected avant-garde music into communication and distribution networks already existing among so-called 'mail artists,' who placed a high value upon a 'process-as-product' creative ethic (amusingly, the usage of the international postal system as an alternative expressive outlet also returns us to the work of the Futurists, who prefigured 1970s mail art with their metal 'postcards.')
I think this widening of the potential 'pool' of participants led to a greater interest in topical forms of noise, particularly material that paired sonic violence or friction with an interest in social and political violence. In a way the 1970s was the first decade in which "international terrorism" became an issue of great concern, and many artists found in this intense and alien form of sound a means of either confronting or embracing the new era of asymmetrical warfare (see for example the group SPK named after the radical German Sozialistiche Patientenkollektiv, Cabaret Voltaire tracks detailing the activities of the Rote Armee Fraktion, etc.)
So, in one way these newer 'noisicians' were making good on the Futurist promise to seek musical inspiration in technological conflagration, using sounds both directly from the 'frontlines' of their chosen conflicts and designing their own electronic sounds. On the other hand, here we had artists again attempting to make sense of the world they found themselves in, so this type of noise was not purely concerned with the creation of an "equivalent to life."
I think that after this "Industrial music" approach had been diluted somewhat in the 1980s and later, that electronic noise did in fact return to more of a 'performative chaos' approach, both representing and enacting that state without needing to clarify it with references to specific historical or contemporary events. I realize, though, that there are many exceptions to that approach, and also that many artists don't see the roles of 'cultural commentator' or 'chaos generator' as being mutually exclusive. In fact they're more compatible than ever since the intensification of the 'information economy' that has happened largely since the 1970s.
3.On what extent the perception of noise and sound art universe, in terms of listening, relates to the intensification of the processes of interaction mediated by electronic devices?
Regarding intensification of technological processes, I once read an essay by Pierre Boulez in which he complains of our "defensive reflex" with regards to new technology: "the greater and more powerful our technological progress, the more timidly our culture has retracted to what it sees as the immutable and imperishable values of the past." And certainly that is still the situation now, yet I don't think that is entirely a negative state of affairs: I think it's good that modern music doesn't attempt to dispense with certain traditions, particularly those of ritualistic trance and respect for pure energy that feature in pre-rational cultures throughout the world.
As far as the creation of music and listening to music are concerned, there are certain benefits arising from an over-saturated 'info-sphere' whose processes are too rapid to be fully comprehensible. While many will feel an instinctual need to order and make sense of an exponentially increasing rush of digitized information, and will eventually become burned out by this, still others will use the incomprehensibility of this flow itself as a creative tool. I think that information that is presented in a deliberately ambiguous manner, e.g. as a 'noise' recording, structural film etc., can make up for whatever value it loses as an aesthetic object by being a catalyst for newer forms and expressions. Much great artwork arises from perceiving what isn't being done.
4.Considering noise as a premise for denial of both the structure and the theoretical basis of Western music (and art in general). Considering this aspect, how do you perceive the characterization of noise as a musical aspect more or less defined form late 70's, being absorbed even by pop music?
Of course it's no surprise that noise is absorbed into pop music, and that a public tolerance for various facets of 'noisiness' would increase more or less parallel with greater access to information. Yet if we think of noise in information-theoretical terms instead of musical terms (in other words, thinking of noise as non-communicative data rather than just intense or unpleasant sound), then I don't see the potential for 'pure' noise to ever become something with majority appeal. Commercial music, however inspid it gets, is always going to be built from communicative (particularly didactic) units of data, and as such will just use 'noise' as an emphatic ornamentation….the 'exclamation mark' at the end of a communication, or something with a similar function.