circuit poetry, mathcore and noise technologies

November 4, 2010

Jessica Ryland is a woman after my heart. As soon as she said, “I am attracted to the physicality of objects,” I knew I had found a kindred spirit. As a writer who continues to use a manual typewriter for all of my letters, notes, freelance invoices and even fax cover sheets, I, too, am attempting to reject this machine environment we keep going further into (however ironic it is that this is being posted on a blog, the most ephemeral medium of the digital age).As an extension of this idea that the physicality of objects has significance on its output, Jessica’s technological progress is not seen in terms of digital advances, but design experiments. “In a way, it’s like I’m stuck in the 19th century,” she says.

In her interview for Pink Noises, a book of women and electronic sound, Jessica describes a console she built in a new, unique way. Though the output created by the console was the same as if she had built it with traditional design, she was fascinated by how everything was arranged on the inside, its bilateral symmetry, its “poetry in circuit design.”

This “poetry in the sound vs. poetry in the technology that’s making it happen” is manifested in an entire genre of mathcore musicians whose noisy metal music could sound like an anxiety attack to some people, but algorithmic poetry to others. Take the band After the Burial, for instance, who in 2008 wrote a breakdown with time signatures according to the number pi to 71 decimal points. The band describes the insanely complex way in which they determined how to convert the never-repeating number into a drum beat on this website, but the sonic result is even more breathtaking.

Jessica also mentions in the realm of noise music that “chaotic performance aspect,” “Dada elements” and “an emphasis of people building their own stuff” are important elements. One trip to a show at all-ages L.A. venue The Smell will prove that all those aspects are alive and well with today’s popular noise artists. Mika Miko singer Jennifer Clavin screeches through a rigged up telephone and Big Whup’s keyboardist Drew Denny appears to make out with a stuffed unicorn that is actually rigged with a reverb mic.

Many of these DIY elements and experimentation with technology design do not affect the noise output any more than a simple pedal effect would. But more often than not, it is merely a niche for tech geeks like Jessica who see importance in creating beauty in technology that only the few other geeks in the room will appreciate.

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