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Berlin 08.09.2008

Join MyVisit.to “Rauschen”

by Tobias Rehn, Archiv für Historische Abbildungspraxis, Köpenicker Str. 154, 10997 Berlin, 3:30 p.m.

© Tobias Rehn “IO, Rauschen, Mono, 14 dB”, 2008

Due to the many connotations associated with the term, Tobias Rehn’s final project on the issue of “noise” deals primarily with the central question of whether language or even writing, the written word can make noise.

Noise is superficially considered to be something chaotic, a disorderly acoustic phenomenon that emerges due to the superimposition of several sounds and phonemes. Important here is that it is not possible to hear discreet, separable phonemes, and that it cannot have a meaning. But how could writing, with all the meaning transported within it, make noise? According to Friedrich Kittler, this is not possible, for writing stores phonemes and thus excludes the possibility of sound, and thus all noise.

To answer this question, in this work I will present references to romantic literature, where a first boom in the use of the motif of noise in texts can be found. By way of comparison to various forms of storing music – in note form, in discrete signs – comparable to the storage of language in text – and the analog storage of music on a record, as well as borrowings from the theory of acoustics and signals (white noise and the signal-to-noise ratio), a system is derived that makes it possible for writing to make noise.

Through the work on this system and comments on this, what grew in Tobias Rehn’s work is the consideration that expectation and intention play an important role in considering the phenomenon of noise. As an example, he presents an interview with John Cage, in which he (among other things) comments on the expectations that he has for “sounds” and explains why he is fascinated by the sound of traffic. During the interview, he never once uses the word “noise,” showing that with the right attitude it is possible that a meaning can result from what is conventionally understood as noise, in this case, listening pleasure.

From these considerations, Tobias Rehn derives a second question, whether it is possible to perceive noise as content. An attempt to achieve this is shown by the work Intros – Outros. This consists of a record where the grooves where normally the musical information can be found now contain the background noise from 15 records. In this way, the basic sound of the grooves themselves has become signal or content, for the decision was made to place this noise consciously where otherwise no noise is expected, between the lead-in and lead-out grooves of a record.

But whether the content on this record is actually seen as noise in turn depends on the expectation of the listener. This shows how every attempt at undertaking a more precise examination of noise is ultimately doomed to failure. On the one hand one is bound to specific intentions, on the other hand what we assume to be noise loses in the moment we think we have grasped it its shape of the chaotic and disorderly, and thus no longer seems to be really noise.

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