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  • Acknowledgments  vii
    Introduction  1
    1. Scenes of Liveness and Deadness  28
    2. Sonic Maps of the Japanese Underground  64
    3. Listening to Noise in Kansai  92
    4. Genre Noise  117
    5. Feedback, Subjectivity, and Performance  139
    6. Japanoise and Technoculture  169
    7. The Future of Cassette Culture  198
    Epilogue: A Strange History  227
    Notes  235
    References  259
    Index  279
  • Winner, 2014 British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize
  • “Novak successfully dissects Japanoise, specifically constructing around it an academic discourse that elevates it to pure performance art. . . . Novak’s commitment to listen to the sounds live, despite the risks to his own hearing, make for a lot of engaging field reports, increasing the value of his research.”
    Neural

    “While Japanoise gives a fantastically detailed account of Noise’s history and evolution, it is also interesting to see it framed as a true representative of what has come to be known as ‘Cool Japan.’ As the government promotes sugary sweet pop acts that cause toothaches abroad, the grassroots noise scene (OK, it might be causing earaches) is making real progress in keeping Japan cool.” — Shaun McKenna, Japan Times

    “Novak’s contribution to sound studies is to encourage us to deal with the fragmented complexity of sonic environments and contexts, especially those where noise plays a crucial part. . . . What sets Novak’s book apart . . . is how his ethnographic approach allows him to approach Noise music from both the macro-perspective of its historical context and the micro-lens of his personal relationship to it.”  — Seth Mulliken, Sounding Out! blog

    Reviews

  • “Novak successfully dissects Japanoise, specifically constructing around it an academic discourse that elevates it to pure performance art. . . . Novak’s commitment to listen to the sounds live, despite the risks to his own hearing, make for a lot of engaging field reports, increasing the value of his research.”
    Neural

    “While Japanoise gives a fantastically detailed account of Noise’s history and evolution, it is also interesting to see it framed as a true representative of what has come to be known as ‘Cool Japan.’ As the government promotes sugary sweet pop acts that cause toothaches abroad, the grassroots noise scene (OK, it might be causing earaches) is making real progress in keeping Japan cool.” — Shaun McKenna, Japan Times

    “Novak’s contribution to sound studies is to encourage us to deal with the fragmented complexity of sonic environments and contexts, especially those where noise plays a crucial part. . . . What sets Novak’s book apart . . . is how his ethnographic approach allows him to approach Noise music from both the macro-perspective of its historical context and the micro-lens of his personal relationship to it.”  — Seth Mulliken, Sounding Out! blog

  • "David Novak goes inside the Noise scene and presents an astounding perspective: historically astute, inspired, and completely shell-shocked."—Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth

    "Edgy, compelling, and sharply insightful, this is the definitive book on 'Japanoise.' Drawing on his personal involvement in Noise scenes across two continents and over two decades, David Novak takes readers into the experience of Noise: its production and performance through apparati of wires, pedals, amplifiers, and tape loops, through its intensity on the stage and in one's ears and body."—Anne Allison, author of Precarious Japan

    "This is a striking book: theoretically exciting, aesthetically intriguing, and well crafted. Japanoise is an extreme case study of modern musical subjectivity that demonstrates how core cultural ideas are formed on the fringe. David Novak's treatment of circulation as embedded in the creative process will shift the debate in ethnomusicology, popular music studies, and global media studies."—Louise Meintjes, author of Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio

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  • Description

    Noise, an underground music made through an amalgam of feedback, distortion, and electronic effects, first emerged as a genre in the 1980s, circulating on cassette tapes traded between fans in Japan, Europe, and North America. With its cultivated obscurity, ear-shattering sound, and over-the-top performances, Noise has captured the imagination of a small but passionate transnational audience.

    For its scattered listeners, Noise always seems to be new and to come from somewhere else: in North America, it was called "Japanoise." But does Noise really belong to Japan? Is it even music at all? And why has Noise become such a compelling metaphor for the complexities of globalization and participatory media at the turn of the millennium?

    In Japanoise, David Novak draws on more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States to trace the "cultural feedback" that generates and sustains Noise. He provides a rich ethnographic account of live performances, the circulation of recordings, and the lives and creative practices of musicians and listeners. He explores the technologies of Noise and the productive distortions of its networks. Capturing the textures of feedback—its sonic and cultural layers and vibrations—Novak describes musical circulation through sound and listening, recording and performance, international exchange, and the social interpretations of media.

    About The Author(s)

    David Novak is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara.