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‘On Becoming a Sound Object’: Noisemuziek als praktijk binnen het nieuw materialisme

Camilla Peeters

In ‘On Becoming a Sound Object’, Camilla Peeters argues that noise as a musical movement has a place within new materialism. She combines Paul Hegarty’s and François Bonnet’s music theories with Amelia Jones’ and Gilles Deleuze’s new materialism to analyse Paul Puce Mary’s sixth studio album The Drought. Thus, she shows that noise uses specific techniques to create a new, non-hierarchical relation between the human subject and the sound object.

In ‘On Becoming a Sound Object’ argumenteert Camilla Peeters dat noise als muziekstroming een plaats heeft binnen het new materialism. Ze combineert de muziektheorieën van Paul Hegarty en François Bonnet met het new materialism van Amelia Jones en Gilles Deleuze om Paul Puce Mary’s zesde studioalbum The Drought te analyseren. Zo toont ze aan dat noise specifieke technieken gebruikt om een nieuwe, niet-hiërarchische relatie tussen het menselijke subject en het sound object te bekomen.

A feast before the drought

Some will argue that noise is necessarily unpleasant to the ear. This objection is futile, and I don’t intend to refute it. To convince you of the surprising variety of noises, I will mention thunder, wind, cascades, rivers, streams, leaves, a horse trotting away, the starts and jumps of a carriage on the pavement, the white solemn breathing of a city at night, all the noises made by feline and domestic animals, and every one a man’s mouth can make without talking or singing.1

When humans try to speak of noise music, a certain question immediately arises. There can be no conversation on noise music before considering the following issue: Why is it that most humans do not consider noise as music? The contemporary, as well as the historical field of noise music is diverse, yet perhaps united precisely in this divergence. Before feasting on the contemporary – Puce Mary’s The Drought; this text’s main focus – I will start with historical noise origins.

It may come as a surprise that the genre has its roots firmly in the 1960s, yet the term ‘noise’ was already coined by an Italian painter in an important 1913 text. This painter was Luigi Russolo and he was part of the avant-garde Futurist movement. The manifesto The Art of Noise (or The Art of Noises, from the original Italian L’arte dei Rumori) wasn’t translated into English until 1967. In it, Russolo makes his plea for a definite (and infinite) extension of what we understand as music. For him, the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century was a pivotal event. ‘In antiquity, life was nothing but silence’, he explained, ‘[t]oday noise reigns supreme over human sensibility.’2 He believed that the more we are surrounded by machinery, the more we ‘approach noise-music’ or rumore musicale. For him, it marked a ‘revolution of music’, since there were infinite varieties of noises to be added to our musical vocabulary.3

Up until that point, these noises were excluded from music for a number of reasons. First, the noises of machinery and industrial cities simply did not exist before the nineteenth century. Though industrial noise was a major factor, it was far from being the only source of noise. In fact, Russolo intended to realize a futurist orchestra with six categories of noises, in which he would include a multitude of natural, human, and animal sounds – such as ‘noises of falling water’, ‘whispers’, ‘snores’, ‘laughter’ and ‘roars’.4

Second, there were no instruments developed in the repertory so far to produce noise-music. This omission was, historically speaking, not accidental. As Russolo explained, from its early origins (which cannot be pinpointed exactly) ‘the conception of sound as something apart, different from and independent of life [developed]’.5 The seeds of musical history were thus planted in a transcendent soil. The heavenly sounds of music were viewed as something with an aura inherently larger than life. This makes music particularly suited as an art form used in religious practice. Even in the Old Testament, a document more harsh and brutal than the New Testament, music plays an important role. In the hierarchy of angels6 – of which there were four kinds, each kind more monstrous than the next – the second highest being is a Seraphim. The Seraphim’s role is to sing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to God. A hierarchy of sounds was developed; music exhibited firmly at the top of the pyramid.

This notion of music was consolidated in Ancient Greece. ‘The Greeks, with their musical theory mathematically determined by Pythagoras, according to whom only some consonant intervals were admitted, have limited the domain of music until now.’7 As Russolo traced the unfolding of music through the Middle Ages, mentioning Flemish polyphonies and arriving at what to him was contemporary music, he concluded that, persistently, ‘musical art looked for the soft and limpid purity of sound (…) intent upon caressing the ear with suave harmonies.’8 It was precisely this constraining purity Russolo wanted to resist when he powerfully proclaimed: ‘I can’t repress much longer the intense desire to create a true musical reality finally by distributing big loud slaps right and left, stepping and pushing over violins and pianos, bassoons and moaning organs! Let’s go out!’9

Consequently, Russolo invented the Intonarumori, predecessors of the analogue synthesizer and other contemporary popular instruments that produce electronic music. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italian Futurism in November 2009, Performa, the organization in charge of the Performa Biennial taking place in New York City, invited musical artist Luciano Chessa to ‘direct a reconstruction project to produce accurate replicas of the legendary instruments (8 noise families of 1-3 instruments each, in various registers) that Russolo built in Milan in the summer of 1913’.10 With the replicas, a range of live performances took place, carried out by a number of classically trained musical artists and vocalists. Snippets of these performances and interviews with the musicians are compiled in a YouTube video titled “Music For 16 Futurist Noise Intoners”.

In the video, composer Nick Hallett explains that, though the Intonarumori were ancient synthesizers, they were not accepted as musical instruments until a keyboard was added that could produce harmonies. The general public needed clarity and traditional structure to accept Russolo’s strange instruments. In his defence, Luciano Chessa aims to reiterate Russolo’s objective as follows:

The sounds are just material, just matter. The form should be a freer form, not necessarily anchored to the sounds of the city (…). Russolo constantly makes the distinction between the sound that we hear and the cause that produced the sound. He is not that interested in the cause of the sound (my emphasis).

In order to argue that noise music can be seen as a new materialist practice, Russolo’s vision is crucial: he perceived sound as matter. In her text “Material Traces: Performativity, Artistic ‘Work’, and New Concepts of Agency”, Amelia Jones firmly states that ‘hybrid practices (…) beg for new hybrid modes of analysis.’11 Her own proposal for new models of analysis foregrounds ‘new materialism and thing theory — that allow for a focus on how action intersects with materials to produce new spaces of meaning’.12

The relation between a musician and a noise instrument is equally important to consider through the lens of new materialism. In the beforementioned video, vocalist David Adam Moore recounts the unconventional way of singing alongside the Intonarumori: ‘The thing that really sticks out to me about the Intonarumori (…). It is always a sort of portmanteau, which in Western diatonic music we actually try to hide.’ To which Hallett replies: ‘They work tremendously like voices.’ (my emphasis) Later on, Hallett adds to that: ‘I wanted [David] to convey the fact that he was not a singer, but he was a sound, and the sound he is, is that of a singer.’ (my emphasis) In another interview on a different performance, vocalist Joan La Barbara talks of a similar experience when she relates how Chessa made her use a megaphone to make her voice sound louder, not wanting to amplify neither machine nor human voice: ‘I wanted to get the machines to imitate me (…). We chose four of the instruments that could approximate something like that sound (…). The megaphone was wonderful, also because visually it made me look somewhat like the Intonarumori.’ (my emphasis)

The idea that the Intonarumori work in a non-standardized way usually avoided in Western music, the similarities between both human vocalist and mechanical instrument, and the idea of reciprocal imitation are all elements that are inherent to the argument that noise music is a new materialist practice.

There can be no conversation on noise music before considering the following issue: Why is it that most humans do not consider noise as music?

Though in his manifesto Russolo insisted that the first demonstrations of the Intonarumori were ‘greeted with enthusiastic applause and hurrays’, the instruments in their original shape were soon long forgotten. Nonetheless, the seeds for a new musical practice were already sprouting, though it would take another three decades before noise music could take the spotlight again. In the late 1940s, musicologist and engineer Pierre Schaeffer presented his musique concrète. Writing multiple books on the subject, Schaeffer spent the second half of the twentieth century teaching electronic composition at the Paris Conservatory. The Britannica Encyclopaedia describes musique concrète as music in which ‘sounds of natural origin, animate and inanimate, are recorded and manipulated so that the original sounds are distorted and combined in a musical fashion’ (my emphasis).13

Though I have made a rough attempt, the difficulty of outlining a clear genealogy of noise music goes hand in hand with the difficulty of defining noise music, precisely because ‘no single definition can function timelessly – this may well be the case with many terms, but (…) noise is that which always fails to come into definition.’14 In his seminal 2001 article “Noise Threshold: Merzbow and the End of Natural Sound”, theorist Paul Hegarty expands on the difficulty of grasping exactly what noise music is, due to the inherent otherness of noise itself. He explains that

Noise is that which was excluded as that which is threatening – the exclusion is not just one enacted by music, but by the development of systems and structures of meaning. Noise is that which remains the outside of these systems – but not just as opposite: noise is the process of interference between music/sound and ‘its’ other.15

The monstrous identity of noise and its marginalized status make it valuable as an object for studying resistance. Analogous to how Donna Haraway’s posthuman cyborg myth is in its core a dream for the construction of ‘monstrous selves in feminist science fiction’,16 noise music could be posited to be monstrous as well, not in the least because ‘[m]onsters have always defined [and challenged!] the limits of community in Western imaginations.’17

In what follows, I want to argue that the effacing of the origin of noises is – alongside the beforementioned elements – a vital new materialist strategy for contemporary noise musicians to deconstruct and resist the dominant hierarchy of music. New materialism is interwoven with the ‘nonhuman turn’ in philosophy. The theory is, in short, concerned with the potential discursivity of material. Researcher Rebecca Schneider defines new materialism in its core as ‘the idea that all matter is agential and that agency is distributed across and among materials in relation. As such, matter engages with matter as well as with (or without) humans, who are also matter.’18

The double nature of the sound object

I freeze, then I liquify… I rise and I bellow, an abstraction.19

Noise music qualifies as a hybrid practice because of its non-hierarchical, liminally confusing incorporation of sounds. In noise music, sound – whether the source is mechanical, natural or somewhere in between – can become music. Though sound is visually imperceptible, it is undeniably sensuous matter. Theoretician François J. Bonnet has written at length about the sound object. In his endeavour to understand how sound can – and must, in Schaeffer’s opinion – become an object, Bonnet explores the double nature of the sound object, which for him manifests itself as ‘at once physical and intentional’.20

Captivatingly, Bonnet refers to Pierre Schaeffer as an important voice in the shaping of the sound object through introducing the concept of reduced listening. This is an exercise in which a listener is instigating a specific reciprocal relationship to a sound, by means of ‘bracketing out any supposed knowledge in order to focus on the sound itself qua phenomenal object’.21 'Admittedly, reduced listening is suitable for a phenomenological framework, but, as I would argue, even more important to a new materialist one, because it deals specifically with a relationship between human and object, in which neither party is fully dependent on the other, because ‘“sound become object” is not so much (…) “that which we encounter”, but more of an autonomous entity fashioned by a listening, siphoned off from a sonorous flux into which that listening cuts.’22

The sound object as sieved out of a sonic chaos is a strong concept, because, in this way, it also relates to the philosophical concept of immanence, which I will expand on later on. Using the sound object as a philosophically sound concept also gives a literal and rhetorical body to it. For Bonnet, the sound object is self-sufficient. Even more, he argues that ‘(w)hen reduced listening is employed, the sound object brings about a relation that both exceeds and degrades the purely phenomenal acceptation of the term "object", suggesting an at once more "thinglike" and more tangible character.’23

Linking this theory to music, finally, Bonnet asserts that

This becoming-autonomous, this becoming-object of sound, is revealed through the primary sound object in the modern history of listening, the object that incarnates the very paradigm of reproducible, recorded sound: looped sound, imprisoned in the locked groove of a record, and later a length of magnetic tape, itself looped.24

Bonnet’s theory gains more clarity when holding up contemporary noise musicians as examples. The genre’s historically grown vision of non-standard sounds as music and music as matter, as well as the intimate relationship between artist and instrument and the non-originary appreciation of sounds are key components.

The Drought and other integrations

In the following, I will focus on Puce Mary’s sixth studio album The Drought.25 The Danish musician Puce Mary, or Frederikke Hoffmeier, has been active in the experimental Danish music scene for a decade, but only recently gained wider recognition with The Drought. The album was released in 2018 on the multidisciplinary Berlin-based record label PAN, likely a nod to the ancient Greek god Pan. The rock-and-roll god of modern North American fiction, Tom Robbins, wrote on the god’s musical sounds:

Pan’s song, because it served no purpose, because, indeed, it transcended the human yoke of purposes, was, above all, liberating. It was music beyond the control of the player’s will or the listener’s will; the will, in fact, dissolved in it (which may explain why it was politically necessary for Apollo, with the compliance of Timolus, to drown it out).26

Followed by a description of Pan’s song on the flute:

It was the aural equivalent of the rope trick: a giddy ascent up a shaky coil, to arrive in a place of mystery, where the sense of all-encompassing oneness with the natural world and the sense of the absolute oneness of the individual coexist and commingle.27

Puce Mary’s music could be situated within Mark Fisher’s Gothic flatline: ‘a plane where it is no longer possible to differentiate the animate from the inanimate and where to have agency is not necessarily to be alive’.28

The adjective ‘Gothic’ is carefully selected here. In The Cambridge Dictionary it is defined as ‘used to describe writing or films in which strange things happen in frightening places’.29 The ‘Gothic’ as an affect has much to do with feelings of uneasiness, uncanniness; it is a terror that hides below the surface. It is not a splurge of a feeling, but rather a much more subdued affect. It came into fashion in the wake of the Romantic period, in which outward feelings, such as the feeling of the sublime, the tragic, and the beautiful, reigned supreme.

In an interview about her at the time upcoming book Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (2012), theorist Sianne Ngai underlines the need to speak about affects when dealing with aesthetics in art:

To make an aesthetic judgment, with all its necessary claims for universality, is to project one’s feelings onto the object in such a totalizing fashion that the ‘actually subjective’ basis of the judgment of aesthetic quality ends up being somewhat incidental to how we experience or understand that quality.30

Art, affects and human beings are intimately connected, all the while slowly changing throughout history. In the interview with Ngai it is mentioned in the introduction that ‘[a]esthetics as a philosophical discipline was an invention of the Enlightenment, and appropriately enough, most of the historical discussion has focused on the beautiful and the sublime.’31

So while the discipline of aesthetics was taking shape throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, strongly expressed feelings were general parameters in art and discussion of art. Ngai says about the contemporary situation that ‘the very concept of the "aesthetic" has been perhaps irreversibly changed under the hypercommodified, intensively informated32 and networked, performance-driven conditions of late capitalism’, exposing the feelings of the cute, zany and interesting. What lies in between is the nineteenth century: the end of Romanticism, the onset of industrialization and capitalism, a peak in Gothic fiction33 and the very beginnings of noise music. It is a time of future dreams. Dystopic and utopic feelings fight for the upper hand, eventually being two sides of the same coin.

Frederikke Hoffmeier uses sound in a non-hierarchical, non-discriminatory way – her work is not adhering to the standards of music in many ways: there are virtually no standard transitions from strophe to chorus and back, many of the songs on the album are not within the standard length of three to four minutes, and she intentionally uses instruments in a way that effaces, rather than reinforces their once clear, unidirectional origin. In the Bandcamp interview she explains this strategy as follows: ‘Sometimes feedback is manipulated to sound like a violin, a drum machine kick is stretched out to sound like a bass, or a field recording is processed through the Buchla 200 (…). Unless it’s important to the story, I don’t aim to be clear on what instruments I use.’

As a consequence of this process and because of the multidirectional assets of the sound in The Drought, she is creating a soundscape that goes beyond the standard, historically normalized limits imposed on music. The spatial aspect of this soundscape is crucial to the new materialist argument, because by positing sound objects in an audible space, she concretizes the sounds as matter. ‘For twenty-five centuries,’ Jacques Attali opens Noise, ‘Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world. It has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing. It is not legible, but audible.’34

While the soundscape creates a space that sound objects can inhabit, its maker, Frederikke Hoffmeier herself, lives among them. There are no boundaries between the sound object and her voice, which now lingers somewhere in the background, and then slowly drags itself to the front. Analogous to the way in which she effaces the origin of the sounds in her work, Puce Mary is an effaced version of Hoffmeier; a physical embodiment of the becoming of a sound object. Interviewer Jonathan Williger puts it as follows: ‘The existence of herself as a definable quantity is questionable as she slips into a liminal, transformative state.’35 In Noise, Fredric Jameson says that music ‘would seem to have the strongest affinities with that most abstract of all social realities, economics’ (vii). In this vein, Puce Mary is a project aiming to deconstruct and efface the clear, purely mathematical and economic qualities of music.

An important technique Hoffmeier deploys to give credibility to her soundscapes is the usage of binaural sound. This binaural sound is most remarkable on “To Possess Is To Be In Control”, where, around the 90 second mark, a screeching sound first starts harassing the left ear, followed by the right ear. Binaural sound also appears on “The Size Of Our Desires”, where after three-and-a-half minutes the tempo picks up and rapidly trots left and right, as if a sound object on the left is actively echoing one on the right, or was it the other way around?

Though it is not within the scope of the present text to delve deeper into the theory of binaural sound, I would like to point out that binaural sound is most commonly used in productions of ASMR,36 which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary ‘refers to the "tingly feeling" that travels from the head downward (…) in response to certain sounds, feelings, or descriptions’. The fact that ASMR and The Drought are capable of inducing bodily sensations within the listener is indicative of their physicality, as proximity and immersion are central notions of binaural sound. In her text “Proximity and Dissonance in Internet-situated Performance”, performer Jane Frances Dunlop describes ASMR as consisting not only of soft-spoken scripts and crisp sounds made with all sorts of items, she also includes ‘the bodily sounds that surround the voice’.37

Pieces of the puzzle in practice

I’m tortured by the feeling of drowning. Under you, under society, politics, the decay of nature, my lack of interest, and I feel desperate.38

When theoretician Jacques Attali published Noise: The Political Economy of Music in 1977, Fredric Jameson writes in the book’s foreword that Attali put forth a model of ‘reciprocal interaction’ in his work in order to comprehend history. Being a Marxist, Attali supposes there is a superstructure that could prophesize social and historical shifts. Compellingly, Jameson says that:

The argument of Noise is that music, unique among the arts (…) has precisely this annunciatory vocation; and that the music of today stands both as a promise of a new, liberating mode of production, and as the menace of a dystopian possibility, which is that mode of production’s baleful mirror image.39

Attali is using noise as a double-sided mirror to shine a light on the near future. Jameson and Attali might as well have been writing (and speculating) about Frederikke Hoffmeier, whose music is described in an interview with Bandcamp – one of the few interviews the artist has partaken in – as ‘surreal environments that resemble sonic manifestations of anxiety and distress’.

Puce Mary’s music is the other side of the promise of ‘a new, liberating mode of production’ and is an embodiment of the ‘menace of a dystopian possibility’. In the Bandcamp interview Hoffmeier talks about her way of working with sound: ‘Whenever I hear something that speaks to me I try and record it (…). In the studio I piece the [sounds] together to create fictions, imitating instruments or using them as a way to try and position the listener into the space I’m trying to create within the piece.’

The sound of The Drought is not only dystopic; it goes beyond that. The sound is self-conscious in a way that the music of the Futurists or the Fluxus movement never has been. Major music magazine Pitchfork writes in its review of the album that, though it is ‘rooted in industrial music and power electronics, The Drought sidesteps those genres’ stereotypical displays of machismo and fetishist celebrations of strength. Instead it evokes an absence of power, the failure of industry.’40 Demonstrating at once the distance between Puce Mary’s work and, for example, the overly confident philosophy of Luigi Russolo, Pitchfork consolidates a shift after more than a century of unvalidated noise music by naming Hoffmeier ‘one of the most exciting and promising voices in noise music’.41

I argue that Frederikke Hoffmeier’s music not only puts forth affects – of the confrontational and ambiguous kind, which makes humans question their role in the social systems they are part of – that are relevant to the new materialist paradigm, she also produces a kind of noise music in which all of the important strands that I have mentioned to build my argument throughout the genealogy, are fused together.

Based on the model of reciprocal imitation that I have described in the first part of the text and from Hoffmeier’s own statements about her process of working, a synthesis of partial truth can be made. This synthesis consists of two components: on the one hand there is Frederikke Hoffmeier, who in her practice is a becoming sound object, on the other hand, there are the noises surrounding her voice that are reinterpreted as bodily sounds. Frederikke Hoffmeier has described her music as an autonomous body in an interview with music magazine The Wire:42

Only after a substantial amount of the work is created (…) I really feel like I can exert my own conceptual control on the material. A lot of material is replaced and rerecorded. Like a regenerated organ or organ transplant (…). It’s like a body sloughing the dead cells and replacing them with rejuvenated ones, all the while coexisting with colonies of bacteria in the same structure.

The making of Puce Mary’s soundscape is further established through non-standard usage of genre. Like many contemporary theorists such as Donna Haraway,43 Frederikke Hoffmeier accepts that she cannot simply escape the dominant paradigm that weighs her down. She thus escapes it only partially, resisting it from within its margins: ‘It is a struggle to maximize what you can do with the vocabulary, the structure of that musical style, without subverting what is making that structure functional and that vocabulary powerful in the first place.’ (Bandcamp) Hoffmeier also talks about genre in her interview with The Wire:

I think the forms of genre are spaces I used less in the design of this record’s architecture but they are still present and their ‘completely emptied out’ serves different uses in the music: as reinforcements or allusions or foreshadowing. They are part disintegration and permanence at play across the record and are a bridge between this structure and the body as a whole, the flesh. This whole corporeal architecture.

Finally, after using elaborate strategies to create a musical landscape in which Puce Mary and her sound reside as equal ‘things’, Hoffmeier attempts to also drag her listener into the soundscape. ‘The album consistently toys with the distance from the listener each element appears to inhabit, from intimate flutters of voice to far-away electronic screeches.’ (Bandcamp)

Through the binaural sounds the listener is immersed, and through the soundscape the listener is assigned a specific spot among – not above or under – the other elements in the work. The new materialist strategy of the album is inclusive, yet partial. This inclusivity depends heavily on the experience of listening to the lyric material, and the listener’s self-consciousness and willingness to efface themselves.

When you look at me like that, when your guilt rushes up at me, and your guilt rushes over mine… I feel like I'm on fire. In “The Transformation”, the penultimate track on The Drought, Puce Mary directly addresses the listener and invites them to a sort of mutual effacing; a purging of guilt to arrive at a resolution of sorts; a setting fire to what we know: the human ‘I’.

Your law is in my vellum, an abstraction. And when that god molecule screams, unconstrained, you’re lost in your apocalypse, you transform. Now you have me to shape our sorrows. In the background a slow pouring of metal sounds swells. Puce Mary mentions body parts, such as the belly button, the leg, and the stomach. The mutual abstraction, the transformation she is inviting the listener to partake in, is a physical and intentional affair.

I pull a hair out of my mouth. But that is not a hair. And that is not my mouth.

These are the final lines of the album. The last song “Slouching Uphill” is instrumental. In it, a rhythm of four taps persists, while a host of sound objects reveal themselves. It is as if the listener is led into a new world, with a new language; one they have slowly become familiar with, guided by the safety of the four taps they recognize.

Slouching uphill

Our science has always desired to monitor, measure, abstract, and castrate meaning, forgetting that life is full of noise and that death alone is silent: work noise, noise of man, and noise of beast. Noise bought, sold, or prohibited. Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.44

I have spoken at length about how musician Puce Mary uses various strategies that I have argued to be new materialist, such as a non-standard manipulation of song structure and length, of instruments, of field and voice recordings, and of genre, in order to, both disintegrate the human subject and integrate the sound object in a reciprocal relation, therefore uniting them in a non-hierarchical soundscape that foregrounds the notions of physicality and proximity.

To conclude, if the voice of Puce Mary is ‘annunciatory’, as Jacques Attali would have it, she is an oracle that calls our attention to times marked by uncertainty, instability, and partial identity. Yet, while The Drought is riddled with industrial decay, overtones of anxiety, and a buzzing stress spanning the duration of the entire album, it is ultimately an affirmation of life, the shooting of an arrow that lands closer to real life and real experience than the ‘meeowing violins’ Russolo so fiercely criticizes in his manifesto.45

In his beforementioned article, Paul Hegarty calls Merzbow, the Japanese confrontational noise project of Masami Akita, ‘a critique without distance, some sort of immanent critique, one with nothing to say, but a nothing that tells us something about itself and its other, possibly music. This noise, though, is not nothing’.46 The notion of immanence in philosophy is complex and easily misinterpreted, in part due to its long history. Hegarty, however, seems to be aiming at a specific exegesis of immanence, one that goes beyond the simple dualism of transcendence-immanence, which is applicable to Puce Mary’s work as well. Deleuze’s infinitely becoming plane of immanence continuously and horizontally encompasses Puce Mary’s soundscape and the non-hierarchical agency of all things inherent to new materialism. ‘The plane of immanence,’ explains Fredrika Spindler, ‘is what enables meaning – the creation of meaning, against the background of the chaotic non-meaning that underlies all life.’47

With The Drought, Frederikke Hoffmeier issues a warning for the uncertainty, instability and even aimlessness that lies in the future, but more importantly in the present. Despite what lies ahead of us, despite our shared self-consciousness and guilt, despite the decay of our identities, in noise, there is a possibility for a meaningful life.


Camilla Peeters

is an MA graduate in Film and Theatre Theory at the University of Antwerp. She writes on fringe film and experimental music, contributing to photogénie, Indiestyle and Subbacultcha. She DJs under her own first name at all female rave and art collective Burenhinder.



  1. From the Futurist manifesto (1913) by Luigi Russolo.
  2. Russolo, Luigi. The Art of Noise (futurist manifesto, 1913). Trans. Robert Filliou. New York, Something Else Press, 1967, p. 4.
  3. Russolo, p. 5.
  4. Russolo, p. 10.
  5. Russolo, p. 5.
  6. Kageyama, Ben. “How Angels Really Look Like, According to the Bible: Heaven might be more bizarre than blissful.” History of Yesterday, September 2020, historyofyesterday.com/how-angels-really-look-like-according-to-the-bible-d4d339112619. Accessed 6 July 2021.
  7. Russolo, p. 5.
  8. Russolo, p. 5.
  9. Russolo, p. 7.
  10. Performa. “Music For 16 Futurist Noise Intoners.” YouTube, uploaded by Performa07, 9 March 2012, youtu.be/Lqej96ZVoo8. Accessed 19 December 2020.
  11. Jones, Amelia. “Material Traces: Performativity, Artistic ‘Work’, and New Concepts of Agency.” The Drama Review, vol. 59, no. 4, 2015, p. 22.
  12. Jones, p. 22.
  13. “Pierre Schaeffer.” Britannica, edited by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, 15 August 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Pierre-Schaeffer. Accessed 19 December 2020.
  14. Hegarty, Paul. “Noise threshold: Merzbow and the end of natural sound.” Organised Sound, vol. 6, no.3, 2002, p. 193.
  15. Hegarty, p. 194.
  16. Haraway, p. 54.
  17. Haraway, p. 64.
  18. Schneider, Rebecca. “New Materialisms and Performance Studies.” The Drama Review, vol. 59, no. 4, 2015, p. 7
  19. Lyric from “The Transformation” on The Drought (2018) by Puce Mary.
  20. Bonnet, François J. The Order of Sounds: A Sonorous Archipelago. London, The MIT Press, 2016, p. 103.
  21. Bonnet, p. 106.
  22. Bonnet, p. 105.
  23. Bonnet, p. 120.
  24. Bonnet, p. 124.
  25. Puce Mary. The Drought, PAN, 2018. Spotify, open.spotify.com/album. Accessed 3 January 2021.
  26. Robbins, Tom. Jitterbug Perfume. New York, Bantam Books, 1984, p. 144.
  27. Robbins, p. 145.
  28. Fisher, Mark. Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction. New York, Exmilitary, 2018, p. 2.
  29. “Gothic.” Cambridge English Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/gothic. Accessed 18 January 2021.
  30. Ngai, Sianne. Interview by Adam Jasper. Cabinet, vol. 43, Fall 2011, www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/43/jasper_ngai.php. Accessed 18 January 2021.
  31. Ngai.
  32. Referring to the term coined by Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff, meaning ‘to dispense information’.
  33. I refer here to the entry “Gothic novel” in the Britannica Encyclopaedia for additional explanation and examples of major Gothic novels of the nineteenth century.
  34. Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1977, p. 3.
  35. Hoffmeier, Frederikke. Interview by Jonathan Williger. Bandcamp, 25 October 2018, daily.bandcamp.com/features/puce-mary-the-drought-feature. Accessed 19 January 2021.
  36. ASMR stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. “ASMR.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Encyclopædia Britannica, www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/asmr-abbreviation-meaning. Accessed 20 January 2021.
  37. Dunlop, Jane Frances. “Proximity and Dissonance in Internet-situated Performance: Rhiannon Armstrong’s International Archive of Things Left Unsaid and Jane Frances Dunlop’s charisma (for jbm & ml).” Performance Research, vol. 22, no. 3, 2017, p. 89.
  38. Lyric from “Red Desert” on The Drought (2018) by Puce Mary.
  39. Attali, p. xi.
  40. McCormick, Daniel Martin. Review of The Drought, by Puce Mary. Pitchfork, 13 October 2018, pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/puce-mary-the-drought. Accessed 18 January 2021.
  41. McCormick.
  42. Hoffmeier, Frederikke. Interview by The Wire. The Wire, October 2018, www.thewire.co.uk/audio/tracks/puce-mary-shares-and-discusses-her-new-album. Accessed 20 January 2021.
  43. For example, in her Cyborg Manifesto Donna Haraway finds new feminist theories that try to paint a total picture of women’s experience to be themselves ‘a caricature of the appropriating, incorporating, totalizing tendencies of Western theories of identity grounding action’. Haraway, Donna. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, p. 23.
  44. From Noise (1977) by Jacques Attali, p.3.
  45. Russolo, p. 4.
  46. Hegarty, p. 199.
  47. Spindler, Fredrika. “Gilles Deleuze: A Philosophy of Immanence.” Phenomenology and Religion: New Frontiers, edited by Jonna Bornemark and Hans Ruin, Södertörn University, 2010, p. 155.