David Novak – Japanoise: Music At The Edge Of Circulation


Duke University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0822353928, English, 304 pages, 2013, USA

In the small galaxy of noise music, there’s a specific, ideal place for dealing with its edge, pushed by the intrinsic extreme nature of noise itself. In the imagination of underground circles this place has always been Japan, especially in the last two decades, with its impressive list of bands and solo performers, continuously redefining the meaning of “extreme”. The process of overloading initial sound sources, blasting them off into something completely different and unsettling by default, describes only very partially the attitudes of noise composition. The distinct performative processes (often destructive of the apparatuses used) and confrontation with the audience (from acoustic bewilderment to physical hyperactivity to overwhelmed listening inertia)are unavoidably and deeply involved with the body, and the consequent forced and intimate embodiment of the performance. In this sense Novak successfully dissects Japanoise, specifically constructing around it an academic discourse that elevates it to pure performance art. Furthermore his ethnographic approach identifies traits from Japanese culture that are somehow embedded in the attitudes of extreme noise, including all the possible paradoxes concerning single performers (like the apparent dichotomy of their professional/performer lives). 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. Alessandro Ludovico