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In Pursuit of Black Noise


Max/MSP/Jitter +  Ableton + SP404 + Korg Volca Keys 



In Pursuit of Black Noise is an audiovisual performance and sonic meditation that explores the everyday glitch process that occurs in both the digital realm and IRL space. This project is a continuation of a study called Gaze Makes the Glitch, a study that investigates how colonization and race as technologies have led to the erasure of past, destruction of magic, and creation of the “one-world world.” Using sound synthesis and glitch art, this project moves toward truth synthesis - the generation of black noise.

The piece explored this concept in four different movements, movements that are not necessarily distinct or totally separate from each other, but movements that had their own artistic signature and energy.

I. Utopia


“When we act in accordance with the prophetic dream, the dream comes to directly constitute reality.”- Jackie Wang, Carceral Capitalism, 2018.

Sonic Characteristics: Nature / Water / Slow / Happy / Steady / Spiritual

II. Violence / Introduction of extrautopian Violence into Community


Forced removal from native lands /  categorization / full  humans v not-quite humans v nonhumans/ extractivism / removal of resources / null / empty / reorientation / space / erase / repeat

Sonic Characteristics: Chaos / 808 / Competing Energies / Overlaps / Faster / Off-Grid

III. Erasure


“WHAT DID I DO TO BE SO BLACK AND BLUE" - LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Sonic Characteristics: Driving Force / More Synths / Elevated / Repetitive Loop (Repetitive Process) / Clipping

IV. Death


“The earth cannot move without music. The earth moves in a certain rhythm, a certain sound, a certain note. When the music stops the earth will stop and everything upon it will die.” - Sun Ra, Space is the Place, 1974

Sonic Characteristics: Clicking / More Electronic Synths / Warping / Static / Discomfort / Cacophony

Technology / Setup


For Sound Generation, I use the Korg Volca Keys and the SP-404 which was loaded with samples that I curated/spliced/edited etc. These instruments were then connected to an Audio Interface which was connected to my computer via USB. I also had a MIDI Controller connected to my computer. I then routed the audio into Max(Max/MSP/Jitter). 



Questions I have

  • Is Utopia even a world without violence?
  • Initially, I wanted the death movement to be mostly silent, but I decided against it. Should death have been silent? Does glitch cause death or does it just create something different?
  • What are the effects of removing the tiniest bit of a song to create a sample and rendering that illegible / unidentifiable from its source?
  • What are the affordances and limitations of citations?

Moving Forward


This project feels far from finished. I envisioned it as being at least a 30-minute performance but due to the restrictions of my class, I only did a 5-minute performance and then did a 10-minute longer-form video.

But also, it was interesting to visually and sonically explore this idea of Utopia and Violence through the use of Sound Synthesis and Glitch Art. These forms felt like they went hand-in-hand. Synthesis in the sound world is the technique of generating sound from an electrical signal, which is what I was doing somewhat with the synthesizer I was using. And with the art of glitch, I was exploring the impact of violence on the body and within a community, but also technologies role in that. All of these together combine to create SYNTHESIS AS TRUTH GENERATION.

This time of Covid-19 is full of glitches as we upload/download ourselves and others in this time of isolation. My remote academic experience has been full of glitches. Full of illegibilities. Frozen cameras. Lagging sound. Confusing communication. Humans hiding behind Camera-Off Zoom Blocks. Silence in the midst of immense presence.

Although gaze may not be always violent, there’s no doubt that these video conference platforms like Zoom capitalize on our gaze and prioritize the gaze. Many people I know have talked about the effects of having to gaze at yourself during a meeting and needing to Hide Self-View. I remember reading articles about Zoom having an “attention tracking” feature which will identify participants who have clicked away from the Zoom window. Sounds a lot like gaze tracking. More to explore there soon...