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David Novak Publishes "Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation"


The Center congratulates Columbia Ethnomusicology PhD program alumnus David Novak.  Prof. Novak (UCSB) has just published Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation (Duke University Press, 2013).


Visit the Japanoise website

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.

David Novak is Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned the PhD in Ethnomusicology in 2006, after which he served as a postdoctoral fellow in Columbia's Society of Fellows.

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  • "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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