Noise Annoys, Noise Is the Future: Noise in Communication and Cybernetic Theories and Popular Music Practices

Goddard, M N. 2022. Noise Annoys, Noise Is the Future: Noise in Communication and Cybernetic Theories and Popular Music Practices. In: Mark Delaere, ed. Noise as a Constructive Element in Music: Theoretical and Music-Analytical Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 19-34. ISBN 9781032200392 [Book Section]

Noise Annoys Chapter final draft 20 November.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (210kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Noise has always been a slippery concept, at once a sonic phenomenon and a concept that transcends soundwaves to apply to all communicational processes (Goddard, Halligan and Hegarty, 2012); noise is also both an unwanted excess or transgression of clear expression subject to various measures of ‘noise reduction’ and essential for any form of communication to take place. Despite attempts to quantify urban noise, for example, in terms of decibels or other objective measures, ultimately noise is highly contextual and situational, and one person’s musical comfort zone is someone else’s intolerable noise depending on a range of factors as much aesthetic, social and cultural as objectively about sonic volume (see White 2012).

This chapter will introduce some of these different approaches to noise from Shannon and Weaver’s information theory (1949) that was at the heart of the post WW2 cybernetic project to Michel Serres more sophisticated account of noise as a parasite (2007)- a third term complicating any direct transmission between two point. If for Shannon and Weaver noise was a disturbance of a signal caused by the resistance of a channel, and ideally subject to elimination, for Serres this complication is inevitable as all points within a system are already involved in other dynamics, and there is always a ‘third party’ appearing to disrupt in simple linear transmission between two points.

In terms of music, Jacques Attali (1985) has raised similar points and also points to the ways that all innovation in music is initially perceived as noise in relation to dominant orders, and as such operates as a harbinger or premonition of the future not only on the musical but also the social and political planes. This can be clearly seen in the case of popular music where every new style from jazz and rock and roll to industrial and noise music is initially perceived as an intolerable and unmusical noise before becoming assimilated and subsequently overtaken by ever new forms of noise (see Goddard, Halligan and Spelman, 2013).

This chapter will argue that this ‘noise of the new’ in popular music is neither a purely sonic phenomenon, nor a mere transgression of a dominant musical regime, but rather a kind of communicational noise that overwhelms the current limits and norms of social communication and ushers in unanticipated future that extends beyond the purely musical or sonic. Referring to case studies of UK punk band The Clash and industrial group Throbbing Gristle, the chapter will argue that these groups, however noisy they appeared in a sonic sense, were in fact engaged with a communicational noise announcing unprecedented futures in a ‘hyperstitional’ manner that amount to nothing short of an ‘information war’.

Item Type:

Book Section

Additional Information:

This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Noise as a Constructive Element in Music: Theoretical and Music-Analytical Perspectives on 12 September 2022, available online:


Noise, Punk Music, Cybernetics, Serres, Attali, The Clash, Throbbing Gristle, Industrial Music, Hyperstition

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


13 June 2022Accepted
12 September 2022Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Sep 2022 15:00

Last Modified:

12 Mar 2024 02:26


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)