David Novak, PhD, speaks on “Overwhelming Techne: Media Circulation and the Cultural Politics of Noise”

309, Bellefield Hall, free Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in Japan and the United States throughout the 1990s, this paper will describe an electronic music genre called Noise within the transpacific loops of its circulation during this period. I describe Noise as part of a technological production of "feedback" that transforms the circulation of popular music through the subjective emplacements of its listeners. When we tune into feedback, we move our models of musical culture away from narratives of national identities, youth subcultures or local music scenes, stressing instead the sonic experiences of circulation as they are interpreted by its myriad subjects. Feedback experiments with the possibilities of selfhood in the globalization of media — with all of its noisy interruptions, distortions, and individual moments of sensory overload. David Novak is a Fellow of the Columbia Society for Fellows in the Humanities, and holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University (2006). He is an ethnomusicologist interested in articulations of cultural difference in the circulation of musical media. His work considers the distribution of popular music, sound technology, and social practices of listening as critical discourses of global modernity. His dissertation was an ethnography of Noise, an underground electronic genre that generated prominent US-Japan networks of musicians and listeners during the 1990s.

 During his postdoctoral fellowship, David is working towards the publication of his first book, entitled Japan Noise: Global Media Circulation and Experimental Music, to be published by Duke University Press. The book places the modern musical avant-garde in a multi-sited context charged with specific historical and ongoing effects of locality, cultural ideology, and technological change. He is also completing a collaborative soundscape recording that documents the city of Osaka through a mix of its characteristic sounds, as interpreted and recorded by contemporary residents, as well as an article that describes the impact of public perceptions of urban noise on homeless and migrant worker populations in the city.

David has served on the faculty at Sarah Lawrence College and at Columbia University. He is organizing a conference on sound at Columbia University titled Listening In, Feeding Back to be held on February 13–14, 2009.