Feminised Noise and the ‘Dotted Line’ of Sonic Experimentalism

Thompson, Marie (2016). Feminised Noise and the ‘Dotted Line’ of Sonic Experimentalism. Contemporary Music Review, 35(1) pp. 85–101.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07494467.2016.1176773


This article outlines various intersections of noise and femininity, through which noise has been feminised and the feminine has been produced as noisy. Feminised musical genres, such as mainstream pop, have been dismissed as excessive, banal and extraneous noise. Noise has also been feminised by a number of recent historiographical and curatorial projects that have sought to amplify the creative work of women in experimental and electronic music. Using a cybernetic understanding of noise as an explanatory metaphor, I suggest that these projects threaten the integrity of a patrilineal ‘dotted line’ that characterises histories of musical noise and sonic experimentalism. This cybernetic metaphor is also applied to Pauline Oliveros’ Willowbrook generations and reflections (1976) and the performances of noise artist Phantom Chips, so as to identify the production of a feminised noise in and through music. I suggest that these curatorial projects and musical practices raise important questions as to if, when and how feminised noise becomes feminist noise.

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