The noise of mind: a performative statement of privacy


Session Title:

  • Sensory Body (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • The noise of mind: a performative statement of privacy



  • In this lecture performance I blend the coexisting fields of my work as a composer, performer and researcher. I report on my research and findings, simultaneously performing with mechanical and electronic instruments. My performance is governed by a multi‑layered score. As a composer, I precisely and succinctly notate my artistic plan to activate performance. The key here is that I recompose my thinking activity into performative action. My compositional plan places the private into the public domain. The score locates my innermost layers in a sonic environment.

    Driven by a lifetime’s experience as a performing musician, I have made the observation of my ‘mind’ during performance the subject of artistic research. Drawing from a contemplative approach, I closely looked into the mechanisms of mental activities. I was inspired by the inclusive view of the mind as presented in Buddhist philosophy, and the multi‑layered structure of its activity. I found corresponding themes covered in contemporary artistic work, such as by the American poet Anne Waldman.

    The scientific concept of ‘noise’ as found in technical disciplines contributed further insights. Noise can be defined as an unwanted signal. Following Bart Kosko, the interesting point is that the concept of noise implies value judgements: preceding decisions determine what is wanted, and what not. From this perspective, mind activity not directly connected with any performed action can be labeled as noise. The noise‑signal duality stimulates my creative process: disturbances spark my creativity. I find the noisy areas of mind particularly interesting, and re‑evaluate ‘noise of mind’ as a constructive component of my work.

    I distinguish between ‘inside’ myself and an ‘external’ world outside my perceived body, i.e. my skin. In my observation of performing, there is a flow from my innermost layers to the outside world to communicate sound, and back inside again through hearing. In the context of a creative process, I perceive a ‘first thought’ accompanied simultaneously by a vague sense of longing to communicate. This longing seems to contain high emotional energy and precedes the actual artistic expression, or sound production. Through my ears then, the outward projection returns back inside.

    The compositional architecture of my score was inspired by techniques I found in Baroque solo sonatas for melodic instruments. In works by Johann Sebastian Bach, the texture of a melody is enriched with so‑called ‘hidden’ or ‘implied’ polyphony: multiple voices are fragmented, deconstructed and condensed into one solo part. In my performance I do exactly that: I use my own body as a highly calibrated bio‑device to present a fractured sense of identity. With the help of my contrabass recorder, the voice, a throat microphone, radio transmission and my computer, I turn the totality of my physical and mental activities into compositional and performative material ‑ while reporting on my research. On a meta‑level, the performance centers on the questions: Is my thinking activity private or public? What defines my mind, where is it heard? Can I locate inner noise within a public sonic space?