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catalog 'Urban Rituals, The Sound Artist Christof Schläger'
II. Noise

In the Ruhr region industrial noise was once an acoustic given. Today, after the decline of the Ruhr industry, the acoustic ambiance of the region has a different form and is less characteristic. The high population density and the close-meshed highway network generate traffic noise that can be constantly perceived as a faint background murmur, even at night. In addition to industrial noise, it is especially what the sonic world is owed by the process of civilization that fascinates and inspires Christof Schläger. The sound artist speaks about nocturnal noise as something mysterious that goes far deeper than the phenomenon's apparent simplicity. He is interested in the structures that can be discovered in noise, its variations and different colors and hues. The presence of noise establishes an esthetical attitude, which is fundamental to Schläger's work. Noise symbolizes something unordered, obscure, disorganized, multi-layered, pre-formed, unsystematic, free, open, and undetermined.

Noise can be described and interpreted quite differently, musically, technically, sociologically, medically, and philosophically. "As noise we understand all those elements, which interfere with the signal of a message. This includes every kind of technically based interference, not only for example the noise caused by static electricity occurring as a result of poor radio or television reception, but also uncertainties of a discursive and linguistic nature. Black image distortion during a television transmission, stains on a daily newspaper, but also rumor in a sociological thesis, all of these can be understood as noise.

Physical acoustics describes noise on the basis of how the frequencies of the signal power contained in it are distributed. The most well-known noise is so-called white noise which describes a sound that contains all audible frequencies whose signals have equal intensity. White noise, however, does not exist in a pure form. In nature as well as in electrical equipment, the noise that is primarily generated is known as pink noise, in which many but not all frequencies occur, but - so the definition of physics - are distributed uniformly by octave range throughout the audio spectrum.

The Canadian sound artist R. Murray Schafer emphasizes the musical component of noise. "In a large quantity of rhythms one rhythm will be extinguished by another. The main characteristic of the urban soundscape is random movement, and it can be heard most clearly from a distance or in the deep of the night. It is the continuous low frequency sound that can be heard from a neighboring hill or through an open window in the early morning hours.

In 1827, the Scottish botanist Robert Brown observed that grains of pollen suspended in water execute irregular movements. They are kicked off by the water molecules which depending on their temperature move either slower or faster. This so-called Brownian molecular motion can only be described statistically. It is not predictable in detail and because of its uncertainty can be described as noise. Structural uncertainty, regardless of whether it concerns an acoustic, optical, physical, or theoretical issue, defines noise.

Noise is therefore also an art-esthetic and a philosophical category. In relationship to art the philosopher Martin Seel interprets noise as a borderline example of perception, an optical or acoustic event, between which it is completely impossible or very difficult to differentiate. "It is, however, rare that nothing could be differentiated in noise; often it occurs as a diffusion of the distinguishable, as a permanent shrinkage or transformation of gestalt, which makes a safe execution of the transformation that occurs impossible. […] Furthermore in regard to noise, specific values can be distinguished at any time - noise is loud or quiet, roaring or cracking, creaking or wheezing, whining or swirling, flickering or flowing, spinning or streaming, swishing or roaring, etc. - but they all are characteristic of the event, which can be perceived or stated, without actually being able to say something specific about what is actually occurring.