Novak MA ’99 Explores Underground Music Genre

David Novak MA '99

David Novak MA ’99

For his new study Japanoise (Duke University Press), David Novak MA ’99 has conducted more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States to trace the “cultural feedback” that generates and sustains Noise.

Noise is an underground music—made through an amalgam of feedback, distortion, and electronic effects—that first emerged as a genre in the 1980s, circulating on cassette tapes traded between fans in Japan, Europe, and North America. This unusual kind of music has captured the imagination of a small but passionate transnational audience, characterized by its cultivated obscurity, ear-shattering sound, and over-the-top performances. For its dedicated listeners, Noise always seems to be new and to originate from elsewhere: in North America, it was called “Japanoise.”

Book by David Novak MA '99

Book by David Novak MA ’99

Novak’s book is a lively ethnographic account of live performances, the circulation of recordings, and the lives and creative practices of musicians and listeners. The author examines the technologies of Noise and the productive distortions of its networks. He also describes musical circulation through sound and listening, recording and performance, international exchange, and the social interpretations of media. Chapters are devoted to “Scenes of Liveness and Deadness,” “Sonic Maps of the Japanese Underground,”  “Genre Noise,” “Feedback, Subjectivity, and Performance,” “The Future of Cassette Culture,” and more.

Novak is an assistant professor of music at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: