Our book on noise music in South East Asia is now available

Not Your World Music : Noise in South East Asia a book by Cedrik Fermont and Dimitri della Faille about art, politics, identity, gender and global capitalism is now ready. It took two years in the making.


The book covers music in South East Asia, from academic electronic music to do-it-yourself noise. Contemporary and past noise, electroacoustic, industrial, experimental music and sound art in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. With political, historical and sociological essays, exclusive interviews with artists and organizers, as well as an extensive bibliography of popular music from South East Asia and a thorough discography of noise and experimental music artists.

The book is published by Syrphe (Berlin, Germany) and Hushush (Ottawa, Canada) and comes with a compilation (CD and electronic versions).

It is available as a softcover paper version that can be purchased at http://words.hushush.com/. Thanks to a successful crowd funding campaign, the book is also available for free download https://independent.academia.edu/noiseinsoutheastasia

Excerpts from the introduction of the book (pages 2-4):

This book takes a rather hybrid form. It falls perhaps somewhere between the boundaries of a scholarly book, an essay, fan literature and accounts by practicians. The reason for this is that this book resembles us, our backgrounds and our struggles. We have grounded the book, its content and its concept on our own multifarious first-hand knowledge that we have accumulated throughout forty years of combined experience in performing noise, electroacoustic, ambient, industrial, experimental, avant garde or sound art in Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East. But, it is also grounded in our activism and scholarly readings. While this book is based on our experience, the process of writing it made us more aware, and we dare to say, knowledgeable than we were when we started this common project two years ago. During the research for this book, we have constantly learned and discovered new facts, new ideas or new practices.

This book is political: it is anti-sexist and anti-colonial. It hopes to provoke discussions about society, social representations, inequality, marginalization and colonialism. It hopes to engage in changing practices. Throughout the book, we have attempted to underline and criticize the dynamics of marginalization and domination by force, coercion and also through social representation and discourse. It is critical of sexism towards women in the history and the practices of “extreme” music. As much as it possibly can, this book tries to break away from male-centered perspectives. It is also focused on the decolonization of the history of noise music and emphasizes the often forgotten story of noise music. We wanted to show noise music beyond the Western world and Japan, a country whose contribution to noise music is generally highly regarded and already well-documented. This book makes room for perspectives “from the inside”. Consequently, its cornerstone would perhaps be the conversations we had with various members of the noise scenes in South East Asia.

This book is ingrained in the “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) culture of alternative and underground music we are so familiar with. Our decision to self-publish the book is political and revealing of the practices of the noise scenes. It is very possible that with some adjustments, this book could have found a receptive ear with a commercial or scholarly publisher. But, self-publishing the book allows us unchallenged control on content, distribution, price and schedule. In our experience, knowledge about art scenes in South East Asia or, more largely, knowledge about arts and culture outside Europe and North America (the “Western World”) is more often than not published by Western publishing houses and record labels. Books and CDs come with a very high price tag and are difficult to find and to get outside Europe and North America. Knowledge is difficult to reach for those who would probably benefit from it the most. This global inequality in the access to knowledge and culture concerns us a lot. Therefore, self-publishing this book is also a social criticism put into practice. We firmly believe knowledge should be freely accessible to all. Besides the book in its printed version, we are circulating a PDF version available as a free internet download.

This book is an effort to counter hegemonies in the art and culture worlds. Hegemony is defined as the predominance, the control or the strong influence of one group over others. Hegemony permeates through most spheres of activity, including arts and culture. As implied in the title, this book is critical of “world music.” It is critical of the fact that the production and distribution of music from the “World” is mostly in the hands of multinational companies headquartered in Europe and North America. It is critical of the fact that a single label, a “terminological dualism that distinguished world music from music” (Feld, 2000, p. 147) is used to qualify music that is not from Europe or North America. Under such a label, “musics understood as non-Western or ethnically other [continue] to be routinely partitioned from those of the West” (Feld, 2000, p. 147).

This book is also critical of world music, because of the music industry’s tendency to become complacent of the blending, commodification and marketing of difference in favour of the “Western” urban middle class, under the leading economic models of neoliberalism and capitalism. The neoliberal industry of world music has made it difficult for music outside the canons to support a critical model that can transcend or overcome values of the capitalist marketplace (León, 2014). In fact, it has actually participated in the reinforcement of the already limited number of poles of cultural production, therefore also participating in the “Western” hegemony over the music industry. While it is undeniable that world music has educated the urban middle class of the “West” on sounds from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, the success of world music has actually strengthened the legitimacy of rock and roll or “Western” popular music. These hegemonic genres have then provided loose moulds within which other musical expressions must comply in order to be successfully circulated and ultimately assimilated. Per se, this book is not about building or even attempting to build arguments against world music. Rather, it is a presentation of musical acts from regions of the world whose cultures are usually considered inherently or essentially different. This whole book rejects the assumed cultural difference emphasized by the idea of world music. This book is about acts of producing, circulating and enjoying music outside the usual capitalistic channels through which music from Asia has reached Europe and North America and their area of economic and cultural influences.