Young Scholars in New Music | Sarah Benhaïm /// Noise

di Giulia Sarno

[Young Scholars in New Music. Inauguriamo una nuova rubrica dedicata a giovani studiosi e studiose alle loro ricerche in corso o appena concluse. Per segnalare le proprie ricerche mandare un mail con oggetto “Young Scholars” a con una brevissima biografia e un abstract del lavoro che si intende presentare]

[Young Scholars in New MusicWe start a new column today, dedicated to young scholars and their current or recent researches. To submit your research, please send an email (subject line: “Young Scholars”) to with a short biography and an abstract of the work you wish to present]


Sarah Benhaïm is a Doctor of Music and Social Sciences (EHESS/CRAL). She currently teaches musicology at the University of Tours in France. Member of the editorial board of the journal Transposition. Musique et sciences sociales and of the college of music experts of the DRAC Ile-de-France, she also plays in the experimental electronic trio DMZ and has collaborated with the label TanzproceszIn 2019, she won the Humanities and Social Sciences PSL dissertation prize in the Arts, Aesthetics, Literature section.

Her research focuses on noise music and the social practices that accompany it. When she started her research in 2010, only rare Anglo-Saxon studies had been produced in the field of aesthetics. Neither musicology nor sociology had taken hold of this object even though it raises a number of questions and specificities: this music has the particularity of being composed of radical noises and sounds, and the way it is played, valued and diffused is part of a form of total DIY (Do it Yourself).

All of the dimensions that touch this musical genre ensure a form of symbolic, rhetorical and practical coherence, which however has the specificity of questioning the boundaries and the ways in which categories are conceived. This reflection on the question of conventions and categories in music has formed the backdrop for a research work that breaks down into a multiplicity of dimensions studied.

© Steeve Bauras

The first asks how the genre is constructed through the definitions formulated by the actors themselves, who manifest a discourse of resistance to labels and categories. Sarah Benhaïm shows how, through a reflection on the definitions of noise and music, noise is linked to a form of resistance to the category “music” by focusing on a “negative” version of the way music is conventionally defined, perceived or valued.

The second explores the ways in which noise music could be subject to musical analysis. The researcher has conducted several investigations in an attempt to reveal a plurality of sound territories that would question the stylistic boundaries of the genre. She began with textual descriptions of the sound material using an image-based textural vocabulary, and then sought out the latest technologies in terms of computer music by surveying an engineer and a musicologist to test a corpus of five pieces of software.

Apart from aesthetic and musicological questions, she attaches great importance to artistic and social practices. She is interested in musical practices, from the way in which the instrumental device is elaborated to the ways in which artists play and improvise, paying particular attention to the question of the values advocated through this musical production. She has observed several types of listening that characterize this universe of sound, both physical and cerebral, based on situational interviews and a field survey conducted during concerts. She has carried out a major survey of collective practices in the field of DIY based on this same survey, which has allowed me to map the places that have hosted noise concerts in Paris since 1988, to decipher in detail several types of concert organisation from the small DIY organisation to the Instants Chavirés hall, not forgetting a survey on the work of underground labels, and to grasp the articulation of the roles of the actors in the collective organisation of events by mobilising the classic question of artistic intermediaries and the amateurism/professionalism relationship.

Her research is thus part of a transversal theoretical questioning, in a plurality of academic disciplines (musicology, sociology, aesthetics in particular) and in an important methodological diversity. The conditions necessary to clear up this field, which has only recently aroused interest, in the broadest and most precise manner.

© Steeve Bauras

Further reading:

Sarah BenhaïmDIY et hacking dans la musique noise. Une expérimentation bricoleuse du dispositif de jeu, «Volume!», vol. 16, n. 1, 2019, pp. 17-35.

Young Scholars in New Music | Sarah Benhaïm /// Noise ultima modifica: 2020-09-08T09:00:16+02:00 da Giulia Sarno

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