Over the last several years, artists and researchers such as Jessica Ekomane, Khyam Allami, and Cedrik Fermont have taken an active role in proving that experimental and electroacoustic composition didn’t start with John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer. Fermont, in particular, has spent over 20 years traveling across Africa and Asia to document these often unknown scenes.
In Iran, his research led him to Soheil Soheili, a key figure in the Teheran experimental scene. Noise à Noise, the platform he created in 2019, is an important informational and administrative research tool that helps artists and disseminate their music, be it through releases or events, while bridging the gaps between academic and DIY practice in experimental music.
He uses “noise” to describe artists whose work includes techniques such as field recordings, sound collage, electroacoustic composition, and other forms of intense sonic manipulation. The label has released several albums by artists such as Kian Hossein and Vesal Javaheri, together with seasonal compilations. In summer 2022, things changed with the protests against the local theocracy sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the police.
For Soheili, one of the platform’s major goals has always been to support “women’s rights and [to fight] negative social phenomenon, taken from weighty terms like fascism, or supporting feminism without it putting into words.” When the protests erupted, the idea of a compilation came naturally. “We made our minds to try our most civilized attempt to express ourselves by breaking the silence instead of experiencing darkness and isolation,” Soheili says. Despite the emotional duress and frequent Internet blackouts over the last few months, Fremont dug through his archives, using material he had previously received for other projects—such as Ehsan Saboohi’s series Post-Orientalism—along with live excerpts and new contributions (duo Silo Portem created one hour of new music spread across the four volumes of Noise Against the Silence). All of this while acknowledging the difficulties some of the artists (both in Iran and abroad) had in thinking creatively due to the grief and turmoil.
Soheili arranged the pieces in four separate stylistic categories that better describe the works placed under the “experimental music” umbrella. The first volume focuses on harsh sounds, with tracks—like Leonie Roessler’s “All Life Begins Hopeful” where wind, static, and loud rumbles converge into rhythmic patterns—while the second volume centers minimal and avant-garde compositions such as Alya Al-Sultani’s “Three Ages of Woman-Mother,” a touching work of layered vocal improvisation or Alireza Amirhajebi’s sparse, meditative percussion piece “DEEP TIME For Umpan and Bell.” Part three is dedicated to ambient and drone, with tracks like Kian Hossein’s somber piano piece “Radio Astronomy” or Ali Aghili’s atonal “Death is Standing Above the Skies”; the fourth and last volume brings together soundscapes and works of sound collage like Katharina Stadler’s dynamic use of silence and ghostly howls on “Solidarity” or Negar Kharkan’s percussive microtones and disembodied chants on “Intimate Invocations (Vayu Residency).” The series succeeds in two seemingly contradictory ways: Focusing on wordless music makes for a brilliant strategy against censorship; and noise music’s often inherently loud, abrasive nature makes it the perfect vehicle for protest.