Kinetic Tool – Spatulism
1. Spatulism 13:17
Notes on Spatulism
1: The idea behind Spatulism
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the mechanics of noise; the artist’s production of that which is said to be “unpleasant,” the abilities of the artist in focusing the noise to a sound that is “wanted” for the production, and the clearly-defined “structure” and “planning” of a noise track based on a foundation of sound thought to be the “blueprint” for study.
I decided to experiment with all of these ideas, focusing on a more industrial tone with kitchen appliances that could represent a source of noise. I chose a spatula – a random kitchen tool with no meaningful value or symbolic worth other than the fact that it could be a conduit for noisy output. And the perfect atmosphere to implement the sound was the kitchen that the spatula could be found in.
Contradicting the idea of noise is the fact that I purposefully apply the spatula to create a harsh or otherwise unpleasant sound. But in this regard, I think of Spatulism less as noise and more as “chaotic sound,” a phrase that emphasizes the implications of a spatula’s metallic, grating timbre, the idea that the “noise” produced is not noise in a definitional sense at all, and that the conditions under which the sounds are produced have not been clearly defined by a rigid structure or method: instead, they are chaotic or unpredictable, to the listener and to the artist.
And then I did the deed, 15 minutes of spatula-driven sounds with only one definable arc of sound – the spatula’s sound itself as it is played upon other animate and inanimate objects. The theme of the sound is simplicity, an idea that other brands of noise and music have attempted to provide in certain forms like drone, minimalism, John Cage’s 4’33”, or harsh noise walls. But Spatulism is an attempt at thwarting what I consider the genre flaws of providing that simplicity.
2: Simplicity as a construct of a unidimensional tone-idea
I shall start with drone music as the first example of simplicity gone wrong. Drones consist of sustained notes or groupings of tones that continue on into an unforeseeable distance, occasionally branching off into new but interrelated tones and notes. Drone is an act of simplifying the structure of a song; instead of cleverly pairing harmonies and notes together, drone simply allows notes to act as bridges to the next lengthy note, cleverly eliminating the complexity of song structure – initially. But drone also continuously stretches on into other, intricately paired notes that sustain the hypnotic effect of the tones being played, subverting that simplicity into an act of complexity. So too does minimalism, mostly for the same reasons.
Harsh noise walls are meant to be a form of nihilism, unwavering and insurmountable in their monolithic waves of static walls. But these, too, are full of complexity. Even awash in the glaze of static, a listener is unable eliminate the thought of the changing texture, anticipating if and when the various and sporadic tones of static will change.
But Spatulism is an attempt to create one unidimensional tone, the sound of the spatula – or other objects, if the need and idea arise. Though there is a sense of instrumentality – which does also channel an idea of complexity that is perhaps an important aspect to discuss but one which I will allow the reader/listener to embrace on one’s own – the one sound that dominates others is the ebb and flow of the spatula’s ring, a simplistic affair that changes tone but not method.
In this unidimensionality Spatulism attempts to dwell; whether it does so is open for debate, and even moreso, whether a sound or “composition” can ever truly achieve a sense of ultimate simplicity is a question worth pondering. But even so, there’s an evanescence in the one wavering sound of the spatula’s ring that I can’t overlook, and I hope other listeners hear as well.