THE TRADITIONAL SCENARIO might be described like this: People onstage make music, and, in response, people in the audience make noise.
And if the people onstage make noise?
Sonic Youth’s contribution to the two-CD Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 1921–2001, the first of eight planned releases on the theme, takes this situation to its logical conclusion: “Audience” is six minutes of applause taped at the end of a 1983 Sonic Youth performance in Berlin, subjected in the studio to the same sorts of manipulations that the band applies to sounds generated by their instruments. The result is punk-rock utopia: The performance provokes the audience to make music of its own. It’s the do-it-yourself ideal, elegantly achieved through the equation noise = music.
But, of course, “Audience” isn’t the same as the sound of an audience. Indeed, the only unifying element in this disparate collectionwhich
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