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Sacred Noise

Sacred Noise (2015, 17')

is a composition by Robert van Heumen for organ and live electronics, developed in collaboration with and performed with Jacob Lekkerkerker, commissioned by the Orgelpark in Amsterdam



"Of course, there were loud sounds in the past and the loudest were the sounds of warfare and religion: the beating of drums and shields in warfare and the rattling of sacred bones and the ringing of bells in religion. Reflecting on this acoustic pattern, I formulated a theorem: Wherever you find the loudest noise or noises in a society, you have a center of power, which I called the 'Sacred Noise' because these sounds were immune to proscription.

Every society has its Sacred Noises. In the Middle Ages it was church bells that rang constantly, to which was later added the organ, the loudest machine on earth prior to the Industrial Revolution. During the early part of the 19th century, however, the Industrial revolution replaced the churches, and railroads carried industrial noise throughout the countryside. Sensitive people disliked railroads: Flaubert hated their noises as did Dickens, Zola, and Wagner.

Although it was known that industrial noise was ruining the health and hearing of workers, nothing was done about it. You cannot prosecute or curb a Sacred Noise; you can only wait for its power to pass. And that is, of course, what happened. By the middle of the 20th century, Societies for workmen’s compensation were set up in most civilized countries, and programs of aural hygiene were established in factories. At the same time the factory ceased to be the dominant community noise as the aviation industry took over and the entertainment industries erupted. Today, with each generation of jet aircraft showing a reduction of a few more decibels, enthusiasm for flying is diminishing; but the boom-boxes of films and popular music remain un-assailed."

R. Murray Schafer

Premiere: November 28, 2015: Orgelpark Amsterdam. Sacred Noise is part of the theatrical concert To Whom this Power.

Listen to the full piece as performed on November 28 2015 at Orgelpark:





Watch the full piece as performed on November 28 2015 at Orgelpark:















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