This text first appeared in Black Warrior Review, as part of their Sound Art Feature, accompanied by original compositions by the following artists: loscil, Andrew Pekler, AGF, Black To Comm, Phonophani, and Janek Schaefer. Each artist’s composition was designed for The Nudity Feature and is available exclusively on the website. Please listen at http://bwr.ua.edu/?page_id=1052
In a consumption-obsessed society, nudity is both a commodity and a liability. It connotes sexuality, savage desire and bestial nature, and may be harnessed and promoted to inflame loins and the pockets overlaid upon them. It is a hook which cleaves the flesh of our wildest fantasies. Notwithstanding, nudity, as a subjective experiential state, is rather difficult to sell- being naked requires no imported ingredients, accessories or complicated processes. Nudity is a state to which we all have access, regardless of capitalistic, aesthetic or organizational structures.
We are all equal in our nudity, although the nudity itself does not necessarily imply a natural state beneath the skin, and may be edited and polished as it moves from nudity as state to nudity as event, and finally, a cultural or artistic artifact. However, the absolute state of nudity can be defined, most succinctly, as the absence of clothing. When we remove of these layers, we remove the talismans and filters which protect us from the elements, from prying eyes, from fetishistic titillation, from the hygienic inconveniences of an unfettered exchange of bodily secretions.
Nudity, then, is simple; or it is until we assign it values. Looking more closely at nudity as an aesthetic proposal, we could say that it conveniently diverges into the salacious, sexual ideal of nudity as commodity, or the natural ideal of nudity as absence (of clothing, markers, and adornment), as exposure and, finally, as a kind of transparency.
Nudity as understood in the context of music generally follows these two imperatives: there is music designed to promote nudity as just another step on the road to sexual congress, or destined to be consumed naked, and music which promises “nudity” in the loftier sense: music which has been stripped of the auto tune, which expresses intimacy and authenticity, which may or not evoke older, less adorned and labored formal restraints and methods of production and editing.
If nudity is the absence of clothing, one could think that the most naked music is silence, the absence of sound. But as the body does not disappear just because it naked, sound does not have to efface itself to pursue nudity as an aesthetic goal, just reveal.
As a state may or may not have a defined beginning, rhythm or end, music must be interpreted as an event that relies on time to give it structure and bearing. Naked music would find its most appropriate metaphors in naked events, both those mediated by strobe lights and the naturally lit.
Naked Music at once embodies the grinding, shaking, multilayered paroxysms that fuel disco and rave culture (as evinced by the record label “Naked Music,” which focuses on deep house) and the lo-fi aesthetic espoused by folk musicians who eschew effects that could be understood as “dressing-up” or otherwise glossing their sound for consumption. Naked music could also be that which reveals the fears and desires of either the audience or the composer, or taps into the sounds of white noise, the buzz which continues to sound loud after the last line is snorted off the toilet and the all the frenzied couples retire from the dance floor to the cool sounds of minimal techno, car alarms, 6 am birds and finally, alarm clocks.
The mating dance devolves into Joy Division or Autechre at a moderate volume and the deathly post coital cigarette. The tweaker may find themselves pressing attention to every twitch, settle and rush of pipes, sonic density and vicarious revelation of all the neighbors’ daily tasks amplified by activated brain pathways. Ears that still pine for the hyper-stimulation of the dance floor will find sound under every silence. Hence the life cycle of sonic nudity commences in sexuality, and ends in a nihilistic musical extrapolation. You may wish to turn up the volume.