Guest Challenge: Organized Noise

Tobias M. Schiel


The notion of son organisé seems to be central to composer Edgar Varèse’s understandung of music. “Son” can be translated into both ‘sound’ and ‘noise,’ and it is the ‘noise’ part that fascinates me. For music, it means broadening the material that can be used for a composition: Varèse apparently claimed that ‘noise’ is only another word for any sound one subjectively does not like .

In my eyes the concept of organized noise begs the question of its applicability to pictures. Photography is known to record ‘noise’ in capturing the old, the broken, the decrepit – the sights someone might not like subjectively. The medium appears to lend itself to this aesthetic choice, and it has been keenly criticized for it.

But there is also the aspect of organizing noise into music – or visual ‘noise’ into pictures. Some sights overwhelm us with their complexity, some with their ugliness or apparent meaninglessness. Nonetheless, I claim that photography can be a means of reducing this complexity, or making sense of the ‘noise.’


So, how to approach this? Here is a couple of thoughts:

  • Take your pick: Not all available ‘sounds’ have to be heard at the same time – not all the available elements have to go into the composition of the picture. Get closer, eliminate some of the ‘noise.’
  • Look for a main voice: Find a visual anchor that dominates all the other elements. Or look for a visible hierarchy of 1st, 2nd, 3rd (etc.) voices. What’s dominant? What’s just background noise?
  • Find a rhythm: Straight horizontal or vertical frame-to-frame lines can convey such a sense.

For this challenge abstract pictures may work better than those showing recognizable objects. The abstract pictures in this post were made ‘using’ the battered trash container below.


Here is a list of participating posts:בהודו

33 thoughts on “Guest Challenge: Organized Noise

  1. I have to be honest. When I saw the subject of this week’s challenge I was perplexed. Now I think I understand what is required. Finding beauty, or at least acceptability, in ugliness. Though what is ugly to me might not be to you. I can’t bear to look at jellyfish and I avoid close ups of insects. A clever challenge and it’s good to see Thursday’s Special back again. 🙂


    • Thanks for the response, Jo. You need not go looking for something entirely ugly if you don’t like to. You might also think in terms of “chaos” or “clutter” and superimposing a sort of order, the order of the picture. I know this may sound overly smart but I had a while to think about it now 😉 I am looking forward to what you come up with!


  2. A stunning, gleaming, jewel-like collection of photos, and an interesting concept behind them – although it took me a few reads to comprehend! You’ve really drawn out colours that certainly don’t dominate the whole image, which, incidentally, I’m very glad you showed. I’m off to dissect a few of my own images to see what happens.

    Your comment about sights overwhelming with their complexity resonated: on my home beach I tend to photograph rock patterns rather than cliffs, and decay looks even more beautiful pulled away from its context.

    Thank you for a visual treat, and a number of provocative ideas.


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  6. Hey! Hey! Paula! You’re back. De retour. 🙂
    Ça va mieux? La pression au travail a un peu baissé?
    J’espère que tout va bien et que ton genou petit à petit se remette.


    • and it fits the bill 🙂 Thank you, Klara. I like when people come up with their own interpretation of the title. And thank you for the wishes. There won’t be a post on Sunday (am still recovering), but I left a post scheduled for Saturday for Guzman’s challenge. A month in one photo 😀


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