George Orwell’s 1984 Electronic Music Remix

By politicalmediareview
June 9th, 2010

Margaret Noble
Reviewed by Jason Del Gandio





George Orwell meets twenty-first century electronic agit-prop. That’s the best way to explain Margaret Noble’s latest nonprofit sound project. She begins with a 1950s vinyl recording of George Orwell’s novel 1984, famous for its depiction of a totalitarian society held captive by the three-pronged propaganda of: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength. Noble then mixes samples of the novel with protest chants, news clips, train horns, various synthesized and distorted sound widgets, and hints of jungle and ambient music. The result is a disorientated soundscape that follows in the avant-garde tradition of aesthetic agitation. The purpose is to disorient our taken for granted listening assumptions and to provoke us to new listening practices. The Orwell Remix is not simply a playful experiment, but a political intervention into contemporary culture. As Noble states in an interview:

At any given moment, all you have to do is look at the public media online, TV, and elsewhere to find Orwell’s story looming in our society. Surveillance comes in all forms from traffic cameras to ATM card transaction reports to search engine consumer tracking. The law of the government’s hand (aka Big Brother) can be tracked in so many ways. For example, how our students are educated or how our food sources [are] regulated or how our health care is administered. The other Big Brother in society is large corporations which control much of how we receive information and what choices our politicians make. Torture is also rampant and still questionable as to the success it offers in gaining accurate information. Finally, one only has to ponder the Nobel Peace [Prize] going out to someone waging war. (Fischer)

One of the things I find most interesting about the Remix is its conceptual connection between sound and politics. Sound is not a neutral opening to the world, but a site of socio-political contestation. What we hear and listen to affects our thoughts and actions; it helps construct our view of and engagement with the world. This insight is not necessarily new, as it has been addressed by someone like Phillip Glass, the great experimental composer who combined classical music and everyday sounds. Glass wanted us to actually listen to what we hear. Hints of “sound-politics” are also found in the work of such electronic artists as Aphex Twin, Meat Beat Manifesto, the Future Sound of London, Orbital, the Orb, and DJ Spooky. These artists play and experiment with sound in order to pique new orientations to the world. I believe that Noble’s Remix follows in this tradition, and does so in an overtly political manner.

It must be acknowledged that the Remix is also a nonprofit project, with all proceeds going toward Amnesty International. The project is being fully funded through donations, which go toward its completion of mixing, mastering, designing, art book publishing, vinyl pressing, and doing public outreach. When completed, it will be produced in three mediums: digital CD/download, 12 inch vinyl record pressing, and a graphic arts companion book. The profits will then be given to Amnesty International on a rolling basis.

In closing, I highly recommend visiting the Remix website, listening to some of the sample tracks, and contributing to interesting political art and a helpful cause.

Works Cited

Tobias Fischer. “Margaret Noble: Remixes George Orwell’s 1984.” Published June 2, 2010.

Project Website and Donations:

Sample Tracks:

« Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward
An Unreasonable Man »

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