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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Avant-garde music has gone through a lot of bizarre phases. Noise music is the latest incarnation, and it's picking up some young fans. Easy digital access to the music has helped make it hot. Noise music is the subject of this week's edition of our series "What's the New What"? We're collaborating with Youth Radio to track cultural trends. Here is Avery White.

AVERY WHITE: What's the new what? In the underground of Athens, Georgia dissonance.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITE: Is the new harmony.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITE: That's right, it's happening here, the birthplace of R.E.M.

(Soundbite of song "End Of The World")

R.E.M.: (Singing) Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning, blood running. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate.

WHITE: They pushed the boundaries of lyricism. Now, musicians are pushing the boundaries of sound in a growing music scene called Noise.

(Soundbite of noise music)

Mr. DOUG PATTERSON: (Noise Musician, Member "Better People") I challenge people to listen to it. You know, I dare you to try to enjoy it because it's anti music. You know, it qualifies as, like, unlistenable.

WHITE: It might be unlistenable to some, but it's got a huge following. Doug Patterson makes noise music under the name Better People.

(Soundbite of noise music)

WHITE: Doug uses tape manipulation, effects pedals, and computer software in his creations. 21-year-old Tyler Rosebush is a fan.

Mr. TYLER ROSEBUSH: Since it's so on the spot - it's not re-rehearsed; it's not prerecorded - the final product reflects the entire process, and you're intimately acquainted with every step of the way this music is created. And, you know, nowadays, with digital music and iPods and stuff like that, it's easy to get caught up and just lost in this sea of just like stuff that is the end and not the means.

WHITE: This isn't about being weird. It's about going into another state of mind. Pop music doesn't exactly make you think with lyrics like...

(Soundbite of song "My Humps")

BLACK EYED PEAS: (Singing) What you going do with all that junk. All that junk is inside your truck. I'm gonna get get get you drunk. Get you love john off my humps, check it out.

Mr. PATTERSON: That's what my music is. My music is a rejection of pop, or it's a rejection of rock and roll because it's really, it's harsh and abrasive, and it's not a pretty thing. It's coming from a pretty angry place.

WHITE: Noise performers are challenging the notion of what music is and who qualifies as a musician. Rob Peterson is a graduate student in art at the University of Georgia. He experiments in sound sculpture and performs at live shows.

Mr. ROB PETERSON (Noise Musician): A lot of these shows, you go to, there's no stage. It's like a room in a house. A lot of times, you can't see the artist because he's on the floor. All you can do is hear because the people are literally hovering. There is no boundary between the artist and the audience.

WHITE: But if you give music by artists like Doug Patterson a chance.

Mr. PATTERSON: There's an intention behind it, and I'm trying to tell you something you know. So if you take the time, the rewards will be so much more than listening to something that's like already laid out for you.

WHITE: I do want to be challenged, and for me, that's the main difference between pop music and noise music. Without comfortable lyrics or a predictable groove, your mind works a little harder, and I like it that way.

BRAND: Avery White comes to us from Youth Radio and the University of Georgia in Athens. And you know, Alex, if you or her sources told her they use noise music as sort of a pallet cleanser or mind cleanser, it sort of wipes them clean to - and leaves them free to create other forms of music.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

What is it, kind of like a stripped-down Philip Glass?

BRAND: I guess - I guess it's whatever you kind of want it to be. Day to Day is a harmonious blend of NPR News and slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And I'm Alex Chadwick.

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