Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai

As research for our new project to do with sound we’ve been asked to look at a different sound artist each and write up an article on their background and a critique of at least one piece of work by this artist.

Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai

I have chosen Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai solely because his stagename (Alva) happens to be the name of my hometown where I grew up!

He was born in 1965 in Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany before moving to Berlin in 1990 to set up his experimental music label, Noton.

Six years later he collaborated with the like-minded Olaf Bender aka Byetone to create Raster-Noton. Archiv Für Ton Und Nichtton.

Spray (2006) by Carsten Nicolai

Noto’s work consists of transforming sounds by looping oscillators and sampling tone generators. He never uses sequencers. He also likes to decorate his tracks with fax tones, modem sounds and telephone pops and clicks and then he edits his work to add rhythmic structure.

Most of his tracks have some form of visual art to them. For example, Spray (2006) by Carsten Nicolai uses the principles of cymatics in a way that explores the idea of creativity through modularised systems and codes which is a recurring feature in Noto’s work. His art exposes the limitations and potential beauty and creativity possible within strict logical systems.

That’s as much as I know about Noto’s work for now. Whether or not it will inspire me is another question.


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