John Lane

percussionist | composer




With Hidden Noise

Duchamp:  “Everything man has handled has the fatal tendency to secrete meaning.”


With Hidden Noise was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s 1916 “readymade” sculpture of the same title.  “Readymades” are everyday objects Duchamp found, bought, or fashioned (a bicycle wheel attached to a stool, an old comb, a coat rack, etc…) which culminated in Fountain 1917 (a urinal upon which the name R. Mutt is inscribed).  With Hidden Noise is made of two brass plates which press together to hold a ball of twine.  Inside the ball of twine is a “hidden noise” placed there by Duchamp’s friend Walter Arensberg.  Duchamp instructed Arensberg to loosen the long screws holding the construction together, place a small object inside, and not inform him or anyone else what it was. 

Most of the “readymades” are inscribed with nonsensical text.  In the case of With Hidden Noise, the text is crucial to the function of the sculpture.  Inscriptions of nonsensical text (in English and French) are found on the top and bottom plate.  In order to decipher the text one has to turn the sculpture over and over, thus, producing the hidden noise. 

Today, With Hidden Noise is encased in plexiglass; the public is no longer allowed to handle the sculpture due to a need to protect it from deterioration.  Its sound profoundly silenced.