Noise Therapy

If you find yourself wandering past the Desire Bourneville Centre of Psychotherapique in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, you may hear strange mechanical sounds and loud, unearthly noises emanating from within its halls. Vivian Grezzini — a support worker with the hospital who also runs the off-the-radar noise label Underground Pollution Records and performs solo harsh noise music under the moniker Ecoute la Merde — blended his two main interests by starting the “Noise Therapic Group.”

The premise behind this project is to play harsh noise music for patients who are stuck in the early stages of mental development due to brain damage, suffer from various types of psychosis and are considered incurable by the hospital. The idea came to Grezzini because he felt the hospital workers were merely keeping these patients alive and not doing anything to help improve their quality of life. In the same way that music therapy has helped autistic patients to socialize with others through non-verbal cues, Grezzini hoped that the different sound waves in harsh noise would help the patients in his group to focus and develop social skills.

Harsh noise is a genre of avant-garde music that consists of squelching and punishing sounds such as feedback, static and distortion. When Grezzini played the music for small groups of patients, it yielded positive results; patients became more relaxed and more sociable with each session. After a year of successful sessions, Grezzini brought in live performances, inviting acts such as Interstellar Nightmare, Burial Hex, Brutal Orgasm and Motherfucking to play weekly gigs for the group.

However, not all responses to the project were positive. At first, the harsh sounds put many of Grezzini’s co-workers off, and one made an attempt to ban the concerts. Still, with the performances yielding such positive results and the fact that occupational medical facilities are zoned outside of anti-noise laws, the group has continued – and the co-worker who wanted to stop the project was told to wear earplugs.

Now with over 60 performances under the project’s belt and vast improvements made in patients’ communication and sociability, Grezzini’s co-workers have opened their minds to noise and are getting involved. Grezzini is currently planning to bring the program to other hospitals, and the program is experimenting with other genres of noise — introducing patients to their first grindcore festival in the fall. (Kevin Crump)

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