Margaret Noble says local clubs gave her the cold shoulder when she set out to become a DJ here. “The Underground Lounge was the most receptive. Bar Dynamite was a great place to play, and then Lips on Fifth Avenue, when it was this hot house music club.”
But there wasn’t enough work, so she moved to Chicago in 2002. She says she was into house music, that Chicago was ground zero for house, and that Chicago clubs were more receptive to women DJs. For the record, Noble spun vinyl records. She calls the skill of matching beats a sport as well as an art form.
“Everybody’s watching you, and the expectation is that you’re gonna blow it even more if you’re a female. But,” she says, “there’s only so much satisfaction you can get from mixing two records. I killed it, like, pretty hard for three years, and I felt that everything I had wanted to achieve I pretty much did.” Noble went back to school and finished her master’s degree in 2007.
“That’s when I learned production and let go of dance music.”
These days, Noble calls herself a sound artist and a producer. “I mess around with a lot of toys,” she says, meaning various noisemakers, such as a kalimba, or thumb piano, and a zither-like bowed instrument. “There are pickups on them and they’re running through [electronic] devices, and then I’m overdubbing and looping them and mixing textures and layers.”
It’s music, but can you dance to it? “I don’t like to alienate people,” she says, “but I want to challenge them on some level. I want anybody to be able to walk in and get something. But I don’t want to be so soft and so pop that it’s generic.”
Noble, 37, teaches digital art and sound production at High Tech High School in Point Loma. She says that her students like the experimental pieces she generates.
Her newest performance will be a mixed bag of industrial noises, recorded dialogue, and connective music. “I’m going to do a surround-sound experimental radio piece that is actually a remix of George Orwell’s 1984. I have an old vinyl recording of it,” she says. “I’ve been taking snippets of it and comparing it with media now, and it’s kind of morphing into a satirical pop, electroacoustic thing.” Noble will channel her soundscape through eight speakers, a process that she calls stressful.
“But,” she says, “hopefully, it will be worth it and the audience has a good experience.”
Margaret Noble will appear with Susan Naruki as part of the Fresh Sound Series on January 5 at Sushi Performance and Visual Art.