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Harsh noise is generally considered a sub-genre of noise music with the distinguishing feature of not only being devoid of traditional music elements such as phrased melody, tonal harmony and structured rhythm; but containing textural elements (usually created through the use of electronics and/or digital signal processing) that challenge the sensibilities of the auditory system. “Harsh noise” is distinct in this regard from ambient or drone; and certainly distinct from noise rock or other “noise” genres that incorporate musical elements.

Harsh noise in its extreme may affect the listener physically by invoking adrenal responses and sometimes even pain.

Many credit Japanese noise project “Merzbow” as establishing “harsh noise”, which is distinct from the general term “noise” that may refer to European compositional works as early as the late 19th century which are stylistically dissimilar.

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