The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Lightning Rod: Exploring unconventional soundscapes with cable scene

Lilly Kubit
Highlight from Cable Scene’s November performance.

Last semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to run a house venue and put my all into it.  Unfortunately, we were only able to put on two shows. During that time, I met many talented creatives from around Pittsburgh and was fully introduced to the noise scene. Noise is exactly what it sounds like; it’s not exactly music, still conveys emotion and tells a story.  Because of its unconventionality, noise is rejected in many DIY spaces. To combat this, the venue hosted a handful of noise artists, including Collin Keys of Cable Scene.

Keys, 23, is an avant-garde ambient noise artist from Pittsburgh. A musician for half of his life, he discovered noise through a friend in high school. Keys grew a further interest after experiencing the intimate emotional environment noise shows can create. By teaching himself the ins and outs of noise mixing and Ableton software, Keys created Cable Scene. Under this project, he aims to use noise as a means to cope with trauma.

“It started in March of 2023 and it was like, ‘how can I overcome or be at ease with my trauma while not referencing it in a negative way?’ It’s like, ‘how can I move on?’ It was really like a healing process for me,” Keys said.

The creative process for making noise is fascinating, it breaks all the rules of typical music production. It’s a combination of distortion, electronic noise, warped instrumentals and fragments of lyrics.

“I think a lot of my melodies come first. I’ll be playing chords on guitar and I’ll do the lyrics later,” Keys said. “For a lot of this, it was very much like a stream of consciousness, just having the mic near me and singing into it and trying a few different takes. A lot of it wasn’t written.”

Noise heavily relies on performance; in most cases, the artists are live mixing through their set. With most songs lacking lyrics, there is a heavy emphasis on improvisation and emotion.

Keys said, “I think an important thing is letting the sound speak for itself, letting people guess what’s going to come next. I’m really into the idea of incompleteness when it comes to many of my tracks on my last set.”

Cable Scene during a performance. (Lilly Kubit)

Many noise artists, Cable Scene included, also rely on audience interaction during their performances. Talking to people and walking through the crowd are a couple of ways I have seen these artists interact. Keys added that this spontaneity in local music scenes brings vitality to these environments that you cannot find elsewhere.

As an emerging artist in Pittsburgh, Cable Scene has only played a handful of shows thus far.  Being a nontraditional artist can make booking shows challenging, especially for those in noise.

“It’s difficult whenever you’re making something that’s non-conventional in a way. You’re doing this all from a sample pad and a computer and to some people that might not be something you typically see,” Keys added.

Noise artists can have a simpler setup of a sample pad and computer, while others misuse a variety of sound equipment to create noise. They will misconnect wires, use broken devices, and even use random objects to add to their performances. The environment created is raw; there is no dancing, barely any talking— just a room full of noise. Because of this, a lot of people are quick to dismiss it as an art form.

“I feel like it’s a ‘fear’ thing,” Keys said. “Like the people might be scared to go out of their comfort zone compared to what they’re used to. People are really quick to judge what’s ‘good music.’ People could say the same thing about screamo.”

Another challenge these artists face is the lack of venues for hosting noise shows. The main venue, Collision, shut down in 2023, leaving these artists with nowhere to perform. Cable Scene’s performances have taken place at more rock-centered venues or have been part of a variety show. Even so, Keys finds the mutual respect in the scene to be admirable.

Supporting local music is one of the biggest ways you can create a community.

“I love how music makes you grow as a person even in ways you didn’t even realize,” Keys said.

Keys plans to move to Chicago this June but still wants to connect with the Pittsburgh music scene before he leaves. The Cable Scene project will also be releasing an EP in the coming months. To support Cable Scene, you can follow his Instagram here. To support your local scene, look around for shows.

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About the Contributors
Arlo Grey MacFarland
Arlo Grey MacFarland, Contributing writer
Arlo Grey MacFarland ’26 is a sophomore journalism major focusing in music and entertainment. They are the resident music writer for the Communiqué, running the “Lightning Rod” column where they interview and review concerts, musicians and venues in the Pittsburgh area. They hope to one day write for a famous music magazine such as Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, or even Fangoria. Outside of the Communiqué, they enjoy fashion, history, reading, and, of course, music. For any questions or inquiries regarding their work, Arlo can be reached at [email protected] or @ag.macfarland on Instagram. 
Lilly Kubit
Lilly Kubit, Media Editor, Photography
Lilly Kubit ‘22 is a Communications major with a double minor in Business and Photography. Living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, she wanted to stay in the area for college, and a small school like Chatham was the perfect fit. Her focus on the Communique is photography where she has created multiple photo series in her time as staff. Lilly hopes to become a globetrotting photojournalist and have her work be featured in a museum in the future. While she is interested in documenting through photography for journalistic purposes, she also loves to work on fine art photography projects, especially involving self-portraits. In her free time, Lilly stays creative by making jewelry, embroidering, and printmaking. You can contact Lilly Kubit at [email protected] or on Instagram @lilly.kubit.

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