Wednesday, 27 October 2010

"thoroughly ghoulish"

Voice Devoured: Artaud
and Borges on Dubbing

OCTOBER 64, Spring 1993.

    On April 19, 1929, Artaud wrote to Yvonne Allendy to inform her that
    he was completing work on the screenplay for the film The Dybbuk, which was to contain "sound fragments": "I have decided to introduce sound and even talking portions into all my screenplays since there has been such a push toward the talkie that in a year or two no one will want silent films any more."2 The script of The Dybbuk did not survive, but its very title is highly suggestive. A dybbuk is a character in Jewish folklore, a person inhabited by the spirit of someone who has died and who speaks through the mouth of that person. The ghost of the deceased torments the living person, causing him to writhe and to rave, forcing him to blaspheme against his will. This folkloric character obviously recapitulates, in its own way, the problematic of dubbing, though in an inverted form: in dubbing, the film star divests the live actor of his voice; through the dybbuk, the voice of the deceased inhabits a living body. Nevertheless, in both cases the situation remains much the same; the voice resides in someone else's body. Given his love for anagrams and of glossolalia, Artaud might well have identified one with the other, purposely retaining the foreign, English spelling of the word dubbing: dubbing-dibbouk.3 The overtly satanic subtext of an article about dubbing, which is about something "thoroughly ghoulish"-the snatching of the personality, of the soul-is crucial.


Simon Reynolds:

    Dem 2's "Don't Cry Dub" of Groove Connektion 2's "Club Lonely" is an even more ear-boggling feat of robo-glossalalia. This 1997 remix sounds like the missing link between Zapp's vocoder-funk mantra "More Bounce To the Ounce" and Maurizio's dub-house. Snipping the vocal into syllables and vowels, feeding the phonetic fragments through filters and FX, Dem 2 create a voluptuous melancholy of cyber-sobs and lump-in-throat glitches: "whimpering, wounded 'droids crying out in desolation!", as Spencer Edwards puts it.

    "You can add a different soul that wasn't there", is how Dem 2 describe this kind of vocal remixology. "Deconstruction" is not too strong a term, for what is being dismantled is the very idea of the voice as the expression of a whole human subject. "Instead of the 'organic' female singer of early garage, you get a legion of dismembered doll parts," says journalist Bethan Cole, who's writing a book about the diva in dance music. On tracks like Dem 2's remix of Cloud 9's "Do You Want Me" or Colors featuring Stephen Emmanuel's "Hold On (SE22 Mix)", the vocal --a paroxysm of hairtrigger blurts and stuttered spasms of passion--doesn't resemble a human being so much as an out-of-control desiring-machine. What you're hearing is literally cyborg --a human enhanced and altered through symbiosis with technology.