Saturday, 25 February 2012

The consonantal tyranny?

The consonants are killing me. 

Let us begin by thinking about H, as an anomalous consonant. It's breathy and always requires an exhalation; and thus can be seen as the engine behind a vowel howl. The properties of H are quite unlike the orally smothering lisps, palate-brutalist clicks and gnashing ticks of the other consonants, H is the softest, the sympathetic consonant from the chest, from the heart – it is the only non-oral consonant. It bathes the vowels (e.g. : “home”, “help”, “hehehe” and “honey”) in vaporous cloud of life, of corporeal, human life. H the signifier for ones soul, God breathed life into Adam(1), a genesis of ceramico-pneumatic poiesis – it can be argued that our breath is that of Gods, we share our respiratory material with god, when we are unconscious or asleep asleep we breath. H is the ever-present breath. Its absence is death.

Let’s take a moment to analyze the more typological characterizations of H in context with it’s consonantal peers.


H is has 2 lines of reflectional symmetry, the only other consonant that also contains these is X. X is the polar opposite of H in nature, it delivers a flurry of oral violence against the vowel. Say “HEX”, slow it down, “hheeeeccckkkkksss”, “heeeekkkst” - the X is a triad, a chimerical beast that can kill a vowel with a tumble of tongued, teethly guillotine strikes, X is a massacre, a spinning triple kick of devastating logos shackling brutality.

X marks the spot, it denotes a place, it is a mark – in the strictly Derridian sense it is a deathly cross, a morbid hieroglyphic – signifying a loss presence, a signature of void, the hand of an event that was. It is historically analogous that the X has been used a the substitute signature for the illiterate who cannot scrawl their absence, the X is chosen, not a flourish of affirmative ticks or the neutrality of the hyphen but the mortological signification of X is most apt.

But back to soulful, affirmative and positivistic H. Think of laughter: “Hehehehe”, or “Hahahaha”. Can you hear a consonant other than a silently lungosonic H in laughter? Often not, certainly not in genuine laugher; utter joy, 'hysterics' (often characterised as its ascent into pure respiratory reaction) and happiness and are often, uncontrollably expressed in a respire-centric pneumatization of H and vowels. Are these not more quite natural phenomena that support H’s corporeal sympathy, and position as an affirmative signifier of life and soul?

However, there is an exception, the sinister laugh: Mwhahaha - an exhalation of vowel howls tied to a primary foundation of consonantal control. This eruption of evil consonantal palate mechanisms entwining around genuinely animalistic and respirocentric vocalizations can be been elsewhere, in martial arts, battle cries and malicious sports chants – where by a strong animalistic vowel, a howl, is heightened (in an almost reflexive utilization of phonetic constructs) to intimidation through the aggressively rapid deployment of brutalizing consonantal phonemes. A prevalent example of this has successfully been reincarnated in modern video games (perhaps due to low quality sound, a merely tonal, vowelocentric vocalization of aggression could also be mis-understood, or mis-heard, as a cry of pain or desperation(2)). The now infamous “Hadouken” or the “ATATA” (coincidentally both triphonic) are fittingly caricaturesque examples of such sinisterly entwined consonantal and vowelian inter-phonemic dynamics.

The tyranny of consonants within language, their mode of dominance with logos against corporeal expression or sublimely alogos respiratory vocalization is becoming more ubiquitous as technologically formatted means of communication emerge. Example: predictive text. As the monopoly of the E.161 12-key telephone keypad stoically stands as our only interface for converting our agitated and twitching digits into digital code, we are jettisoning the signifiers of passion – we are missing out the vowels.

However as Reza Negarestani comments on vowels:

"the 'cognitive / writing complexity' of vowelless alphabets which itself renders the vowel-based writing systems(which cannot be merely reduced to the generally accepted dimension of WRITING) as communicational tyrannies (or effective communicational defense mechanisms); Following the recommended articles, one will finally ask “what does a vowel do?” (a simplified but crucial question)

Firstly, vowels are among the fundamental anthropomorphic oversimplifying systems over communication (worse than redundancy) Back to neo-Sumerian age: see how the channel regimes of hieroglyphs/pictographs or tools of ‘corporealization / stabilization’ and transcendental informatics directly deposit as vowels, making a consolidated repression on the cognitive interfaces or the affect space of the nervous system and how vowels are customized as the Nucleus of ‘representation’. On the hand, consider vowelless alphabets and the gates they creatively open (just a few obvious threads): right-brain processing (i.e. slow processing or taking a more engaging paths for interlocking with communication systems) [1]; engineering semantic irresolution which brings an immense tolerance of informatic pollution (suspension, horror, complexities, deferral, etc.), this offers a great potential for engaging with ambiguities and abstractions; the resistance to voice (the authority: pharaoh?) is exceptionally increased; etc.

[1] also visuo-spatial processing and the ability of identity-recognition of different objects with different configurations are highly promoted. "

Negarestani states that vowels are part of an anthropomorphism of "systems of communication". But isn't a system of communication essentially a construct? To anthropocentrically construct an intrinsically vital component of a communication system (the vowel) that so beautifully expresses, and affords space for the corporealization of language, for the whimper or the battle cry to be the pneumatico-respiratory soul between the guillotines of logos’ mercenary consonantal foot soldiers – isn’t this a valuable substitute for more autonomous or flexible forms of communication (such as digitalized programs, or mathematically formed matrices)?

Let’s reconsider the historic significatory politics of the vowel first, for as yet we have only contemplated the articulatory aspects. It is all well and good to juxtapose the eight consonantal articulations (bilabial, labiodental, interdental, alveolar, palatal, velar, glottal and uvulars) and pit them against a helplessly emotional, soft and fleshy vowel (which has one mode of articulation: airflow) – but this would be to binary, too easy. 

Rather than investigate a pareidolic mirage, echoing The Connors fight against Skynetian cyborg persecution(3), we must dig deeper. In this linguistic excavation we can return to Negarestani once more:

“vowelless alphabets are just anthropomorphic as they have been engineered by the high priests of Semitic Slaves (and in their open laboratories) who unleashed their alphabetic epidemic once they composed it (no later or extra programming) ... think using the term anthropomorphic in a negative sense (economical lines of transcendence, corporealization, expression, communication, etc) is not appropriate here ... their alphabetic epidemic hit autonomy and activated as a self-propagation germline with its own uncontrollable artificial intelligence, diversities and cognitive insurgencies as soon as it was set free ... vowelless alphabets are not anthropomorphic in this negative sense but radically artificial, emerged out of participations between different lines simultaneously: hyperstitional grasp of the universe [there is no word FICTION in ancient Hebrew because it’s already a contagious fiction], numeracy, anti-image / anti-voice cognitive patterns, etc.) ... but take the path of vowels: the authoritative corporealization systems of the early syllabic/pictographic languages (entirely based on the despotic anthropomorphism or affordance-based [J. J. Gibson] cognition with the universe through representation and corporealization) are directly deposited as vowels. Vowels are also autonomous in some respects as they restrain, direct and manage, re-organize and smuggle the initial anthropomorphic transcendence of the pictographs’ corporealization systems and their cognitive / vocal repressions through the progression (evolution?) of vowel-based alphabets ... vowels are watchers: they maintain programs of their nucleus. They carry and develop their nucleus without introducing much diversity to it -- only re-organization of their nucleus by re-organizing themselves. Vowels (re-)manage and optimize the initial despotic corporealization processes and the VOICE (Who?: Pharaoh, God, Cosmos, Oedipus, Sphinx?) lurking within them from the first syllabic/pictographic place.”

Corporealizatory linguistic evolution as a product of repression from anthropological corpo-forms – the ancient logograms harboured an anthropological tyranny, rooted in repression, and this tyranny has evolved into the vowel graphemes and phonemes of today. Should we re-think vowels as the breathy, harmonious, resonantal, ghostly, Siren-Cyclons that haunt and thwart our voyage to the Eden of truly autonomous communication? Or rather should we simply cherish their corporeality, their autonomy from communication constructs and their opportunity as gates to the animalistic? Is this another form of the  dyadic extimacy within the voice?

(1)See Sloterdijk, for further ceramic-pneumatic analysis in Genesis.
(2)This also aligns the platonic thread of logoscentricism against the voice as harmony or music – of meaning and sense being the the side car of political, phallocentric dominance.
(3)Or simply allows one to dredge up Dolarian dyadicisms – the ineradictable extimacies of consonantal/vowelific phonotactics..

Useful links and stuff

Akkadian Language
The Old Babylonian Period (c. 1900-1500 BCE) Languages recording at SOAS - Mark on predictive texts
Mark and Reza on vowel elimination  - etc

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Another Dolar Interview

Nice little interview with Mladen Dolar over on wie geht kunst 

Phone Phreaks

Just been listening to a very interesting Radiolab episode that featured the following story....

"In the mid 1950's, a blind seven-year-old boy named Joe Engressia Jr. made a discovery that changed his own life and many others. While idly dialling information on the family telephone, he heard a high-pitched tone in the background and started whistling along with it. Slowly, he learned to recognise all kinds of tones, pulses, clicks and beeps that the phone system used to talk to itself. And when he got good at decoding those sounds, he became the grandaddy of a whole movement of like-minded obsessives known as "Phone Phreaks".

Basically this guy learned to speak telephone!!!! How cool is that. Lends something interesting to musings from a few weeks ago on the telephonic voice / body / grain and the signification of the dial tone.

Listen to the episode here (Starts around 50:00)

Read more about Phone Phreaking here

The Voice in Bubbles

Here's a vococentric snippet from a longer post here about Peter Sloterdijk's 'Bubbles'

Secondly, and almost contradictory, in each of Sloteridjk’s metaphorical springboards of theory and his jerry rigging of countless conveniently homogenous examples, one can find exciting seams of thought provoking re-readings. The Siren Stage chapter is particularly fascinating for me; for after many weeks of enthralling but (distinctly Lacanian) voco-phronesis his approach to the Voice’s genesis via in-utero (specifically skeletal resonance through the mothers pelvis bone) aurality felt like a revelation, I may have paused for a moment or two to digest what I was reading, there may be critically important phenomena concerning aurality and voco-centric perception before a child is born, let alone the mirror phase:

“Recent psychoacoustic research, especially that of the French otorhinolaryngologist and psycholinguist Alfred Tomatis and his school, has attempted a suggestive explanation of the unusual selectivity of the human ear that manifests itself in the siren effect. Not only do these investigations in the human auditory sense and it’s evolution show beyond doubt that unborn children can already hear extremely well because of the ear’s early development – possibly from the embryonic stage onwards, and certainly in the second half of pregnancy; in addition, there are impressive observations showing that this early listening ability does not result in the fetus being passively at the mercy of the mother’s sonic inner life, or the water-filtered voices and noises of the outside world. Rather, the fetal ear already develops the ability to find it’s bearings in the ever-present, invasive sonic environment actively through independent, lively listening and non-listening. As Tomatis untiringly emphasizes, the child’s stay in the womb would be unbearable without the specific ability not to listen and to mute large areas of noices, as the mother’s heartbeat and digestive sounds, heard in such close proximity, would be like the noise from a 24-hour building site or lively barroom conversation. If the child did not learn to avert it’s ears at an early stage, it would be ravaged by permanent noise torture.” (Sloterdijk, 2011, pp. 501-502)

Allegedly Tomatis has shown that the unborn child has selective hearing, it ignores the cacophony of respiratory hummings and digestive gurglings in order to be at peace. However there is an more intriguing effect of this in-utero aural selectivity: in-utero vococentricism as subject creation (!):

“The child’s state as the object of the mother’s expectations is conveyed by the audio-vocal means to the fetal ear, which, upon hearing the greeting sound, unlocks itself completely and takes up the sonorous invitation. By adopting a posture of listening, the happy and active ear devotes itself to the words of welcome. In this sense, devotion is the subject-forming act par excellence, for devoting oneself means rousing oneself into the necessary state of alertness to open up to the sound that concerns you. (…)
From the subject’s earliest beginnings, the ray of intentionality with which it “relates” itself to something given has an echo character. Only because it is intended by the mother’s voice can it intend the enlivening voice itself. The audio-vocal pact creates a two-way traffic in a ray; enlivening forces are answered with a rising of the self to liveliness” (Sloterdijk, 2011, pp. 504-505)

“Because it is able to listen, the fetal ear can selectively highlight the mothers affirming voice amid the constant intrauterine noise. In this gesture the incipent subject experiences a euphoriant stimulation; according to Tomatis, it is the overtones of the mother’s soprano voice in particular that offer an irresistible stimulus of joy. To make these claims plausible, Tomatis interpreted the mother’s entire body as a musical instrument – albeit one that does not serve to play a piece to the listener, but rather brings about the original tuning of the ear. The transmission of high and extremely high frequencies in the soft, sound-swallowing bodily milieu is enabled, according to Tomatis, by the unusual conductivity and resonant quality of the skeleton; the mothers pelvis in particular is supposedly capable of conveying the subtlest high frequency vibrations of the mother’s voice to the child’s ear like the back of a cello. This ear listens at the mothers pelvic floor and spine as a curious visitor listens at a door behind which he suspects delightful presents. What the little guest cannot yet know is that this listening is its own reward, and that seeking to reach the other side would be futile. The joy of anticipation already contains the wealth of the enjoyable” (Sloteridijk, 2011, pp. 507)


“This shows that humans emerge without exception from a vocal matriarchy: this is the psychological reason for the siren effect. But while Homer’s Sirens produce sweet obituaries, the mother’s siren voice is anticipatory: it prophesizes a sounding fate for the child. In listening to it the fetal hero embarks on his own odyssey. The irreplaceable voice utters an immediately self-fulfilling prophecy: “you are welcome” or “you are not welcome”. Thus the mother’s vocal frequency becomes a Last Judgment shifted back to the beginning of life.” (Sloteridjk, 2011, pp. 508-509).

There is, or course a rather obvious connection here to the original acousmatic voice and its cropping up in literature and film, the original source-less vocal in The Wizard of Oz, Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (Prince Myshkin listening behind the door) and Door scene in Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: “"Ah, that's not Jekyll's voice--it's Hyde's!" cried Utterson. "Down with the door, Poole!"”. However, the idea of the matriarchal voice, selectively perceived through an intrauteral skeletal resonance, as the original moment of subject formation feels radical. Firstly because it departs with the well worn, western, and ocular-centric mirror stage, but more interestingly because it leads me to connect this original voice, to language – in particular to the relationship of vowel howls in language, and the mechanistically cranial dominance of consonants.

In reference my own musing’s around Vowel Stripped Tic-Talk of “the excavation of the vowel as screaming, howling primordial remnant” and “the dichotomy or extimacy of consonants and vowels as another manifestation of the conflict at the core of language, or conflict of the animal and flesh against order and post anthropoid communication constructs” I have a question to pose. Wouldn’t the soprano tones of the original matriarchal voice be vowels? Can such violent consonantal/vowel splices such as “Kcht” , “PPh” or “St” resonate though to the fetal hero via the mother’s skeletal vocal door? I doubt it.  So, I’d like to add to Sloteridjk’s observations of the original “subject-forming act par excellence”  and propose that, on top of being pre-mirror stage, the catalyst, the core of this intrauteral voco/aural revelation for the fetus is a vowel, and not a consonant. In regard to this I’d like to re-think the previous texts I’ve studied concerning the voice – for example, when Roland Barthes speaks of “The Grain of The Voice”- is he referring to the consonants as well? The dyadic relation ship of consonantal brutality inflicted upon the original vowel is, for me at least, emerging as an important dyad within the dyad of the voice.

Also - in light of this, I felt I ought to re-diagrammatize the voice diagram, I have removed the circle that denotes voice, as voice is spectral. I have also merged the different territories of voice so that their confluences can be thought around more. I have tried to label where Tic-Talk and intrautero original voice fits in. Don't ask me to label presence!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Lacanian Map (II part, I am so bad with blogs )

The child born in to language tries to master reality with his speech. His action destroys the thing that it causes to appear and disappear in the anticipating provocation of its absence and presence: fort, da! Words and speech (as question) represent the eternalization of his desire for the other. ‘That is the only life that endures and that is true’. p.103

There is in negation a final triumph: the subject says ‘NO!’ to the identification with the other. In this sense speech is more than a metaphor because it reveals at the same time the dialectic of desire and its mastering through speech and words. Both this two things establish subjectivity and speech reveals itself to be its structure.

The subject brings his solitude to realization p. 105

‘The psychoanalytic experience has rediscovered in man the imperative of the Word as the law that has formed him in its image. It manipulates the poetic function of language to give to his desire its symbolic mediation. THAT IS THE GIFT OF SPEECH. IT IS BY WAY OF THIS GIFT THAT ALL REALITY HAS COME TO MAN AND IT IS BY HIS CONTINUED ACT THAT HE MANTAINS IT p. 106

Lacanian Map (sorry for the delay in posting this O_o)

III The resonances of interpretation and the time of the subject in psychoanalytic technique

‘Two body psychology’: The analysis is exemplar both of the structure of speech and the one of subjectivity: since the subjectivity of the analyst (free of all restraint) leaves the subject at the mercy of every summons of his speech, to apprehend himself as an object p. 91

The sovereign freedom of the signifier: to free the patient’s speech we introduce him to the language of his desire. Beyond what he tells us of himself, he is already talking to us unknown to himself p.81

The repressed symbol makes itself heard: the analyst can play the power of the symbol by evoking it in the semantic resonances of his remarks p.82

Language is not a sign: this made speech fall into discredit among us (in search of the sign). The bees example to show what a sign is: generic and not conventional. P.84

Language is instead dialectic: ‘it refers to the discourse of the other’. The highest function of speech is to invest the other person with a new reality p. 84

Speech is a bondage of subjectivities and for that is in antinomy to language: ‘As language becomes more functional, it becomes improper for speech, and as it becomes too particular to us, it loses its function as a language’. Language that moves closer to information is imputed to be laden with redundancies p.85

The responsibility of the analyst whenever he intervenes by means of speech is to recognize or abolish the patient as a subject p.87

I’ and ‘me’ are different in the subject: his ego is not identical with the presence that is speaking to the analyst! p. 90

The function of Language is not to inform but to evoke. In speech I want the response of the other. What constitutes me as a subject is my question. No computer can make a reaction out of what a result could be p.86

To respond to the patient the analyst has to recognize where his ego (formed as verbal nucleus) is: he has to know through whom and for whom the subject poses his question p.89

Intersubjectivity of Speech

and the Figure of the Analyst p. 78

There is something else in place in the analysis: something that goes beyond language and words and is imbued of symbolic resonances and expresses itself through speech, represented and embodied in speech.

The analyst gives to the true speech of the subject the sanction of his reply: but thereby he shows that true speech already contains its own reply p.95

Like the dialectic of the master and the slave the patient enjoys the simple puntuation and the analyst’s speech because it maks his progresses: revealing his own feelings about his labour. The same dialectic between ego and superego is established à SEDUCTION p.99

"This is Not A Story My People Tell" Susan McClary

Link to "This is Not A Story My People Tell"
Susan McClary


Monday, 20 February 2012

Mabuse Bouche

Couple of clips relating to the Chion text...couldn't find the Psycho landing scene..can anyone else?

Was also looking for the out-of-sync clip from Naked Lunch that Charlie mentioned a few weeks back. Couldn't find that (not sure where it crops up in the film) but found this instead. It seemed relevant!

Slightly regret watching all of these pre going to sleep....

Voice Diagram

I thought I'd make a quick diagram of the voice and it's existences/ avenues of being. When I being to think about The Voice I always find myself straying away from strict voco-centric enquiry onto much larger themes in Language, Music or Oral. It's so easy to do this (well for me I feel) because the voice is so slippery, it can shift from the essence of presence to the horror of un-presence at the flick of a switch, and so when thinking around voice I feel I always need to squint at this spectral, ontologically autonomous entity(▲) rather than get my teeth into much more tangible ideas concerning the territories that Voice shifts through or effects.

(▲) That I suppose makes The Voice so fascinating to think about/around.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Singing in the (G)rain

Inevitability a life long love of Singing in the Rain (1952) will probably mean I end up writing my flipping essay about it....apologies in advance.

Some random clips, notes and trivia....

Don and Lina are thrust from the safety of silence into the talkies. Their emergence from a mute state lends something uncomfortable to their spectacular status. It's not simply a case of turning the volume up on business as usual (although Lena comments positively "It sounds good and loud!") - somehow the revelation of their voices creates something of a 'generalized catastrophe in the sphere of gestures' as Agamben would say. ('Notes on Gesture' in Means without End: Notes on Politics). The voice PLUS the expressive body creates an unbearable over-spill that is not so noticeable when they are silent and the body has to compensate. The voice is plus de corps: both the surplus of the body, a bodily excess, and the no-more body, the end of the corporeal" as Dolar puts it. (AVANM p71). It is more than - so contaminated with presence and meaning that the body and voice end up working against one another even when technically in sync as in the clip. 

A slightly daft aside but came to mind in reference to Tristam's discussion of vowels and consonants in relation to the Barker text. Here Cosmo visualizes the difficulties of getting your face around languages patterns and vowels encased in the codified alliteration of consonants. (0.00 - 0.14 for example - thereafter for pure joy). 

The entire film hinges on the possibility of voices being able to bounce around from body to body. It literally doesn't seem to matter - as long as they can deal with the problem of synchronicity. 

Arguably, Kathy Selden's smooth purr of a voice fits better with the golden, movie star persona than Lina Lamont's own squeaky New York brogue. It's interesting that having experienced the unfortunate  reverse disacousmatisation of her voice in the earlier scenes of the doomed 'Duelling Cavalier' - audiences are willing to accept that while her speaking voice may grate, she was in fact an accomplished songbird all along. Even when she makes her ill-advised speech (raw and unprepared with no dubbing possible) there is still the call for her to 'sing!' telling us more about the transformative possibility of the singing voice that Barthes discusses and that crops up in Kafka's reference to piping - something transporting, soothing and unbound to logos?? A body can be split not only by the voice therefore but also by the mode of the voice..

The crux of the film basically is the general opinion that Lina's voice does not fit in her body and that someone should really do something about it (leaving aside for now the additional fact that Lina's voice sounds totally different inside her own head - an extreme example of which disconnect can be found in this Radiolab podcast) . The real killer for Singing in the Rain is the fact that even this allegoriesd rearrangement and reassigning of voices to bodies is completely constitutive in the making of the film. 

Jean Hagen (the actress portraying Lina) actually had a beautiful voice which was in fact used as the supposed dubbed speaking voice that Kathy gives to Lina. Kathy's own singing voice, the prized discovery that saves the day was actually dubbed for actress Debbie Reynolds by an un-credited Betty Noyes (Noise?!?) The clip "Would You" above actually restores Reynolds' own version of the song. Not quite as good at fit as the disembodied  Noyes but still not far off the mark..

Fall further down the spiral with this snippet of dialogue dubbed in French... 

So, bodies and voices flying around unconnected all over the place. Interesting that they are mainly female voices - is the film telling us that these are are easier to relocate? 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

'Barker Speaks' presentation notes (adorned with oral images)

Here are the notes that myself and Laura prepared for our Barker Speaks presentation, a key quote from the text IS repeated, but I wanted to preserve the flow of the presentation and post Anna Greenspans posts in it's entirety too. This may not be the most fascinating read (it's presentation notes afterall), but I thought it'd be an idea to keep the genesis and references of primordial vowel howls and logos-cyborgian tic-talk online and visible and calcified in the dead hieroglyphics of HTML!

Notes on Barker Speaks – The Ccru interview with Professor D. C. Barker: Palate Tectonics - It’s got you by the throat. 

The interview is not so much an interview as a set of prose, beautifully, proto-occultian, neo-(grim)noir deleuzian, cthullhian cyberpunkian, hyperstitional voco-cryptics calcified in the morbid hieroglyphics of html.

(Laura) "While explaining his concept of Palate-Tectonics to the Ccru, Professor Barker said: "Due to erect posture the head has been twisted around, shattering vertebro-perceptual linearity and setting-up the phylogenetic preconditions for the face. This right-angled pneumatic-oral arrangement produces the vocal-apparatus as a crash-site, in which thoracic impulses collide with the roof of the mouth. The bipedal head becomes a virtual speech-impediment, a sub-cranial pneumatic pile-up, discharged as linguo-gestural development and cephalization take-off. Burroughs suggests that the protohuman ape was dragged through its body to expire upon its tongue. Its a twin-axial system, howls and clicks, reciprocally articulated as a vowel-consonant phonetic palette, rigidly intersegmented to repress staccato-hiss continuous variation and its attendant becomings-animal. That's why stammerings, stutterings, vocal tics, extralingual phonetics, and electrodigital voice synthesis are so laden with biopolitical intensity - they threaten to bypass the anthropostructural head-smash that establishes our identity with logos, escaping in the direction of numbers."

What first might sound like an impenetrable paragraph might become clearer with a more literal take and lay out the linguistic background for this “interview” in order to tackle Prof. Barkers voco-cryptix. The interview blurs the borders between traditional academic text, it creates a meandering or nomadic thought that draws heavily on Deleuze & Guattari notion of “deterritorialization”: it fusions theory with fiction, philosophy and natural sciences such neurology, bacteriology, thermodynamics, metallurgy, as well as chaos and complexity theory, become indistinguishable.

The interview is Applied Rhizomatics: Deleuze & Guattari suggest the rhizome as a new model, a map, of writing, a model that gets rid off the objekt of writing: “There is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and a field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author). Rather, an assemblage establishes connections between certain multiplicities drawn from each of these orders, so that a book has no sequel nor the world as its object nor one or several authors as its subject.” Rhizomatic writings refuse notions of stability or ontological thought, they rather create a state of fluxus, conjunctions of unexpected milieus.

A Rhizome is a more of a mapping rather than a tracing. Deleuze writes, “What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious”

Expression is not a language-using mind, it is not rooted in a singular body. Expression, according to Deleuze and Guattari, is in constant flux, it is fluid, it disseminates where there is potential for what may become. It is this rhizomatic writing, with its fluidity of content and expression, the mutual inhabitation of objects and subjects, the lines of flight connecting schizoanalysis, geotrauma, neurology and biology that separates Logos from the word, meaning becomes a free floating vector rather than a fixed, frozen constant. This writing becomes dense and schizophrenic, a web of interconnected concepts, the development of a new vocabulary without a pause for explanation or definition. It is this unstable, deterritorialized field of content and expression, with its nomadic Logos that serves as a starting point to tackle this interview. (Laura)

In the small hours, whilst googling “pneumatic oral arrangements” I stumble across old Hyperstition posts where Anna Greenspan, directly quotes Professor Barkers concept of Palate Tetonics as well as mentioning an artificial intelligence machine that could communicate without vowels….

“Vowel-Stripped Tic-Talk”

It's got you by the throat.

It might seem that vowels are more anthropomorphic than consonants - one can 'say' aaaiieeooouuu - but try saying kkttccc without adding vowel sounds.

Ccru discussed this issue with a (now sadly obsolesced) corporate AI called Marvin, who could chatter (vowelless) click-chitterings and polyrhythmic stutterings. Rather than using a voice synthesizer to simulate human speech, Marvin used it to exhume the inhuman 'within' language.

Yet, while it is tempting to disparage vowels as humanizing sounds, Professor Barker seems to have a more elaborate analysis, in which both 'sides' are primordially inhuman - after all, you can't actually 'say' aaaiieeooouuu, you can only howl it. It is 'vowelization' of consonantal difference that humanizes click-code into a language, but it is not vowels themselves that produce the human. Man emerges from a speech synthesis (rather than arising from a howl).

While explaining his concept of Palate-Tectonics to the Ccru, Professor Barker said: "Due to erect posture the head has been twisted around, shattering vertebro-perceptual linearity and setting-up the phylogenetic preconditions for the face. This right-angled pneumatic-oral arrangement produces the vocal-apparatus as a crash-site, in which thoracic impulses collide with the roof of the mouth. The bipedal head becomes a virtual speech-impediment, a sub-cranial pneumatic pile-up, discharged as linguo-gestural development and cephalization take-off. Burroughs suggests that the protohuman ape was dragged through its body to expire upon its tongue. Its a twin-axial system, howls and clicks, reciprocally articulated as a vowel-consonant phonetic palette, rigidly intersegmented to repress staccato-hiss continuous variation and its attendant becomings-animal. That's why stammerings, stutterings, vocal tics, extralingual phonetics, and electrodigital voice synthesis are so laden with biopolitical intensity - they threaten to bypass the anthropostructural head-smash that establishes our identity with logos, escaping in the direction of numbers."

- Ccru Shanghai

Posted by Anna Greenspan at July 17, 2004 03:38 AM

In the comments section of the site I find posts by Mark and Reza Negarestani, they hint at the (in many ways Lacanian notion) of language/logos as mutilation, as well as exploring language as virus and the role of vowels within this dynamic.

Reza expands on the vowel’s influence further and remarks on aaaiieeooouuu and hhhaaaaiiiieeeeehhh:

Anna this is a great text ... hopefully gives some space to speak about the inhuman space of vowels.

>>> Yet, while it is tempting to disparage vowels as humanizing sounds, Professor Barker seems to have a more elaborate analysis, in which both 'sides' are primordially inhuman.

The opening passage of Vendidad on Druj (The Mother of Abominations) have already narrated that the Abomination is inseparable from the sound, sound is the harbinger of the Abomination. aaaiieeooouuu and similar compositions are vowels anomalies, they simultaneously call upon the entire uttering machinery of human (a simultanous activation of all vocalizing components), flasing into what lies behind vowels and the vocalizing system in a matter of second. Old Iranian dervishes were completely familiar with the vowel-howls of the Abyss (Mowlavi or Rumi is one of the pioneers): hhhaaaaiiiieeeeehhhhh, etc (used for communication).

Such compositions are creatively digging up the inhuman howls behind vowels, but not the certain repressions that vowels plug into the nervous system via more widespread compositions of themselves.

Although vowels are auto-sabotaging agents but can’t get rid of appropriating processes they install on cognitive interfaces; while their tails diagram the Abysmal sounds (rattling insurgencies of vowels), their heads which generally pop up first are narrating a wide variety of systematic repressions. >>> in which thoracic impulses collide with the roof of the mouth.

The dominant vocalizing machineries of some languages creatively try to evade this compulsory collision. Arabic language has possibly the most capable vocalizing system that usually escapes this panorama. It has strange letters whose vocalization processes are not linear at all. The letter Ghaaf, letters Ha and Haa, letters Ayn and Ghain, etc. As I’ve previously discussed it with Nick, these letters are the curses of Arabic pronunciation system for speakers of other languages. Even Farsi speakers usually have difficulties.

One should be a crazed wolf and at the same time breathe as a lycanthrope to discharge the sound of the letter Ha. To vocalize 'Ghaaf', one should be a partly blocked tube attached to nothing.

To initiate as a Jay’s disciple, Col. West must be able to pronounce the letters Ha and Ghaaf; this ensures Jay that he has finally kicked the Delta-Force Qaaf-Complex out of his mind and mouth. Posted by: Reza at July 17, 2004 05:53 AM

PS. >>> Ccru discussed this issue with a (now sadly obsolesced) corporate AI called Marvin, who could chatter (vowelless) click-chitterings and polyrhythmic stutterings. Rather than using a voice synthesizer to simulate human speech, Marvin used it to exhume the inhuman 'within' language.

This is parallel to the note on the MURMURing sound-space of occult rituals derived from Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East. (Solar Rattle: Posted by: Reza at July 17, 2004 06:51 AM

Mark quotes Burroughs on Speaking Arabic:

But when it comes to Oriental languages you are using a whole different set of muscles and neural patterns... so you're bound to have a sore throat, just like your legs are sore after riding a horse for the first time... And Arabic is frankly the worst.. It literally cuts an English-speaking throat... Spitting blood is one of the first symptoms, though not necessarily the worst.. It is the stutter of neural response - remember when you first tried to row a gondola? The way you couldn't possibly get it, and you r muscles knotted up and you were making spastic gestures with the oar and the feeling in your stomach and groin, that sort of packing dream tension almost sexual...? And then suddenly you could do it? Well it's like that, only worse... And there is the gap between languages that can be terrifying... the great silences... Burroughs, Place of Dead Roads, 206-207 Posted by: mark at July 18, 2004 10:14 AM (Laura)

I find the excavation of the vowel as screaming, howling primordial remnant fascinating. The ordering of vowel’s through inhuman consonants (as a way of shackling our howls to an order) feels not dissimilar to some of the notions explored in Dolar’s The Voice and Nothing More. Reza’s and Mark’s examples of this vowel-trauma in non Arabic speakers learning Arabic are fantastic, I was speaking with a friend this weekend how is learning Arabic and she told me that words like ‘dog’ and ‘heart’ composed of exactly the same order of consonants, the only difference being the vowel sound – but this vowel sound is not always written, sometimes the vowel sound is missed in a kind of shorthand (I guess). I think the dichotomy or extimacy of consonants and vowels is another manifestation of the conflict at the core of language, for conflict of the animal and flesh against order and post anthropoid communication constructs.

Interesting enough that gargling in different ways is very helpful for learning how Ghaaf and Ghayn are pronounced (and especially recommended in basic Arabic courses); but the best way is speaking with a butchered throat, open arteries, veins and windpipe. Posted by: Reza at July 19, 2004 08:35 AM

From Shogun Assassin / Liquid Swords:

"When cut across the neck a sound like wailing winter winds is heard...I'd always hoped to cut someone like that one day, to hear that sound. But to have it happen to my own neck is ri..dicu...lous...." Posted by: L?RK?R at July 19, 2004 06:00 PM

>>>But to have it happen to my own neck is ri..dicu...lous...

A clever policy to remain an English-speaker, forever ;) (or maybe i'm wrong.)

also reminds me the last line of Borges' 'The End of the Duel'”(1)

But palate tectonics go back further as Kent G. Bailey studies in Human Paleopsychology 1987.

“The split brain research of Roger Sperry and his colleagues in the 1950’s revolutionized neuropsychology. This and the subsequent research on the brain hemisphericity revealed that the neocortex is really two brains rather than the one. The left brain specializes in language, speech and linear-rational functions, whereas the right brain is more imaginistic, holistic, intuitive, and spatially oriented. It is not clear as to why the human brain became lateralized, but several contending theories were discussed.

The interplay between brain structures is not only basically horizontal, as with left-hand brain interaction, but vertical as well. Paul MacLean view the human brain as like an archeological site composed of the recently evolved neocortex, the mammalian brain, and the reptilian brain. Our brain is thus really a “triune brain” composed of phylogenetically primitive reptilian structures, upon which are situated the paleomammalian structures, and, finally, sitting at the top of the hierarchy is the phylogenetically advanced neocortex. Although distinct neurochemically and behaviourally, the three brains interact functionally and dynamically, both protagonistically and antagonistically.. It is important to note that we humans share much of the repitilian and mammalian brain matter with lower animals, and that only at the neocortal level is the animal-human differential great.

Perhaps more than anything else, human speech enabled man to phylogenetically progress beyond animals. Human speech was something new in the evolutionary process; communication was now a basically neocortal phenomena involving transfer of auditory symbols rather than the transfer of gestural information in the visual modality. It was now possible to communicate in distinctive human fashion. Still, as Laughlin and d’ Aquili (1974) point out, human language is based on animal forms of communication and is only distinctive to a degree.

The phylogenetic regression-progression model is heavily indepted to MacLeans hierarchical brain concept. Following MacLean, we may think of the brain as a dynamic cerebral system involving reptilian components, mammalian components, and the right and the left neocortal components, all intertwined in a mutually interactive symphony of excitation and inhibition as behavior occurs when the lower centres take the upper hand.” (Baily, 1987, pp. 73-74) (2)

Again, I feel this is echoing the earlier notion of the primordial (or perhaps cthulhian) animal in conflict with the post anthropoid, human, communication construct – there is an extimacy at the core (both phonically, metaphorically and also, perhaps, physically/cerebrally- neurolinguistically).


1. (last accessed 25/01/2012)

2. Kent G. Bailey, 1987. Human Paleopsychology: Applications To Aggression and Patholoqical Processes. 1 Edition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

3. Authors diagram.

(Laura) The Burroughs text we’ve had to read also reflects this primordial animal that is without language.

“In the pass the muttering sickness leaped into our throats, coughing and spitting in the silver morning ... body melting pleasure-sounds in the warm mud. till the sun went and blue wind of silence touched human faces and hair. when we came out of the mud we had names”

If the subject is perceived to be essentially a function of language, its rigorous mediation and that of the symbolic order then Burroughs deliberately shatters subjectivity into pieces. Burroughs puts it that way: Your "I" is a completely illusory concept, he thus does away with a narrative voice, dismissing the reader into linguistic limbo, a pre-logos state of primate bliss, a being without names, without subjectivity. In a way, he aims to speak outside of language as he dismantles the presupposition of an autonomous self. There is no self, no Logos that speaks to us from Burroughs text.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Notes on "The Telephone Book"

Avital Ronell

b. 1952, currently professor at New York University

Studied with Derrida and translated many of Derrida’s texts to English

The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech

(1989) University of Nebraska Press

Through the University of Nebraska Press Ronell met Richard Eckersley (b. 1941– d. 2006) – who collaborated on the book’s design, specifically through the use computer-designed typography (the first book he designed on the computer).

The book begins with a warning “The Telephone Book is going to resist you. Dealing with a logic and topos of the switchboard, it engages the destabilization of the addressee. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn to read with your ears. In addition to listening for the telephone, you are being asked to tune your ears to noise frequencies, to anticoding, to the inflated reserves of random indeterminateness - in a word, you are expected to stay open to the static and interference that will occupy these lines.”

Ronell’s book investigates “the call.” “Accepting a call.” (Ronell 13) Calling or responding to it. The “transcendental predicament of accepting a call.” “To whom or what are we listening?” (medimatic)

As a brief aside, much of the book focuses on Ronell’s investigations into Heidegger, and his relationship to National Socialism, his accepting a call, the “transfer of power.” (15) Ronell describes that “Later, Heidegger would locate himself at a remove from National Socialism by linking the movement to technology. … Heidegger wants to mourn technology, but it proves to be unmournable as yet, that is, undead and very possibly encrypted.” (16)

This moment, Heidegger’s involvement in Nazism as “the worst moment in the history of technology” (16) requires a deep investigation, an inquiry into the call itself. As Ronell explains in The Telephone Book: “You don’t know who’s calling or what you are going to be called upon to do, and still you are lending your ear, giving something up, receiving an order.” (Ronell 2)

As a result, Ronell’s text sets out to destabilize authority:

“In some ways [the telephone is] the cleanest way to reach the regime of any number of metaphysical certitudes. It destabilizes the identity of the self and other, subject and thing, it abolishes the originaryness of site; it undermines the authority of the Book and constantly menaces the existence of literature. It is itself unsure of its identity as object, thing, piece of equipment, perlocutionary intensity or artwork … it offers itself as instrument of the dentinal alarm, and the disconnecting force of the telephone enables us to establish something like the maternal superego.” (Ronell 9)

Eduardo Kac in “Aspects of the Aesthetics of Telecommunications” describes Ronell’s text as “[oscillating] between orality and writing in the connections and reroutings of a metaphorical switchboard.” Kac considers her text to be an experimental artwork, similar to the experimental work of artists since the late 1970s who have used the telephone as a source of inspiration.

As Diane Davis tells us in the introduction to “The Uber Reader,” Ronell proposes that “… given the complexity of its destination and destiny, there will be no way to know for sure that a call has been put out, or that it’s meant for you, that you are the one called.” … “in the telephone book, Ronell boldly [proposes] that any call, including the “call of conscience,” could be a kind of prank call.”

The chapter we read is titled “The Returns: The Dead – AGB” where AGB is of course Alexander Graham Bell, Bell being the central figure of Ronell’s investigation.

The chapter begins with “emergency supplies to dress the wound” … what wound is this? The wound of technology? Of distance, of disability?

Ronell uses the chapter to circle Bell’s invention of the telephone (the founding of what we can broadly define as telecommunications) as the result of Bell’s desire to “invent an enabling machine to make the dead hear the vibrations of the air.” (329) A primal desire for phantasmal voices that extends not only from the death of Bell’s brother but from Bell’s obsession with the “deaf,” defined as those who cannot hear ... a population Ronell distinguishes into the prelingual deaf and the postlingual deaf: “for those deafened postlingually, the world remains full of sounds even though they are ‘phantasmal.’” Whereas the prelingual deaf, according to Ronell, are denied entry into the Symbolic, both occupy a position “unable phenomenally to hear the Other.” (328)

Ronell claims that Bell’s central interest is not the functional repair of a hearing mechanism, but the production of a phantasmal connection to the Other. A mechanical repair of death. Connecting again to what is lost. Ronell claims “Bell was not as such a scientist or technologist. Rather, he was an artist of the beyond …” (323).

Bell was supported in this fascination by his partner Thomas Watson, who was a dedicated spiritualist and spent evenings at nightly séances in Salem, MA. … Witch trials? Perhaps this is one wound that Bell and Watson seek to heal?

The catalyst for Bell’s invention is appropriately the severed ears of a corpse, attained by Dr. Clarence J. Blake from the Harvard Medical School. As Ronell narrates, Bell takes the ears to his father’s residence in Brantford, CT in 1874, and causes them to speak. This was achieved through a small piece of hay, substituted for the bristle of the phonograph, attached to the severed ear, which then vibrated onto a sheet of glass covered in lampblack (lampblack being a kind of dusty coating formed from the collected soot taken from oil lamps).

On this sheet of glass, Bell taught the ear to speak, but also to listen – to embody the electrical organ of speech in death: “In his father’s house he conceived something like a child by a dead ear, conceived with or for his father, which means he as his mother conceived his father’s child …. One membrane with two ends, giving birth to the gift of death …” (334)

This is the birth of electric speech, not only an electric séance, but a new organ: simultaneously the nipple and the labia. “Suction clicks and expulsion clicks.” (348) The body nourished through condensed milk: the vampire, the cannibal.

Ronell illustrates Bell’s interest in this connection between the self and Other through his breeding experiments in 1889: “The experiments take the form of studying the maternal body, which by mutilation and annexation, can be modified into a permanent state of incubation. In this sense AGB initiates a pre-genetic tampering, splitting the nipple in two in order to multiply it, in order to keep the maternal machine going.” (339).

She goes on to say:

“Precisely because the telephone was itself conceived as a prosthetic organ, as supplement and technological double to an anthropomorphic body, it was from the start installed within a concept of organ transplant, implant, or genetic remodeling …” (340).

For Ronell, Bell’s invention must be seen within the path of modern technology, a history she claims is “inseparable from catastrophe.” (341). Here Ronell connects us to the call of condensed milk, a creation of Gail Borden in 1849 to broadly preserve the nutritious properties of meat, or flesh of any kind, in response to his own personal horror over media coverage of the Donner party, a group of pioneers forced into cannibalism to survive their winter stranded in Sierra Nevada in 1846.

Ronell says on page 341:

“The silent pathos of object preservation, linked to food assimilation, discloses a mode of orality which the telephone brings forth. The work of mourning symbolically consists in eating the dead – what Derrida calls the mors, “the bit.” The losses are cut in the telephone, whose ringing repetition denies the death drive in which it nevertheless participates. In its extension to the locality of eating or vomiting, the mors makes the telephone an exemplary simulator of mourning and its disorders. The telephone makes you swallow what is not there. It contains preservatives. At the same time, you spill out a part of yourself that contains the Other; in this way, it is a vomitorium.”

Ronell identifies for us on page 345 Bell’s illustration of the mouth, lungs, teeth, and throat. “’We all know how important it is that foreign bodies should be kept out of the lungs.’ … What we all know is that invading bodies and food need to be controlled, kept at a distance, and that science will let you die.” (344)

Then what do we make of Bell’s apparatus, a telephonic contraption formed from the surviving bodies?

“The temptation always exists to swallow the telephone, to have it internalized.” (346)

The ghosts that accompanied Bell, whose “permanent residence has been registered neither inside nor outside technology” (341), repair a particular kind of wound: to enter again into language with that which we cannot hear.

How then is Bell’s telephone similar to the “Electronic Voice Phenomena” carefully archived by Friedrich Jürgenson (1903-1987)? Like Jürgenson, Bell’s telephone amplifies the undead. Unlike Jürgenson, the voice on the other end of Bell’s telephone is physically embodied. It is the voice that emerges from articulation teaching.

But then Bell reminds us: “learning to speak is like learning to shoot.” (348)

As a result, are we to understand speech as violence? Is speaking the consumption, the attack that enables us to digest foreign bodies? Is speech the cannibal that needs to be kept out?