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!