Saturday, 10 March 2012

Derrida should've just focused on writing...oh wait, he did!

Alexander G Weheliye, "Hearing Sonic Afro-Modernity" from Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity - Wow, what an essay! There is loads in this one, and I'm really only scraping the surface of just the ontological implications of sound in the first few pages..... I found the real sledge hammer as early as page 24...

"Daesein seems to emanate from the repetition and (re)iteration. (boom, this is massive) (...) sound recordings do not secure evidence of preexisting information but "merely" disseminate recoded sounds: they are forever suspended in a circulatory tide.. (...) they are permanently lacking, always secondary (..) prostheses"(pp. 24)

leaving Derrida's suspect and historically dominant graphizing alone and skipping to the next part concerning the sonic/vocal daesein...

"Sound and voice, on the other hand, require an audience to guarantee. legally, epistemologically, and ontologically, their continuing being" (pp. 25)

This is almost the core of the argument for me, starting point, the realisation that leads to the graphing, the scribing of voice and sound being unravelled. Voice and sound are not so much voice and sound outside of the instance of audition -  a text is a text, it is typed up, and if the dead letters are incorrect or divulge too much or too little the scriber can amend before posterity calcifies the words to words.... voice and song on the other hand are not like this. At the moment of their utterance their is a voice, the voice of audition is also a voice - only present at audition, it's meaning, it's presence changes and the options for control, for the speaker, listener and disseminator are subject to the ghost of vocal audition - voice is so much more temporally/emotionally/corporeally subject than any text, and it's Daesein is this, it's being is, it's being a voice almost it's very fact that that it cannot be graphed.... that it changes, is subject to temporal and cultural breezes - it's the exo-matic ontology of sound and voice...

"Hence the written record seems autonomous of any reception and reproduction processes, whereas sound and voice become documents, when and if they do so at all, only in the murky domains of reproduction and reception" (pp. 25)

Skipping back up the the etymology of phonograph, this word, it's etymological construction itself exemplifies the paradoxical core, the impossibility of writing voice.... phone = voice/sound, graph = drawing/writing/recording.

"The the oral and phonetic are written down (recorded) by the "phonograph" (sound writer), imploding the original aperture between writing and sound by calling to attention the improbability of writing sound in any commonsensical manner. The etymology of the "phonograph" and the words used to designate many other 19th century technologies - "photography" (picture writing) and "cinematography" (film writing) - suggest that inscription seems to be at the root of of any kind of recording: more than recording itself, it seems that sound necessitates transposition into writing to even register as technology. The place of script as a preferred, if not dominant, cultural technology in the West makes for the authority that it relays in relation to speech and sound, which, in contrast to writing, have to be reiterated and imagined as writing in oder to operate as recordings; sonic recordings are the means rather than the end to a status as record."

If I type a text, and email it or print it off and hand it to a friend, it is a text, I do not need to call it a textographic document, no -  it is just text. However, if I record sound, voice, cinema, or light, it needs to always be the shackled to an absurd (especially incase of sonic phenomena - occularcentricism?) scriptic suffix - it is always "phonography", "cinematography", or "photography"... Admittedly graphy can also mean drawing, but this still leaves the former of the 3 hostages of writings dominance utterly absurd - one cannot draw or write sound/voice - but we keep bolting this incompatible suffix onto the end because (as Dolar outlined too) there has been the dominance of writing throughout western metaphysical tradition.

I see graphy (text, script, words, writing, drawing too) as consisting of an almost endomatic-ontology it is itself, it is being in itself, whilst still on the shelf.... and sonic/voco phenomena as consisting of exomatic ontologies - their Daesein come from very different places. However their has been a privilege given to the endomatic daesein as far as recording information is concerned, or rather recoding information as been presumed as having to be endomatic (that I do not believe  - ever read an essay twice? I'll leave that for the time being though....)

Ironically, the ill named phonograph has been key to undoing this tyranny of the endo-matic / text - graphy-centric. The copyright wars are a example given of this given in the text:

"For instance, in a discussion about The Musical Copyright Act of 1909 (the first such act to include recorded music), Lisa Gitelman shows that the central debate concerned the split between sound and vision, especially writing, in the phonograph. Since musical copyright law was heretofore based on sheet music, in order for recorded music to function as intellectual property, composers - performers did not even merit a footnote - had to prove that the phonograph read their music in the same or similar way as did consumers who who played the music from printed scores" (pp. 28)

"Record companies, in particular,in order to claim all the profits from the record sales, argued that phonograph records did not represent written embodiments of the composer's score since they were not legible by humans"(pp. 28)

"The dispute over the Copyright Act revolved aroundwhether recordings based on the copyrighted sheet music merely represented the use of the score or a particular performance of a composition as opposed to an altogether different material manifestation of music" (pp. 28)

The phonograph caused a rupture, a rupture between things that can be written and things that cannot. Previously many things that ought to be uttered or heard or sung were forced into a position of being written - ironically the phonograph emancipated the sonic from the signified, this piece of technology utterly exploded the arena of the symbol, and in the ruins people sensed, heard, and experienced that which was previously thought to be no more than akin to the text I'm typing now. Isn't technology powerful? I'd like to take a phonograph back to greece around 350 bc and show it to Aristotle and Plato - I wonder what they would say about the sonorous "ontological doppleganger" - I expect that they would be "not so much interested in hearing their own recorded voices as those of singers and comedians, perhaps because the voice, even more so than writing, represents pure interiority and the proper domain of the sovereign human subject" (pp. 27).

""to go on record" (...) - here the ontological authority of writing meets it's doppelganger in the annals of patent law." (pp. 26) - How often is sound, pure sound and voice used in law nowadays as a signature, thinking of wire-taps, nixon tapes, phone hacking, voice recognition software, vocal disguises etc etc etc

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