Sunday, 30 December 2012

Under cooked turkey

I was suckered in by the promise of neuroscience, only for everything, all the content, to be victim to the presenters broad brush strokes of charmingly curious (and oh too vocal) ignorance! Ahh BBC thank you for this under cooked turkey of a programme! I'm going to post it here for later and come back to it and google the neuroscientists to find out more about the details of their work. But from what I've seen on this show nothing is that new except the evidence to support the theory of the uniquely musical nature of humans - that primates don't dig rhythm. The connection of harmony and musicality in speech, across all languages isn't that astounding (after all Leonard Bernstein knew language was music before).

I always feel that MRSI is a way crude technology in many ways - where is Neil Cassidy?

Edit - though to be fair to BBC, they had a double of synthetic memory themed films afterwards! Moon then Blade Runner (new cut, HD).

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Shining - Horror in Voice + Dolar Thoughts

Thought I'd link my posts on voice here, I posted them on my other blog because I didn't want to clog Vocalities up too much with my own stuff. But seeing as all I think about is voice they are kinda relevant, extrinsic ;-) - I've been watching a lot of horror films recently and thinking about voice in horror: clicky for my thoughts

A few of the essays coming up are about cinema so I'm really looking forward to revisiting those with a few horror scenes in mind. - If anyone has a particularly 'eerie' example of V∅ICE in a film scene please let me know. The holiday is a great time to binge on films.

I Re-watched Kubrick's The Shining the other day -  spectral and split subject voices are in almost every scene - kinda felt that the terror, the horror, in that film comes from the uncertainty of it being always either spectral/hotel haunting or a subjective possession - can the Overlook Hotel possess a man or is it just haunting? Is Jack going mad or is he possessed? Is Danny's ESP real or not? Tony is presented as a part of Danny's psyche - a visible split subject voice, his most inner turmoil is flexed inside out for the viewer to see.... but this is against the backdrop of a building that haunts - a haunting that (in the first parts) is reserved only to Danny. By the end of the film the question of the location of the terrors (be it physical, psychological or architectural) actual locations does not actually matter - but it is this uncertainty that maintains such a satisfyingly taut tension for the first two thirds of the film.

Surrounding all this is a soundtrack of (I think mostly in the film it is Ligeti - right?) cacophonies of dissonance. Etherial, ghoulish wafts of pneumacentric presence (choirs) blow through the corridors and up the stairs. Seducing and possessing you - just like the Overlook's resonating corridors (Bronchi and Bronchiole) and room 237 (larynx) did to Jack.. Was he possessed or was he just weak? In an odd way I'd like to think of jack as a failed Orpheus - when he heard the voices he tried to beat them by playing his weapon of logos (the typewriter rather than the lyre), he played it more and more: "all work and no play makes jack a dull boy". But in the end he succumbed to the Siren call - the unseen presence - an unseen that's ambiguity of location (subjective/objective - past/present) only amplifies the uncertainty, the horror to relish.

Also - the 1920's bar tender is obviously the blue-print for that possession from the future Drink Drive advert:

the original had no sound

edit - sorry, got carried away with that film, mean't to post my old thoughts on Dolar - I wanted to let the dust settle on that essay for a while before linking my very subjective comments!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Wire 347 - Tony Herrington on DJ Spinn

Tony Herrington on DJ Spinn's new Teklife Vol 2: What You Need

"On "Over There (Getting It)" dance circle exhortations are clipped and looped into lines of richocheting sibilants and consonants - rather than denuding these inner city voices of personality , this has the opposite effect, amplifying their humanity by exposing their lack of agency."

"To get all philosophical on it, Footwork's use of sampling embodies the latest technologised iteration of a vernacular form of semiotics in which black music articulates then subverts the mendacity of western language systems which are insufficient to express true lived experience."

All in The Wire 347, January 2013

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Forensic Phonetics

The sort of dystopic vocal vivisection that governments will and do (see Lawrence Abu-Hamdan's work) use more and more in the digitalising/signifier forcing practices of our sci(-let's-quantify-the-hell-out-of -everything)ence smothered world.

Yeah, I know it's radio 4 but give it a listen - there is a tragically funny bit where a forensic phonetician tells of how different people may pronounce their vowels or consonants differently depending on intoxication level - for a Phonetician (whose whole science works from the division of vowels and consonants) this is astounding. It is like an arctic exploring declaring that the north pole is either "over there near the liquid or frozen water" - or programmer concluding that the base material of his work is either zeros or ones. As dodgy science and + or journalism goes this programme is a peach - but some nice snippets.

There is a wonderful scene in Aliens Resurrection where the captain cannot get into the door of his office. The doors on the ship are opened by a breath recognition mechanism. The captain gets quite (literally) exasperated as he as to breath 3 or 4 times into this stoic device that cannot recognise his breath as that of the captain. It reminded me of my reliably unreliable goldsmiths card (that uses technology from the 1950's!). I cannot wait to be in the future and not be able to access my bank account because my voice is gruff from a cold or a night out.  The kafkian-labyrinthine trauma of negotiating various swipe card absurdities in contemporary life is just training for the time when all our possessions (money/transport/property etc) are randomly rendered inaccessible due to the recognition software not being able to locate our DNA/Phonetic 'signature' (sup - Jacques).

Radio 4, Frontiers: Forensic Phonetics

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mark Beasley "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: The Voice in Mike Kelley’s Music"

Mark Beasley

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: The Voice in Mike Kelley’s Music

This is such a great article, it is AVC through and through (or at least I feel it is).... 

Check out killer text like: 

"In DAM’s 2009 triple album reissue Niagara—a sickly anti-blonde Marilyn Monroe with riveting anti-stage presence all cheap peroxide hair and ashen skin—begins her Vampirechant, a declaration of self as folkloric bloodsucker. The lyrics are delivered in faltering style; crawling from the cave of the mouth festering on the tongue this is Karen Carpenter as the living dead hopped up on Valium and Nyquil. The voice is not feminine sweet or controlled, it stands as one of the punk precursors for a generation to come (Ari Up, Siouxsie Sioux). Of these early recordings it is clear that Niagara is the presiding and authored voice, revealed as person as personality: the “I” of the song. To this extent pop rules are exemplified, the “special” and authored voice is adhered to, as listeners we search for the life in someone’s voice that beyond lyrics the material—the tenor of the voice—reveals the person and the body inherent. As the writer Simon Frith has it “the first general point to make about the pop voice, then, is that we hear singers as personally expressive, in a way that a classical singer is not.” The voice in classical music is on par with the instrument it sits within the score and assumes the role of bass, baritone, tenor or soprano. The pop voice fends its way scoreless, feeling, and in this instance crawling it’s way amongst discordant and broken sound."

Hope you enjoy.

Big thanks to Open File's Tim Dixon for sharing.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Mr Sardonicus + Laughter

Ripe for psychoanalytic musings. I almost want to say the masked speaker is an inversion of the possessed victim. An eerie voice from an unseen - in both instances, one (Regan) having animation but an incongruous unpresent/present voice, the other a true voice, a locatable source, but no facial animation, no locus of emittance.... but this is too simple. Well Sardonic scene at the end too, scope Vladimir Propp's comments of ritual laughter accompanying death and killing, all involving groups. These he characterized as sardonic laughter.

"Among the very ancient people of Sardinia, who were called Sardi or Sardoni, it was customary to kill old people. While killing their old people, the Sardi laughed loudly. This is the origin of notorious sardonic laughter (Eugen Fehrle, 1930), now meaning cruel, malicious laughter. In light of our findings things begin to look different. Laughter accompanies the passage from death to life; it creates life and accompanies birth. Consequently, laughter accompanying killing transforms death into a new birth, nullifies murder as such, and is an act of piety that transforms death into a new life."
Sophie K Scott and her team have done some interesting research into laughter. Is sardonic laughter (in the ancient Sardinian context) a method of exploiting the first mode of rhythmical exchange in order to mollify a victim? A vocal weapon that releases a sickly serotonin against the listeners/victims will? On the other hand, when one realises a laughter is mocking, it is not communal but dangerous, it is worse than words - cue Regan:

And of course who can forget the classic Vincent Price cackle at the end of Michael Jackson's Thriller (just google vincent price laugh, or MJ's Thiller). A laugh deployed as sinister affect, the most blood curdling effect of a vocalised revelation - the horror laugh is often wheeled out at points of transformation/revelation/protagonist realisation - in a sense the laugh can be thought of as a marker of change. The point at which an evil villain chooses to finally break the tension and reveal their true intentions to the audience and the victims -  and their victims doom. The true intention is not granted utter explicitness, not fully inscribed within language (utter explicitness kills horror - we all know that, the villain will never turn around and say "OK, so this is our dungeon we'll be killing you within 25 minutes but a few housekeeping points first") - but is given it's most breathy, vital and crucially ambiguous marker. An utter vocalisation of intent, intention is revealed most sonorously, most infectiously BUT retains an ambiguity. The evil cackle is introduced at the point of the baddie winning, showing his or her true intentions, the point at which secrecy can be jettisoned - let is all out devil, relax, you have your prey now:

"The incident recorded by Ionov shows that hunters laugh after capturing an animal. Consequently, laughter is not a means for capturing it. However, the hunter's interests are naturally concentrated on the capture. We may suppose that the hunters laughed to resurrect the dead animal to a new life and to capture it a second time; that is, they were laughing "for the birth" of the animal, just as the Yakuts laughed "for the birth" of a child. That hunters tried to resurrect a slain animal by various means (in particular by burying its bones) for a second hunt is well known in ethnography (Propp 1934). Laughter is one of the means for the creation and recreation of life." (Propp, 135)

The horror laugh, is a sinisterly knowing affect, it is a neon sign to say 'the chase is over, you'll never escape, my plans are complete - but the torment won't stop - even after I've hunted you I'll hunt you again' - For the victim their enemy's cackle can be heard to say that the horror of the pursuit is finished, and that now there is only the horror of the capture, a grimly static horror without the momentum of hope or the prospect of freedom.

Edit - and how could I forget, another film full of masks and sardonic laughter: