Saturday, 21 December 2013

"Tell me about your mother" - Xpression App and The Vagus Nerve

Thanks to Anja Kanngieser for flagging this up. - Xpression is a smartphone app that "listens for telltale changes in a person's voice that indicate whether they are in one of five emotional states: calm, happy, sad, angry or anxious/frightened. It then lists a person's moods against the times they change, and automatically emails the list to their psychologist at the end of the day."

The obvious question here is: do all voices change in the same manner when a persona is happy or stressed - I do not think so. Voice changes when a person is happy or sad but not all peoples voices change in the same way (Anecdotally, I know my voice sounds calm when my adrenalin surges, I'm not sure why this happens but it bemuses my friends and family who I have to call after things like exams, car crashes, accidents etc... but then my voice sounds nervous generally!) So whilst increased blood pressure, or tension, or sympathetic nervous system changes may alter the physiological components that are involved in making voice I would suggest that voice changes in a unique way for everyone. The vocal change is unique to the individual precisely because voice is firstly a sound of many different parts of the body interacting. Secondly because despite the voice not being reducible to these parts; the sum of these parts do not make voice, voice is always an excess as well as the sum of parts of the vocal apparatus. Alfred A Tomatis knows this well, even in his reductionist pursuit of understanding singing, taking account of diet, posture, athleticism, mouth shape and vocal tract size he still admits that lifestyle, well being and emotions play a major part in determining the nature of voice - in effect he reconciles the excess of voice with some general grey zones. (see The Ear and The Voice).

One particular peculiarity of vocal production that points to why our voices change under stress or elation is the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve is strange, it loops round the aorta, taking the long way round as if it got snagged as our hearts moved in the process of bi-pedalism. It controls many aspects of speech production but also stimulates other organs such as the stomach, sphincter, gall bladder, as you may guess, the Vagus nerve plays a major role for both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system responses (which is why Tomatis proposes singing as a means to combat "neuropsychological imbalances"). Likewise, just as singing may be able to sooth an imbalance in the stimulations from the Vagus nerve, its influence can go the other way too - we see and hear this all the time, breaking voices, stutters, confused speech motor skills etc. But, there is still no direct connection between emotions, the body and voice, there may be a neuro/motor/bio-logical constellation of empirical causations and influences to map out but these will always be subject to the ultimate status of the voice - as an excess, it is everything we are, and a little bit more - always irreducible to our clunking bodies and the organs we employ for the production of voice. There is certainly not uniformity across peoples vocal changes either.

The use of technology to listen, to reduce our voice to content and differ-ences is perhaps the manifestation of our bodies being required to adhere to formats. Technology has mothered and listened, but it also insists on a format: 0/1. Berardi comments on how our speech is learnt in a heavily technological environment: "For the first time in human history there is a generation that has learnt more words and heard more stories from the television machine than from its mother." - FB - PR. pp.36-37. And Connor comments about how from a very early stage our voice is augmented, amplified and transported by technology:

"Much of this book has been written in the early mornings to the accompaniment of the cries, gurgles, and babble of my youngest son, whose room is equipped, like that of many young children, with an intercom alarm. Joe's early-developed capacity to summon his mother and me to his presence through the power of his voice has been considerably enhanced by this technology. It is tempting to feel that the meanings and powers of the voice for this particular young child have been affected by his growing awareness of the powers of the little plastic box in his room to enhance the already magically extensive powers of his voice" (cue Home Alone scene)

In a sense, because of the ubiquity of technology we owe much of our voice to technology. It has been modulated and afforded by media and communication networks.

The Xpression app rests on many presumed reductions. Of uniform reactions to emotional or biological states, and the reducibility of the voice. But I think its reductionism plays into the Turklean concept of being alone together. Technologies like Xpression play into, or performatively elucidate, how we want our voices to be ours and to be listened to, we feel we are responsible for our voices and that these voices tell others something special about us. Whereas our voice is never ours, but leads a strange life of autonomy from our control and our body (hence Connor's What I Say Goes). Also for human listening, the hidden nuances of voice do not 'tell' or 'communicate' on an empirical basis, but rather, on the subjective basis of the listeners intuition (how many troubled singers voices are made infinitely more bittersweet by our knowledge our the singers misfortunes?). Xpression shows our (Turklean) anthropologizing of the machine, we want a machine to understand us, like a mother's subjective audition may sense distress in the night. Machines have played a role in teaching us how to speak and allowing us to be heard, we want them to listen too now.

In the first chapter of Cold Intimacies Illouz explores how the therapists strategies of listening have migrated into managerial practices under capitalism. A good manager must, before all else, be able to listen. In todays world, with our heavy subjectivities, plethora of concerns, short time and attention the desire to be listened to manifests itself through technology and business. The Xpression app is the poor surogate, the Harlow wireframe mother, the app cannot listen, but only read and identify particular patterns.

(There is a riff to be made here about Ted Bundy's relationship to listening and reading, his mother would type all his school work, Ted would dictate. I half-want to suggest that Ted was read and not listened too, but this judgement is perhaps a touch too quick.. nonetheless - P.18 Ted Bundy Conversations with a Killer is fascinating along with P.21. I'm not suggesting any 'family values' correlation between his crimes and his early years - what intrigues me is his frustration over the surface play of language.  There is a big difference between being listened to and being merely read, and some of Bundy's comments and the Xpression app highlight this.)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Heather Phillipson & Erik Bünger

Heather Phillipson's "polyrhythmic swim-time in a bath of unspilled feelings" really struck a chord with me, evoking so many thoughts about the tyranny of language and corporeal co-ordination - swimming as speech! Swimming as speech in that one has to badly and awkwardly co-ordinate all these body parts (mouth, arms and lungs) together to do something they were not "evolved for" or "meant for" - swimming or speaking! I also pondered about lane control as bio-politics and language. The LOAF/LOVE punning and life guard segments made me recall concepts of occularcentricism and faciality - life guards as gods who you can never see but only idealise and mis-hear and set their mis heard orders to false mantras. Also rhythmic control and lane choice, in facialized conversation we cannot help but rhythm match, just like swimmers! All these notions are fascinating, but especially so when held in hand with the aspect of her performance - speaking alongside her piece.

I urge you to visit her website to watch some of the other videos, in particular A is to D what E is to H is excellent and focuses on the overlap of eating and speaking, there are also shades of eucharistian cannibalism.

Whilst "polyrhythmic swim-time in a bath of unspilled feelings" provoked many musing on voice, language, occularcentricism, bio-politics and social control there are two particular videos that may be interesting for anyone on the Sex, Gender, Species course; the "Well This Is Embarrassing" excerpts one and two.

Heather mentioned another artist to me, Erik Bünger. His videos are excellent too. I urge you to watch three particular excepts of his films on his site:

A Lecture On Schizophrenia
The Third Man
The Girl Who Never Was

I think all of these videos/pieces will resonate with the texts on vocalities. Siren themes, Echo and Narcissus themes, vocal subjectivity themes, Technological modulation themes, haunting technology themes, engendering voice themes etc etc.

I know this post has been scatty, I'm simply too excited by these films at present but wanted to share them so they could be watched and thought about over the holiday.

Lastly, I'll bow out with a Bifo quote (although I heard him in a talk say this quote is actually an observation from Rose Goldsen's book, The Show & Tell Machine):

"For the first time in human history there is a generation that has learnt more words and heard more stories from the television machine than from its mother." - FB - PR. pp.36-37.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Haunted Apparatus

Forgive me for posting Radio 4, but this could be a lightly interesting documentary about the uncanniness of the telephone. On tonight (14/12/13) at 8pm... contains Chuck Palahniuk

Reminds me of Long Distance Call, a great Twilight Zone episode where a young boy talks to his recently deceased grandmother on the telephone. For most of the episode his parents, as ever, try to talk him out of his illogical conviction and blame his imagination and grief for the problem. Nevertheless, the boy swears he can talk to grandma. At the end of the episode his mother snatches the telephone from him and, upon putting it to her ear, exclaims "It is her, I recognise her breathing!" Great episode, can't find it online but you can probably torrent it.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Knowledge Exchange Lecture: Marc Couroux

As part of the Common;sense online platform, we have now started a knowledge exchange between PhD/MA students and anyone interested in presenting and discussing ideas.

The last event before the holidays will be on:


Professor and schizophonic magic(k)ian Mark Couroux from York University Toronto will speak of neoliberal modes of capture operating in the audio-visual register, which he pressures via infra-medial practices and technologies of (as yet un)lived experience. | |

In preparation for the lecture check out Marc Couroux's PREEMPTIVE GLOSSARY FOR A TECHNO-SONIC CONTROL SOCIETY (WITH LINES OF FLIGHT) here:

Friday, 29 November 2013

Listening Seminar II: With Gazelle Twin

The MA in Aural and Visual Cultures presents: Listening Seminar 2: An Eerie Yule Special

With Gazelle Twin

Richard Hoggart Building (RHB) 309 (third floor of the main building), Goldsmiths University of London

Tuesday, December 10th, 7-9 PM. 

Free - no booking required

This Listening Seminar will feature two new audio-works produced specially made for the Seminar: 'Viral Content' by Jennifer Boyd and 'Notes on the Eerie' by Mark Fisher.

Jennifer and Mark will then enter into conversation with Elizabeth Bernholz/ Gazelle Twin who will be playing and talking about her own music and some of the music that inspired her.

Jennifer Boyd is a creative/critical writer based in London. Boyd’s practice considers post-anarchist tactics, new media, sonic and visual culture, feminism and girls, queer and radical theory, often through concept-engineering and image-writing. Projects include “Bask In It: An Image-Manifesto” for Either/And, a project hosted by The National Media Museum, and the concept essay for Feeling Queezy?!, an upcoming exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Estonia.

UK based artist Elizabeth Bernholz is best known by the moniker 'Gazelle Twin', under which she releases work ranging from music and film, to live performance and installations. Her debut LP, The Entire City (Anti-Ghost Moon Ray, July 2011), and its recent follow-up, Mammal EP (Sugarcane Recordings, January 2013) were received with critical acclaim despite their small-scale releases. A second LP UNFLESH is planned for release in 2014.

Mark Fisher is the author of Capitalist Realism (2009) and the forthcoming Ghosts Of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The Wire, Frieze, The Guardian and Film Quarterly. He is Programme Leader of the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and a lecturer at the University of East London. He has also produced two acclaimed audio-essays in collaboration with Justin Barton:londonunderlondon (2005) and On Vanishing Land (2013).

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

L'enfant Sauvage

Based on

Great scene at 1 hour.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Larynx Drop

I put a bunch of thoughts about the Larynx up on my blog, in 5 parts... links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 (best gif ever)
Part 4
Part 5

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Two anti-work events

Future Interns 2013, 
Goldsmiths SU, 9 Nov

Future Interns 2013 is a day of awareness and activism around internships and precarious work, followed by an evening of Latin Music hosted by 3 cosas living wage campaign. The event will be an opportunity to hear about the amazing work going on to fight back against the culture of unpaid work. As well as bringing together speakers it will be an opportunity to meet other interns and take part in workshops. Ultimately it will be a platform for interns to shape their future working conditions.
Workshops from PWB and Ragpickers. Speakers will include Mark Fisher and Federico Campagna, Dr Sophie Hope and Charlotte Gerada, who will be discussing her research into unpaid internships in the voluntary sector.

Visual Sociology and Aural and Visual Cultures Present: AFTER WORK

New Academic Building LG01, Goldsmiths, University of London
19th November, 2013 7.30-9.30 (Free - open to all: no booking required)

Fed up of being hardworking people? There is virtually no institutional voice which seems to tire of praising the ennobling effects of working. Any life beyond work is condemned as parasitical scrounging. Worse, we no longer have the ability to imagine what a world without unnecessary work would look like. While only a few decades ago sociologists predicted the imminent ‘end of work’ and the advent of a regime of automated production and human freedom, work has in fact become a new religion for contemporary times.
Coinciding with the publication of Federico Campagna’s The Last Night: Anti-Work, Atheism, Adventure, After Work brings together a number of dissenting voices, challenging the catechism of conservative work-priests and their corporate devotees. The event will be divided into two panels, the first focused on anti-work strategy and theory, the second devoted to imagining what life and politics after work might look like. Featuring talks by Mark Fisher, Ramona, Carl Cederstrom/ Peter Fleming, Preeti Paul, Nina Wakeford and Federico Campagna, the event will welcome the active participation of the audience.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Jungle iPhone App

More abhorrent gadgetry for your prosthetic attention atomizer:

I wish there was an app that could timestretch my voice when I'm on a "voice call". Saying bye bye would be marvellously machinic.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The MA in Aural Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London presents: Listening Seminars

The MA in Aural Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London presents: Listening Seminars

The Listening Seminars will be free public events, open to all, presented by the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. The Seminars will be devoted to the practice of collective listening. What will be listened to will vary, but it is likely to include music, sound art, spoken word and other experimental uses of sound and voice. Sometimes, artists and musicians will be present to describe and contextualise their work, but the primary focus will be on listening together rather than on discussion. The seminars aim to provide the opportunity for sustained focus in a world that is otherwise characterised by the dispersal of attention.

It is hoped that the Listening Seminars will happen monthly during term times.

The first Listening Seminar will take place from 7-9pm on November 5th in NAB LG01, no booking required. NAB LG01 is located in the New Academic Building(, which is to be found at the rear of the College, behind the quad. It will feature works by Mark Fisher, English Heretic, RO/AD (Carey Robinson, Tristam Adams), Mika Hayashi Ebbesen and special presentation from Jonny Mugwump of recordings from his Exotic Pylon label.

The second Seminar will be a Yule Eerie special and will take place in December, on a date to be confirmed shortly. Anyone who would like to present an audio work at a future Seminar, or who has ideas for pieces to which we could collectively listen, should email

Line-up for the first Listening Seminar

1. Unvisited Vastness - Eerie Anglia (Mark Fisher and Andy Sharp)

2. Plan for the Kidnap of Princess Anne - English Heretic featuring Mark Fisher

3. As Sonorous Murmurs Rise - RO/AD (Carey Robinson, Tristam Adams)

4. Evanescent Continents [1] by Mikatsiu - Mika Hayashi Ebbesen

5. Presentation by Jonny Mugwump of material from Exotic Pylon label

Biographies and descriptions of pieces

Plan For The Kidnap Of Princess Anne - English Heretic

Using found recordings, a research group from English Heretic have reconstructed the attempted kidnap of Princess Anne by Ian Ball. On the evening of March 20th 1974 Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips were returning from a charity film event in support of The Riding For The Disabled Association, when their limousine was held up along the Mall, by Ball. Eventually tackled by police officers, Ball was arrested. In May 1975, Ball was convicted of attempted murder and kidnap. A diagnosed paranoid-schizophrenic, Ball still remains in detention under the Mental Health Act.

English Heretic is a creative occult organisation, in operation since 2003. Over 10 years, English Heretic has set out to explore a new approach to ceremonial magic and archetypal psychology inspired by the outre work of Kenneth Grant, James Hillman, situationism and pop culture signifiers. English Heretic attempts to manifest a deliciously troubled soul of our world, through ludic and heuristic engagement with horror film, pulp fiction and the esoteric arts. They have released and reported their findings via numerous books, CDs and events.

Unvisited Vastness - Eerie Anglia

The first piece in the ongoing Eerie Capital series, 'Unvisited Vastness' is also a spin-off from Justin Barton and Mark Fisher's On Vanishing Land audio-essay, which described Felixstowe container port as an 'unvisited vastness'. Using concrete sounds recorded at the port, Eerie Anglia (Mark Fisher and English Heretic's Andy Sharp) have constructed a strange love song to Capital.

Mark Fisher is the author of Capitalist Realism (2009) and the forthcoming Ghosts Of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The Wire, Frieze, The Guardian and Film Quarterly. He is Programme Leader of the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and a lecturer at the University of East London. He has also produced two acclaimed audio-essays in collaboration with Justin Barton:londonunderlondon (2005) and On Vanishing Land (2013).

RO/AD - As Sonorous Murmurs Rise

As Sonorous Murmurs Rise explores the elusive grain of the voice; the parts that hold a libidinal energy, a vo-corp-aural energy traded in service industry, media and music. Taking Jean Francois Lyotard’s visceral prose from the 1993 translation of his Libidinal Economy essay as a starting point, the piece trades upon the aesthetic of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). The ASMR aesthetic is explored and renegotiated to question the preconceptions of such seemingly innocuous sounds. The hope is to conjure an intense vocal undoing; a tangibly sonic and performative deconstruction of voice that may be peculiar, strange or even horrifying. It is in this sense that notions of libidinal vocal capitalism and the traditional apportioning of subordination and domination within service intonations are deconstructed. Framing the narrative will be soundscapes compiled from Carey Robinson’s archive recordings.

RO/AD is a collaborative art practice based in London. It was founded in 2012 by Carey Robinson and Tristam Adams, students of Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths.

Evanescent Continents [1] by Mikatsiu - Mika Hayashi Ebbesen

Evanescent Continents was launched as an experiment in the ephemeral amassing of sounds. Believing that we all continuously contribute to the frequencies that resonate within our daily existences, these human fictions are the true reality, a reality cut away from what is habitually imposed upon us as real. Using material collected from an international call for recorded material, the listener is presented with a momentary evanescent continent, a shared sonic landscape bound to its temporal rather than spatial existence.

Mika Hayashi Ebbesen is a London based artist & writer. She is an editor at Shoppinghour Magazine and is also the founder of the sonically oriented collective Human Fiction Tartini. Ebbesen makes music under the name Mikatsiu, plays cello in the band Shabsi Mann, and recently joined the Chicago based international theater company Mozawa.

Exotic Pylon Records was formed in August 2011 and is a limb of the (undefined) Exotic Pylon project begun over five years ago by Jonny Mugwump. This is a record label informed by the practices Mugwump stumbled upon as a radio producer at Resonance FM and then via a number of live events that he organised. The label does not have a defined sonic or visual aesthetic (although clearly there are stylistic phases and there is a leaning towards the 'electronic') and has released on a variety of formats so far including tape, vinyl, CD, USB and digital (although nothing is off-limits where appropriate and this should become more varied in the future). Releases might be fully hand-made, industrially manufactured or a mixture of both.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Dr Phibes, the inverted ventriloquist?

A ventriloquists dummy adopts life through a voice given to it. Dr Phibes cinematic appearance is the morbid inversion of this. The watcher knows that the voice is supposed to come from Dr Phibes, and indeed, knows that it does - but is given no animate correlate to the voice. The voice is half way between the standard talkie formulation (a voice coming from a seen source) and acousmatic (a sound with an unknown source). Dr Phibes grim mask (masking any vitalism) cleaves a horror between the two poles of cinematic vocalic formal norms.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Friday, 24 May 2013

Robot Whispers, ASMR: A void being close

After creating a technologically augmented ASMR piece for the English Heretic event with Carey I've been thinking about the reasons why intimacy and strange feelings are conjured.  For ordinary ASMR I expect this is mostly due to misguided and unacknowledged reactions to occularcentric, heteronormative and tertiary capitalism norms. For an example of the fodder for such bad conflations of innocent autonomous responses and an aesthetic and affect indebted to a conditioning from the worst tropes of hegemony see the below:

 But is there a cyborg ASMR voice? In an apt conceptual reversal of feigning closeness the whisper voice synthersizer (available on all text to voice readers) is just what the typical ASMR whisper is. The synthetic whisper voice is essentially a de-toned and noised out voice - noise is added. This should create a distance - but in an odd way I feel that it creates a closeness. But making a synthetic voice hide behind a gauze of noise a longing intimacy is conjured on cyborgian terms. I feel this resonates with the deluded fans of actual ASMR whisperers - despite the whisperers delivery being shot through with occularcentric and tertiary service conflations - the fact that their whispering is delivered though a lonely youtube channel must be considered. Is the intimacy of ASMR due to the format of isolation that spawned its popularity? See a nice dramatisation of this in Kate Bush's video for Deeper understanding:

So here I approach the cyborg whisper of intimate distance - the synthetic whisper effect that is a voice hidden behind a gauze of noise. Two particular pop videos come to mind but I'm sure there are more - (I almost feel this cyborgian distance intimacy of the whisper noise effect is a trope.)

Is the distance, the silent, un-admitted distance, mute distance of the isolated position of the listener the object voice of the cyborg?

The voice that:

"embodies the very impossibility of attaining auto-affection, it introduces a scission, a rupture in the middle of the full presence and refers to a void" (Dolar)

"the true object voice is mute (...) and what effectively reverberates is the void: resonance always takes place in a vacuum  - the tone as such is originally a lamentfor the lost object. The object is here as long as the sound remains unarticulated ; the moment it resounds , the moment it is "spilled out," the object is evacuated, and this voidance gives birth to the barred subject ($) lamenting the loss of the object" (Zizek)

I feel that both ASMR and the cyborg whisper trope in music afford an intimacy through technological distance, the lamentation for the distance between object and subject evokes the strange intimacy.

See two nice examples of the cyborg whisper below:
technologically manifested distance keeps the voice feeling close...

Monday, 29 April 2013

MF Doom and Clams Casino

Here the lazily delivered drawl-raps of MF Doom are paired up with a great example of how Clams Casino uses vocals in his production. Unlike most other producers CC uses the voice as an utter material, a vocal putty to be molded, stretched and twisted. Rather than traditional pop clipped 'samples' of the voice that require framing, CC builds a soundscape from voices. Pretty much all of CC's tracks do this, and some examples are quite overt - but others are quite subtle, the more I listen to a Clams Casino track the more I notice that the sounds are voices - either wailing, croaking or or breathing. His production on Counting (the Robb Bank$ track) is an example of this, synthy soundscapes are actually a cacophony of re-pitched and chrono-dragged wails. Waterfalls (from Clams' Rainforest EP) is a great example of how the grain of the voice is quite resistant to burying, despite being re-pitched, tuned down and smothered in reverb the voiciness of the sound prevails. Natural (from the same EP) shows the same resistance of the grain but against a glitching and jittering digitalisation of the voice. I find it interesting how, despite the sonic of the voice being morphed and degraded out of any semblance to the original, there is still a corporeal grain, still a unique vocality about it. In all of Clams' trax the voice is never quite converted into a chromium synth, wooden timbre or metallic chime but always remains in some sense, regardless of the degrees of sonic manipulation, a very fleshy and erotic voice.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Mimic

Came across The Mimic in More4 today. Looks to be worth a second watch. Lots of use of the mimicked/disguised voice in identity play - especially in relation the contexts of anxiety and insecurity.... Made me think of Freya Jarman-Ivens essay and talk. Is mimicking (successfully, e.i in situations where the audience does not know one is a mimic - first time encounters, acousmatix etc) running along the same lines as lip-synching identity playing?

Pontone - I Hear Voices mix

I Hear Voices Mix - amazing. Perhaps the best opening voice ever. Even more uncomfortable than the baby cry vocoder on Hype Williams' Rescue Dawn...

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Young Smoke - Space Zone

Heir to Drexciya.....? This album is so so More Brilliant then the Sun material..... As well as fragmented dislocated android voices check how ("malign gremlins perverse voco-imps and the metallically dredged VaderVoder..... hyperbabble to ultraslow" - text remixed),..... rather than an eckoplex distorting space and time, space and time are dissolved and folded into one another through an erratic and dizzying disrhythmia... syncopation discombobulation. ("you can't catch the beat, the tails of sound as they turn round a corner, disappear down a corridor (...) where rhythm should be there is space, and vice versa. (...) pivots around an absent beat (...) Every track ambushes you, confound the process of pattern recognition by leaving the unexpected beat implied" K.E. - p.64)

Also-  check out psycho war - track 23 on Bangs and Works

Timestretched Vocals

Splash - Babylon - Thanks Mark

A nice remix - If I heard that bark in a club I would have a nervous breakdown - in body and mind.

...and one of my favourite old Warp Records tracks - Chris Clark, Gob Coitus (the LP version has more..... much much more metallic grained timestretch in it - but for some reason both the Richard Fenwick and Lynn Fox videos use edited versions with a more click-hoppy choppy ending rather than the dragged out ableton death-rattle on the original - which is amazing - can't find the LP version online though)

Monday, 18 March 2013

Android Phonix

Some vocoder videos to go with the last two essays

Susan McClary, "This is not a Story My People Tell: Musical Time and Space According to Laurie Anderson"

Kodwo Eshun, "Inner Spatializing the Song" and "Programming Rhythmatic Frequencies" from More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction

"Zapp is the menschmachine gone gooey (...) android doowop (...) fleshless rigidity converges with the spineless electroid of Zapp" -  K. Eshun

^^^... tagging on from Beyonce post vvv

Beyonce in pitch-shifting gender play pop glory:

Obviously DJ Screw's old "drag"-mixes of Lil-Kim is the original trad-gender sonic inversion.... (see not tonight) but the techno-phonic queering of pitch in this new track from Beyonce is a step further. A down-tuned vocal, Beyonce's rap, is transformed into a drag-rap. Another identity, and a queering of identity boundaries, is afforded by the mixing desk; Beyonce trans-phones from glam-soul serenading sequinned siren to trap-rap alter-ego.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

"New Voices For The Voiceless: Synthetic Speech Gets An Upgrade"

Rupal Patel, a speech scientist at Northeastern University, has found a way to capture what she calls the "melody of the voice," and applied it to a striking new form of synthetic voice production. Patel's system works by taking samples of simple sounds produced by the individual whose voice she wants to synthesize—in her case, primarily children with severe speech disorders—sounds such as "aaahhhh," and combines these sounds with words spoken by a "healthy donor" of a similar age as the first individual. From the first set of sounds, they "can determine their pitch, the loudness, the breathiness of their voice, the changes in clarity," Patel says, and when combined with the "donor" voice, the new synthetic voice provides an uncanny approximation of a new voice for the speech impaired individual.

Read or listen to the complete story, "New Voices for the Voiceless: Synthetic Speech Gets and Upgrade" by Alix Spiegel here on NPR, and hear a few of Patel's synthetic voices!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Foetal Syllabic Understanding

Alfred Tomatis! Who said that:

"6. Communication is a process that begins in utero. The unborn child hears as early as the fourth month after conception. Sound actually helps grow the fetus’s brain and nervous system."

 Not so suspect after all!!!! Check out this study

Ripped straight from Neuroscience Research Techniques

A team of French researchers has discovered that the human brain is capable of distinguishing between different types of syllables as early as three months prior to full term birth.
Image: (Upper) Schematic representation of the location of the optical probe on an infant’s head relatively to anatomical landmarks. (Lower) Estimated projection of the optodes on the brain of a 30 wGA preterm infant [courtesy of Petra Huppi and Jessica Dubois]. The eight emitters (red circles) are arranged on two 1.5-cm-diameter circles centered by the two detectors (black circles), creating 10 points of measure (channels) over each hemisphere (blue circles).

Further info:
Journal article and image credit: Syllabic discrimination in premature human infants prior to complete formation of cortical layers, PNAS, 2013



My 4 voice/horror tropes

Finally got round to posting something about my 4th trope, a-linguistic sounds of transformation. It's all about the grain basically. The trope overview sums up the latter 3.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The strings and pulleys of speech

Neurological basis of speech motor control found.

Thanks Neuroscience Research Techniques:

"A team of researchers has uncovered the neurological basis of speech motor control, the complex coordinated activity of tiny brain regions that controls our lips, jaw, tongue and larynx as we speak.
This work with potential implications for developing computer-brain interfaces for artificial speech communication and for the treatment of speech disorders, sheds light on an ability that is unique to humans among living creatures but poorly understood. Read more:

Journal article: Functional organization of human sensorimotor cortex for speech articulation. Nature, 2013"

But, as fascinating as this is, it does not apply to voice - because, of course, voice is not speech - we control our speech whereas voice has a habit of wandering, changing and shifting at will. So whereas the linguistic, phonological and neurologically indebted aspects of voice (these are speech) are subject to materialist eliminativism - Voice remains a mystery - precisely because it always was and is a mystery of our excess it is not totally us.

The parts of voice we may have thought of as being unique to us, to our being as a subject, are being whittled down to their material causes. This of course will never happen to voice. Voice is firstly more than us and our subjectivity (it is an excess), it is a strange object, uncomfortable to hear, we never own it. Secondly it is sound, a quite immaterial thing that changes it's nature as it exists through the material world (air, spaces, technology etc). If we take the strings and pulleys of speech production, the materialist roots of speaking, as a form of the materialist eliminativism of the subject we cannot expect this operation to ever find voice. Voice is an object. It was never ours to begin with.

So voice can waltz around and sing without strings - it never had them in the first place.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Aristotle on Hiccups + Artaud + Bane

Sup phonephiles.

I got it totally wrong in the seminar. It is Aristotle who makes the distinction between voice and bodily sounds as that of soul in breath...

“Voice then is the impact of the inbreathed air against the “windpipe,” and the agent that produces the impact is the soul resident in these parts of the body. Not every sound, as we have said, made by an animal is voice (even with the tongue we may merely make a sound which is not voice, or without the tongue as in coughing); what produces the impact must have soul in it and must be accompanied by an act of imagination, for voice is a sound with a meaning, and is not merely the result of any impact of the breath as in coughing; in voice the breath in the windpipe is used as an instrument to knock with against the walls of the windpipe. (Aristotle 2001, De Anima, 420b 28-37)” (Dolar, 2006, pp. 23)

If Bane's voice is modulated by analgesic gas then one could argue that he does not have a pure voice. He has a techno-pnematically modulated cyborg voice - making Bane even more of a true cinematic character.

 Not only is the source (the oral void) absent from the image on screen, suspending his act in a corporeal - half-way house between traditional voice forms-within-cinema (acousmatic and non-acousmatic - but of course all cinema voices ARE acousmatic - that's the illusion). But his voice is also, just like every other film character, technologically modulated - amplified. Bane is traditional cinematic vocal operation embodied, or rather the operations of cinematic voice uncovered and summed and ciphered into a body on screen, stuck inside the diegesis - horrifically. The source of his voice is hidden and his sonic is altered too - pure cinema!


Antonin Artaud  - "To have done with the judgment of God" 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Lissajous Figures and the Kaleidophone

From Harmonograph: A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music by Anthony Ashton, Wooden Books (2001).

Monday, 28 January 2013

Tai Shani- Untitled/Headless

Check out this piece by Tai Shani... it was at Matt's Gallery this past fall at it combines the voice over in an interesting way with lenticular photographs.

Mother as Chimera

"... fetal stem cells are tenacious things. They stay in the body of the mother, and have even been shown to slip into that sacred space where we believe that all of human individuality resides; the brain. It's possible that part of every mother's brain literally is that of her child. And if you're a child, it's likely that part of you is your mother. A mother's cells cross the placenta during pregnancy and squat in the liver, bloodstream, thymus gland, and that old sentimental favorite, the heart."

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Lip Synching - Southland Tales - Timberlake/Killers

I'm a little pre-occupied with this film and Shaviro's excellent commentary on it. I won't talk about the post-cinematic - flat ontology aspects, Shaviro has that down.... but listening to Freya Jarman speak last night it occurred to me that this scene accommodates all 3 queer lip-synching types...... that it does not sit squarely in just one, but, oddly, across all 3.....

Jarman talked of the types of lip-synching and identification modes that evoke either abject, queer or comic effects. These were:

1 - Identification - see Bridget Jones
2 - Identity Play - see this below (just too good not to embed)


3 'Worn'  - see Gael Garcia Bernal

As I understand the three types, or as I interpret them, I see three things.

The first is strictly intensive. Identification is an acutely internal operation - the identification with the voice, becoming an other, transforming - is all turned inwards. Any animation, is for the lip-syncher to convince their own mind that they are the singer - that it is their voice. Bridget enacts the singer to convince her self she is is the singer, her eyes are closed so she doesn't see the familiar site of her room. It is a form of escapism.

Identity play is similar but turned inside out. The character Will Smith plays cannot tell his uncle how he feels in his words - in his identity. So the way to do this is to take on another identity. However, the process is not focused on merely an internal identification transformation but importantly on a hyper-reflexive identity projection. It is not just the sonic words that are not his body is given over to the singer - he splays his fingers suggestively over his body, he struts and pouts like a diva in a way his character never would ordinarily. This is all to project another identity.

'Worn' is similar again, in that the crux of identity shift lies in the body, the physical body. But because Gael Garcia Bernal is in drag (an almost uber-drag, a dragX2 - with a dress that actually depicts a womans body) he can leave his eyes open, stay still and lip synch the words. He doesn't need to close his eyes and become the singer, he doesn't need to strut and pout to convince his listener/audience because all the visible aspects of identity in regard to his body are already in hand - they are transformed by the dress, the wig and his make-up.

I feel these 3 degrees of identity adoption - intensive/internally focused, extensive/reflexive and aesthetic/worn/prosthetic are degrees of manifestations of the vocalic body. To summarise briefly one could say the vocalic body is the imaginary body a voice has in its sound, in its grain. As Connor comments:

"What kind of thing is a vocalic body? What sort of vocalic bodies are there? Such bodies are not fixed and finite, nor are they summarizable in the form of a typology, precisely because they are always able to imagine and enact new forms of voice body. The leading characteristic of the voice-body is to be a body-in-invention, an impossible, imaginary body in the course of being found and formed."

This is, perhaps, where the oddness in finally hearing David Beckham's voice or Elizabeth Hurley's voice arrives - from the difference between a famous, appreciated body - and a sonic sound with it's own - autonomous corporeality. As Connor comments:

".voice then conjures for itself a different kind of body; an imaginary body which may contradict, compete with, replace or even reshape the actual, visible body of the speaker"

Syles of lip-synching are, perhaps, modes of the vocalic body manifesting either internally for type 1 or externally in types 2 and 3. It is this triplet of identity shifting operations that I feel are all present in the Justin Timberlake / The Killers lip synch music video scene in Kelly's Southland Tales. It is an internal scene first, Private Abilene is high on fluid karma and hallucinating, he is escaping from himself - the diegetic is already in his head, we are seeing how he sees his present identity under the influence of a drug. But the body extensive is also shown to the viewer within this intensive diegetic, he struts like a rock star should - by seeing his intensive imagining, his internal identity shift we see a simultaneous manifestation of types 1 and 2. We know it's all in his mind and yet we still see that his body is dancing in all the right ways. The third aspect, the 'worn', is manifested in the acting as coat approach to celebrities portraying characters. We know that it is Justin Timberlake (just as Dwayne Johnson is always acting Dwayne Johnson - case in point, check out the Johnny Depp finger acting in almost every scene! Avatars of playing acting.), we cannot forget this, it is futile to think we can ever really detach such a celebrity from a film, his celebrity is always bigger than the film. So Kelly directs him to wear a character, he wears a scar and a bloodied t-shirt so we know it is Justin-Timberlake-in-a-film instead of Justin Timberlake. This feels similar to the Gael Garcia Bernal drag act in Bad Education, we know it is the character underneath the clothes, but the appearance, doubled with the voice means that even though we know who it is we know that they expect us to accept that they are not in their usual identity.

[01] 1+9=10 | 0+9=9 || 10+9=19

Every utterance we make is an impeded stutter, a malfunction, a glitch. Every time we shriek or howl, every time we express reason, interject or propose, every time we vocalize an order, an instruction, or snap back a refusal or a counter argument we are doing so via a system born of violence. We are the croaking possessed; emitting tics, clicks, glitches, whirrs and morbidly rattling breaths of affect. We were mutilated till we spoke:

“the muttering sickness leaped into our throats, coughing and spitting in the silver morning. (…) dumb animal eyes on ‘me’ brought the sickness from white time caves frozen in my throat to hatch in the warm streamlands spitting. (…) Sick apes spitting blood bubbling throats torn with the talk sickness. Human faces tentative flicking in an out of focus. We waded into the warm mud-water, hair and ape flesh off in screaming strips. Stood naked human bodies covered with phosphorescent green jelly. Soft tentative flesh cut with ape wounds. Fingers and tongues rubbing off the jelly-cover. Body melting pleasure-sounds in the warm mud. Till the sun went and a blue wind of silence touched human faces and hair. When we came out we had names”

But even despite this visceral tragedy of linguistic progress, hidden forces still haunt the territories between our languishing origin and mechanized destination; deformed animalistic spectres often stalk the arena of tortured cries, but they haunt talk too. For despite our physical perversions – our own twisted contortions into the spluttering jackhammer of logos and language - we cannot shake off the past, we cannot shed our flesh, our knuckles are still scarred from our previous life – this life before the head -smash.

We bent our spines, cracked our thorax, dropped our larynx and then smothered our howls and gagged our screams. But we still cannot transform all the phlegm, bile, blood, saliva and vapor into zeros and ones, order and disorder, positive and negatives, clicks and cuts. In our coded parlance, of chittering teeth, lisping protocols and phoneme processes we may still wretch and howl through our phylogenetically makeshift apparatus – our fathers injuries - paleotrauma; after formatting there is a strange ancestral remnant.

We may find a rogue sonic, an outcast grain, there is something outside the code – a cthulhu com set glimpsed in rogue noise. Echoing in the order we find an ethereal qubit.

The more we bind ourselves to the rotting cadaver of logos, the more we breath in digits, and voice ourselves through our fingers, the more we blacken ourselves and become one, a la nupta cadavera the more we may find potentialities and possibilities of ourselves and past selves.

There are histories of disfigurement behind our current jabbering, language was a vociferous virus, voice a morbid curse. To find the vital being before the punishment of talking took its toll -before the differing rope burns of logos lacerated our throats- we must first talk more, faster, in numbers, jibber in code till we talk disjointedly and erratically (erotic era esoterix via error error error). We can numb(er) our language pains, emancipate ourselves from this brutal regime, escape one code and find salvation in another. Spiraling Tic-Talking between ancient and infinite codes. Voicing syzygy…… till 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, 514229, 832040

As Professor Barker explains

“Due to erect posture the head has been twisted around, shattering the vertebra-perceptual linearity and setting the phylogenetic preconditions for the face. This right-angled pneumatic-oral arrangement produces the vocal-apparatus as a crash site, in which the thoracic impulses collide with the roof of the mouth. The pipedal head becomes a virtual speech impediment, a sub-cranial pneumatic pile-up, discharged as linguo-gestural development and cephalization take-off. Burroughs suggests the protohuman ape was dragged through its body to expire on its tongue. It’s 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”

Barker’s understanding of the potential to numerically re-discover our pre-logos essence within the possibilities in the gaps, cracks, ruptures and hemorrhages of formatting is, I would say, a form of accelerationist positivism. But the formulation feels similar to Barthesian grain – that behind, in and inbetween the current language there is something older, truer…..and it is in these gaps – in exploring these gaps that potential is generated. Automalumizing, auto-asphysiating – electro-trauma vo-coding is the path.

If, in voice, there is a history of repression, mutilation- then to contemplate any emancipatory automalum we must first examine the socio-politcal scars of our voco-political encoding. We must look back, relish the ticks, map out the pheno-song from the geno-song, first, before escaping in the direction of numbers.

“Suborganizational pattern is where things really happen. When you strip-out all the sedimented redundancy from the side of the investigation itself - the assumption of intentionality, subjectivity, interpretability, structure, etc - what remains are assemblies of functionally interconnected microstimulus, or tic-systems: coincidental information deposits, seismocryptions, suborganic quasireplicators (Echo-DNA, ionizing nanopopulations), plus the macromachineries of their suppression, or depotentiation.”

These efforts are already well underway….In algorhythms, global cybernetix networx and rhythmic shifts independent from language or geologies. In music…

There is a process of formula flaying. A rhythmic carnage…. Synthesizing and streaming screaming strips of old code – V.2. Vocal vivisection to suture cthulhu to the future…..

The violence of verbal automalumizing coding itself is overtaken, by a new code, a machinic, cyborg virus – a portal to plotting both spirals. The cthulhu coms kernel or post cyborgization digital epiphany. A negotiation across geotrauma, the talk sickness of walking apes, from before to after.

Through syncope, cutting and scratching the injury of voice is broken – harmed - once more and a new code is plotted, extrapolated. An unseen rhythm. The ghostly, subconscious, subliminal voice that sings and raps between the violence logic of chops, cuts and beats is a new voice. A voice born of the relations between absence and presence – between two different spirals - syzygetic voice. This new voice, fragmented and fleeting is as much a set of chronosensitive relations as it is ‘old language’ - these relations have enormously complex implications and need to be excavated further. It is between the two spirals in the Barker spiral system that a profound syzygy exists, heard on record as strange looped coincidences and odd doublings….

Monday, 21 January 2013

rubbadub dub a dubbed Dybbuk box-office dibbouk

....rubbadub dub a dubbed Dybbuk box-office dibbouk has all the eating, voice horror/ possession horror tropes you could shake a bottle of faux-holy water at. You could see this as a film about puberty, fearing change, vocal change, bodily change etc. But I'd also like to think of the dybbuk box (which in this is film is spliced with the old pandora's box myth to some degree) as an avatar for the shiny little boxes of friends, spirits and voices that kids carry around all day.... the power of the little box becoming their friend before possessing them entirely and taking over their lives.... Anyhow, fun flick, and if you don't fancy hearing Mercedes Cambridge's roars of "Merrin!!!"this is a lighter substitute - it even has some scenes taken directly from Friedkin's classic (the MRSI, is a direct rip - with a pseudo subliminal face emerging to boot).

I'd like to think about the Yampolsky text and this film along with a Michael Jackson/Prince story.    The version presented in the Spike Lee "Bad" documentary tells of how MJ got spooked when Prince brought a voodoo box along to their first meeting - and that is why their collaborative single never quite happened. That is all I know, its a story of hearsay. But I'd like to think it, the box that spooked MJ, was a dybbuk box - a box harbouring a spirit from outside, a change, a possession - a vocal change. Everything that, people say, Michael Jackson (peter pan) was deeply averse to. Prince brought along a box containing the unnerving prospect of uncontrollable physical and vocal change. As one comment in the documentary mentions, MJ had a massive vocal range and would answer the phone in a gruff 'regular' voice - when asked why he doesn't talk like that more often, or sing using his lower vocal range, he replied that he just preferred the other way. MJ spent his life controlling his voice and his body (through gravity defying dance moves, or plastic surgery) - and so he would've had the most to lose, the most voice to lose, the most body to lose, the most control to relinquish, the most reasons for fearing the box that was brought to the meeting.... The Prince's dybbuk box scared The King of Pop away.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Berberian Sound Studio

Peter Strickland's film, Berberian Sound Studio, is pretty relevant to lots of discussions in AVC and ties in nicely with the Mikhail Yampolsky essay.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Judy vs. Carrie

Hello All!

After the Silverman seminar yesterday here are a couple of things...

Link to the recordings of the 'Her Noise' conference at Tate, as mentioned by Nicola.

Also, if you haven't seen these works by Oriana Fox before they might be of interest. Taking the voices from the 90s Sex and the City TV series, Fox re-enacts these through characters of an essential 70s Feminism. Rather than the piece working to be dismissive of one 'Feminism' in favour of the other, through the overlaying of voice it comments upon the conversation between different Feminisms. As Oriana enacts all the characters herself, it also links to the idea of being a 'Fan of Feminism' as discussed by Catherine Grant in her article 'Fans of Feminism: Re-writing Histories of Second-wave Feminism in Contemporary Art.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

AGF - Source Voice

Thanks to Alastair at Eleusinian Press for sending me this wire news article

from the Line Imprint site:

"The voice is the human instrument. Almost everyone has a voice, unique and custom built within them. A voice is personal, political and controllable. Some voices are heard more than others. In expanding the meaning of voice, listening to and deconstructing it, we learn about our body, our kind. We grow and gain awareness through this process.

Composing in a unique way with her voice makes AGF’s work a way to consider humanity. On Source Voice, all sounds are derived from artist’s voice and the room around her. The collaboration with Richard Chartier’s LINE label is based on mutual admiration and follows the aesthetics of minimalism. Source Voice is the second LINE SEGMENTS release.

Inspired by the ancient folk practice of yoik, AGF started to imitate and voice along with her surrounding wind and weather. Yoik is a mostly wordless form of singing/vocalization by the Sami tribe of northern Scandinavia and considered one of the longest living music traditions in Europe.

Through her careful study and work with pioneering composer Eliane Radigue for the past 10 years, AGF further experiments with highly contained and organized sound in the wide field of vocal expression. AGF has worked with Radigue while performing Elemental 3 as The Lappetites, and has now created OCCAM 7, a new composition by Radigue for solo voice.

While only the composition “Kaamos” is pure untreated voice, digital processing was used to bend our imagination of what our voice is and can become."