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).