[-empyre-] incompatible research practices - week 02 - performing revolutions // noise and gossip

Marie Thompson marie.thompson at newcastle.ac.uk
Wed Feb 15 07:04:02 EST 2012


Hello again

He foregrounds the reassuring role that mothers (used to?) play in the
education of kids, training them to be vocally (physically) able to
perform discourse. Along those lines, he kind of traces a gendered
account of the development of media systems. He also refers to how,
later on, women would get “within writing” by taking the role of
secretaries and typists.

Theres a number of fascinating discourses that work to link the voice to notions of femininity. Its very much prevalent in psychoanalytic theory. There is also the (problematic) associations of the voice with immersion and immanence.
I'm interested in the voice because I think it is an interesting mechanism for eluding identity. I felt that there were a number or resonances between my own work and Zach Blas's work on 'Fag Face', which is concerned with escaping the identity of the face. The voice, like the face, is heard as a marker of a unique, individual identity. It betrays many details; we can perhaps, for example, class and/or nationality, from a particular accent. And like the face it has been subject to recognition technologies. But it is also deceptive. There is, for example, the uncanniness of those voices that do not match their bodies; the ventriloquist's dummy or the impersonator. It might seem strange that i'm interested in escaping identity when this current work is so heavily routed in identity politics. There are two primary responses to this.  First, I feel that you have to work through identity in order to escape it. You can't really start from a position of 'non-identity'. Second, the most dangerous women in terms of noise have tended to be those who do not fit. So you have the Siren, who is half monster, half seductress, the gossip hags and old wives who are women who have outlived their reproductive capacity and thus exist as a corporeal excess. The witches who there is just something not quite right about.

As for your remark about women and technology I really like the remark about operators being a voice, but not really having one. It reminds me a little of Satrre's remarks about the machine dreaming through women. Nina Power picks up on this in her chapter in the Noise and Capitalism publication, speculating about what happens 'When communication becomes less idle chatter than the production of pure noise? When the machine, instead of dream- ing through women, is created, maintained and, indeed, exploited by them?' (Power, 100)

Oh, i'd also like to offer a disclaimer. If it seemed like I was suggesting that the sound man turned me down because I was a woman, I think thats possibly inaccurate. I think (hope...) that would have happened whoever I was. It was ironic because of the project focus. And once again, I certainly don't blame him or hold him responsible. I was actually thinking about this the other day, and the limitations of equipment and technology. While I wouldn't have wanted to push the speakers too much it is really easy to get carried away. And that certainly wasn't my equipment to damage. So I guess there is also the question of do I have a responsible to create certain sounds that don't risk equipment? (I appreciate this isn't the most interesting question, and I feel that its been asked a lot of times...)

 But yes, and certainly in musicology, the role of intermediaries, such as promoters, or soundmen/soundwomen (I feel I need to write both but realistically the latter is such a rarity in my experience...) tend to be written out of the artistic experience. But tother agents, human and non-human, play such an important role and can have such a profound impact. Magnus' question about managing vs maintaining is interesting. I wonder, Magnus, if I could respond by asking how you would see the difference between those roles. Perhaps there is also the additional role of intervenor? and how is the balance between facilitator/protector (both in terms of audience and equipment)?


To conflate things and deal a little with what Magnus asked in the other email thread:

I wonder how these and further ideas of limit, proportion and standards
of comparison are, in relation to Marie's 'M*nifesto for Interfer!ng
Wom/en', where, "Noise is first the ruPTUre. As such, it does not only
diminish and destroy but also produces, creates, enhances...unwanted,
unorganised, unreasonable: these issues are contigent." Iona, you
wrote that, "a reason that lets itself be reasoned with makes possible
the unconditioned event (contingency)." I wonder, are there any
particular resonances/oppositions between these statements for you
both?

I'm not sure what the resonances are yet (I feel like I'd like to hear a little more from Iona before I comment - Derrida is not my strong point!) but I can expand a bit on what I was getting at (this is the trouble with manifestos, you don't really get to detail points so much). Noise has been subject to what I would recognise as an aesthetic moralism which has worked to construct a binary between noise and silence. This binary has been conflated corresponding dualisms between the  unnatural/natural, urban/rural, disturbing/relaxing, distracting/thought provoking, unwanted/wanted and, fundamentally, good/bad. But these divisions make problematic ideological assumptions about experiences with sound.  A former colleague of mine, Jacqueline Waldock, has done some really interesting work about the soundscapes in the Welsh streets in Liverpool (an area due for demolition), which has pointed to the problems of such divisions between noise and silence and refuted certain presumptions about sound that we tend to assume we all share. Of particular interest to me has been the noise of neighbours. A number of participants have commented on missing the sounds of their neighbours, when they have been (forcibly) relocated to ‘better’ housing with thicker walls. Participant Mrs T states 'I always used to hear the neighbours through the walls. I could hear them, and they could hear me. It made me feel safe knowing that someone would hear me if I fell or they would check on me if they couldn't hear me moving or I would check on them if I heard a thump or a scream.' Similarly, participant N, when commenting on a recording of the sounds of her neighbours coming through the wall, said that ‘it’s the sound of community and sharing’. As Waldock argues, the participant’s relationship with the sounds of their neighbours ‘differs greatly from the assumed norm of annoyance at neighbours who invade the private space domestic space of others.’ ( <http://journal.sonicstudies.org/vol01/nr01/a08>)

So I've been trying to get away from the notion of noise as unwanted (for one thing, as a practitioner, this definition isn't particularly helpful)  i've been trying to think about what noise is before it is unwanted, defining noise as an interruption that induces a change in relations. This interruption and change in relations has a qualitative variability. So I may speak louder to overcome the sound of the traffic, which has interrupted my conversation, or I may have to move away from the area entirely. But there is nothing inherently negative about the change; whether it affects us negatively and thus becomes unwanted, undesirable etc, is relational. This means that noise also has the capacity to function more 'positively, as it is often has in art, or in the examples from the Welsh streets.

I think thats all I should say for now. I hope theres something of interest in there - i'm not sure if i'm saying anything that is contributing much!
Best
Marie

________________________________



On 14 Feb 2012, at 15:22, Gabriel Menotti wrote:

Hey!

I have also been interested in the treatment of women’s
sounds as noise. Gossip, for example, is seen as frivolous,
extraneous, and meaningless. [Marie Thompson]

This reminds me that Kittler attributes some important characteristics
to the voice of women that are far from meaningless or threatening,
but not entirely incompatible with this perspective on gossip.

He foregrounds the reassuring role that mothers (used to?) play in the
education of kids, training them to be vocally (physically) able to
perform discourse. Along those lines, he kind of traces a gendered
account of the development of media systems. He also refers to how,
later on, women would get “within writing” by taking the role of
secretaries and typists.

Thus, there seems to be a cultural history of women as specialized
functionaries (as computers as well, as evoked by Hayles) that
intermediate/ mediate discourse; allowed to /be/ a voice but not to
/have/ one.

But then, it is interesting to note that the intervention of the
soundman in Marie’s performance shows how being just a functionary can
still be very “meaningful”:

When I arrived, the soundman was not expecting
me to play (I think something had got lost in the
communication channels) […] what actually happened
was the noise kicked in, and the soundman turned
me right down. [MT]

In that sense, we could develop Magnus’ question further: more than
managing or maintaining a network of performance, is the presence of
functionaries able to offer another perspective over these networks,
one that allows us to turn dualisms around? (Particularly the
separation between “technical procedures” and “meaningful discourse” –
and maybe that between backstage and stage)?

Though it's a matter of perspective - I know that some
people who saw it didn't recognize the lack of noise/
volume (myself included). [Magnus Lawrie]

Which also throws us back to the issue of how shared/ universal have
to be the criteria for assessing these less traditional practices –
especially when they propose a radical departure from previous
measures/standards.

Also, is there any special care that should be taken in order to
communicate them to a “general” audience? Or are misunderstandings
also a positive result?

Best!
Menotti
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