[-empyre-] vibration and movememt (cosmic scale)

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Jun 14 00:58:18 EST 2014

dear all

thanks for the thoughtful response, Douglas and Nina, and
and I am reading on, the discussion is opening up such a wide horizon now, yes, up to the cosmic scale you invoke Douglas,
but also a scale that goes much beyond what Nina called the more narrow body and material focussed sense perceptions & sensation,
the anthropomorphized versions of sensation  (and motion analysis / motion capture)?

...visit to the Lab of Ornithology, I am reminded of the anthropomorphic undertone with which the concept of the body and epistemology through sensation is often infused. Does paying attention to the body means attending to the vibration as I feel the vibrations through the flesh and bones as it stands on the airport floor? 

Or, does only a given material's seeming continuous material connection to what I think of as the object that is body constitute thinking about the body? 

The latter position, then, to address Marcus' question, does come down to "modes of sensing." At this point, I am not ready to subscribe to that. And, I doubt whether all of the artists with which Douglas deals in Earth Sound would subscribe to that as well.

Nina could you please expand on that past part, what modes of sensing do you not subscribe to?

The ritual and cosmic associations now brought up by Douglas's re-reference to Benjamin's "One-Way Street" and "On the Mimetic Faculty"   – recontexted to war-time destruction (through technologies), self-annihilation and ecological catastrophe -- where are you pointing the sonic pathways now?  Many here may not have read your book yet (sorry, I have not yet), and thus I feel the framework of course seems to have been hugely expanded, and I cannot follow yet, and I think the nereges or forces have not been fully discussed yet, only where you wish to stay away from (new age and psychic channeling etc, the Rausch of the trance folks out in the desert at the Burning Man revelations..) You very recent example of
Pauline Oliveros –  or Nina's and Marcus's reference to ornithology or rather to the birds, animals and other species interests me obviously, as does Benjamin's imaginary dance with the clouds, dancing the storms [= "sensuous similarity"] –  
interests me, and there could be a political reading desired by Marcus, not sure, when you speak of 

Oliveros produce[s] overtones from subaudible fundamentals, even if they cannot be felt, the audible sounds do
not necessarily abdicate their epiphenomenal relationship.

that is a daring formulation, I feel, anthropomorphizing sound into an agent, and there then are co-agencies, some that are not known/recognized (like invisible drones that capture us or shoot us, not drone music)  But maybe you read waves and ultrasound etc as forces that operate on the universe, on the earth, on social spaces and habitats, but the imperceptible ones, what effect do they have on humans, animals, objects, architectures, ecologies? what type of agency would be that that could be resisted or coopted, or in-corporated (whether along the axis of an anatomy or furtherfield) or contested (the sounds and epiphenemena that are dangerous to the health of the planet or the inhabitants). Could you  all say a bit more about the overtones, or what Marcus mentioned regarding tuning or being out of tune -   "The unpresentable aspects of sound and vibration become a model for the unpresentable as such"?

Johannes Birringer 

[Douglas schreibt]


On "non-sensuous similarity"...has any Benjamin scholar out there
approached this directly? I read Mimesis and Alterity years+ ago and don't
have my books nearby right now. It seems to me that the faculty of the
mimetic faculty/doctrine of the similar that informs it should neither be
brought into a perceptual or apperceptual frame too quickly, nor into one
of a drive. Rather, it is something either within humankind (since "the
ancients" as Benjamin calls them) or operating at a larger scale (I
wouldn't know how to characterize it). It surely is not merely manifested
in seeing animals in constellated stars, or kids imitating people, things
and forces; in one of the most amazing (long) paragraphs in One-Way Street,
"To the Planetarium"....I discuss this on page 77f. in ESES, sees an
alienated/repressed union with the cosmos practiced ritually by "the
ancients" sputtering along in "the poetic rapture of starry nights" but
really snapping back with a vengeance on the killing fields of WWI. "Human
multitudes, gases, electrical forces were hurled into the open country,
high-frequency currents coursed through the landscape, new constellations
rose in the sky, aerial space and ocean depths thundered with propellors,
and everywhere sacrificial shafts were dug into Mother Earth. The immense
wooking of the cosmos was enacted for the first time on a planetary
scale--that is, in the spirit of technology."

There is so much to say about the piece and this passage, but for here we
can note the presence of energies and a planetary scale notion of feminized
Nature. It posits the First World War as an energetic manifestion at a
global scale which would be punctuated at the end of the Second World War
with perhaps the most important one, Hiroshima, since according to Michel
Serres this was the first instance of a self-awareness of self-annihilation
at a global scale shared now with global warming and ecological
catastrophe, i.e., as in To the Planetarium, energy war and Mother Earth.

But even more relevant, since Marcus this is where drone might be
revisited, is that this ritual (war, planet, technology) engagement with
the cosmos was conducted collectively through Rausch. This is one of those
German words that doesn't fit into English very well, but from my
understanding among its meanings/connotations are ecstatic trance (the way
its translated in the English) and relatedly, intoxication, but also the
sound of an onrush (on-rausch), like the white noise disorientation in
breaking waves, with an undercurrent of rumbling or roar (roar you feel,
but I think you also feel the hiss, with or without the mist). I could very
well be wrong because I haven't tried to sort it out with any precision,
but there might be some there there.

One last thing. A qualification on the sensory, an artist like Robert Barry
posits in his work that even though a person does not immediately sense
something, say, ultrasound or radio waves, it does not mean that they are
not there. When musicians like Pauline Oliveros produce overtones from
subaudible fundamentals, even if they cannot be felt, the audible sounds do
not necessarily abdicate their epiphenomenal relationship. In LaMonte
Young's butterfly piece he stated that, sure, the butterfly makes a sound,
just because we can't hear it does not mean it is not there. So there is a
"listening in" along the lines of a "reading into" at work and at play.


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