[-empyre-] Hearing and Listening / unreasaonable effectiveness of ritual

Paul Dolden pauldolden at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 26 00:42:42 EST 2014

"I wonder how Paul reflected on the torture and the revolutionary/reactionary side of sound production..."

Well, since someone is inviting me to get on the soapbox I will.
I generally find artists talking about their own work to be very uninteresting. However given the invitation i will express a few thoughts about my own work that it is now 25 years old!(or at least what i can remember!)

"Below the Walls of Jericho" was part one of a three part work.
Parts two and three were called " Dancing on the Walls of Jericho" and "Beyond the Walls of Jericho". These two movements can be found on my 1993 CD entitled "L'ivresse de la Vitesse".  (Please note all my CDs are in their fourth to sixth editions and later editions have remastered versions with better sound quality. In 2012 I remastered my entire catalog again, because after another 10 years I felt the technology had vastly improved again.  These versions at this time remain unpublished.)

Back to the crumbling walls:

In this series of works I was trying to capture the three stages of revolutionary history I learned in my liberal arts years, i.e. following the 3 movements of music, (see the titles above:)

1)the Revolution itself, the tearing down of the old structures etc.
2)the post Revolutionary period of celebration and glee.
3)the counter revolutionary period, or the conservative reaction. the violent swing back.

In short to respond to Mr. Birringer, and how I responded to the idea of torture etc. That is really the third movement "Beyond the Walls of Jericho", which remains one of my most disturbing works.

Rather than continue this political/historical analysis of these works I would rather take my time on the soapbox to discuss the making of such works.  In short I think that "modes of production" are very important, and i think back to Jacques Attali's "Bruits" or "Noise" in which he argues that musicians' modes of production often prefigure later social forms.  Or in other words if nothing else Attali's theory entitles me to be a "gear head."

All 3 movements of the work achieve continuity by a very simple musical device: the octave is divided into 48 notes and all 7 octaves are used most of the time. This produces 336 notes or tracks of sound, add in 75 to 100 unpitched percussion instruments, stir, serve on ice and you are ready to knock down your consciousness or the local walls! (note there are sections of pretty Just Intonation to create constrast)

The eighth tone division of the octave (25 cents) was picked because it is slightly beyond a wide vibrato.  Each track or note was individually performed on a different musical instrument from the Eastern or Western music traditions. (I do all my own recordings and play all the string parts, both bowed and plucked.). Usually on each score page there are 40 different tempos operating (to create the sense of the polyrhythms you get with crowds shuffling, marching etc).

In the 70s and 80s how did i produce such works? First  accuracy of pitch is needed.  Furthermore, how do you do such mixes without a bad signal to noise found in analogue recording? Or the building up of distortion and non linearities created by constantly bouncing tracks?

Mr Birringer asks what i thought about torture etc. To tell you the truth most of my projects are always pushing the technological envelope and most of my thinking is involved in problem solving the technical issues , or god dammit "gear headness!" Unlike what was discussed in this forum I find the historical and aesthetic issues to be easy and I resolve these bedbugs before i start writing the work. Then i write the work out on large manuscript paper (like 6 feet long!)....   These two stages go quickly. Then the reality of making my sonic hallucination begins.  On average I spend two years full time work producing the work which, when finished, averages 15 minutes in length.

For those who still wonder how i produced the Walls cycle in the stone ages of audio technology, please feel free to write me for more details. In addition  at the beginning of each score I have supplied lots of detail about production.. The scores can be found on line at my publishers site. (empreintes digitales=URL given at end of email),


For bio, music excerpts, recordings,reviews etc go to:


To see a video of a chamber orchestra work go to:




On Tuesday, June 24, 2014 6:41:41 PM, Johannes Birringer <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
dear moderator, dear all

is it all right (given the asynchronous nature of this list) to still follow the invitation from last week that the weekend would open up a little breathing room for dialogue and reflection?
(apologies if new topics, Feminism Confronts Audio Technology, have already entered the playing field and taken over).

I was curious as to whether anyone thought my story about Xiansheng, posted on Sunday,  was at all relevant to previous discussions on sound and transmission, collection and curating [culturally context-specific] -
especially as I tried to evoke the rural and ritual context of the story of transmission of sound through the stomach, as well as proposing that culture specific ritual performance practices, even if considered
politically and ideologically obsolete or in need of obsoletion, can be reinvented and fabricated to serve a particular role (and as far as gender in the transition and transmission was examined, and it was, 
Peter Ran Guangpei replied that the shamans in the village were male, performing the chants, so were the musicians improvising the percussion music; women led the agricultural labor force and controlled other matters of family and social
practice; animals seemed to have privileged roles too).

My post was addressed, implicitly, to Kevin deForest (his writing on 06/17 regarding):

gather soundmaps and field recordings around the world 
has continued the trajectory from the 1960's pioneers of acoustic 
ecology. At the same time that it provides more opportunity to share 
eccentric or personal mappings of local place, I am interested in the 
exploration of cultures  outside of the sound collector's, that is in 
effect their tourist snapshots of place, a familiar exoticizing occurs.
And as much as the listening process can broken down into 
wavelengths, signal and noise, I think the interpretation of sound is 
importantly a culturally learned process

So then I felt the discussion on "vibrations" could be illuminated listening to Paul Dolden's music
from his "Below the Walls of Jericho"  -- thinking of the story of the walls of Jericho [e.g. Joshua 6:1-27]
and the sound that is said to have led to the crumbling, and the destruction of Jericho, and I consider
the myth a very telling example of a political event (as we have continued to see them, Baghdad recently)
here intertwined with a sound history event or a mythic allegory (walking around the fortress, sounding the
trumpets) that I associated, on a late night watching a Hollywood film take on the Trojan Horse, following Homer's Iliad
but compressing the long war a bit ('Troy'), with strategies we had learnt from history, strategies for types of colonial warfare and the use of sound in prisoner camps, during
torture, etc..  

Voices too show up, collected; the British Library just hosted a symposium on regional accents in voices from World War I (prisoners of war and their voices, recorded in German prisoner of war camps between 1916 and 1918, survived in the Berliner Lautarchiv, and now The British Library has acquired digital copies of all the British voices and documentation; checking this out, I read that in 1916 young Wilhelm Doegen, a linguist and phoneticist who had studied at Oxford in the 1900s, realised that fate had provided him with a captive audience, literally, and an extraordinary variety of accents and languages of the British empire including Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi, Welsh, Scots and Irish voices.
He got special permission from the authorities to take his equipment into camps including Sennelager in Westphalia, and Wunsdorf in Brandenburg, where along with Indian and African troops singing and telling folk tales in their own languages he recorded regional accents from all over Britain, many now virtually extinct, including voices from Aberdeen, Macclesfield, Bletchington and Wolverhampton. It is the oldest collection of English dialect recordings in the world.

I wonder how Paul reflected on the torture and the revolutionary/reactionary side of sound production, and then wondered
how Douglas Kahn might respond - is Earth Sound Earth Signal looking at political instrumentalizing of sonic energies
and signal energies?  And Nina Eidsheim's study of voice -- I wish you would say more about the "fallen off" pulses you mentioned on June 12. 

And now, as we enter a new week of discussions on, for example, what Asha Tamirisa calls "modular interfaces, and the ways in which their design and use expresses
particular ideas of power, freedom, connection, and subjectivity", can we make links back to the first and second week, and the beginning questions on labor and value?
-  and for example Jörgen Skågeby's suggestions [06/09]  about:

Research in interaction design, but also research in economic anthropology and sociology, has come to highlight ethical and aesthetical values. An ethical value relates to the risks and responsibilities 
a user may perceive when using or sharing a particular media object. It could relate to for example social justice, truth, democracy or principles of equality. 
The aesthetical value relates to a sensory and immediate experience.....

How is design affective and effective, and what are the culture=specific, age specific, class and gender-specific questions that might then follow, and how is use different from transmission? 
Is there any response to Roger Malina's fascinating post?

with regards
Johannes Birringer

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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