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

Douglas Kahn djkahn at ucdavis.edu
Thu Jun 26 13:55:53 EST 2014

The list has gone a bit quiet so, along with Paul, I too would like to
respond to the question Johannes posed to me, and also add something in
keeping with the topic this week. 

> how Douglas Kahn might respond - is Earth Sound Earth Signal looking at
> political instrumentalizing of sonic energies and signal energies? 

The book covers quite a bit of territory with politics occurring frequently
and at various levels, including instances of instrumentalization. It is an
attempt to reconfigure given narratives of a number of historical back
stories from the grassroots up, so it relies on speaking through
innumerable original documents rather than gathering up existing glosses.
The political animation follows Benjamin's dictum that there is no document
of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism, and
add that there are no transmissions in which signals are not mixed (p. 16).
This disposition will be evident as you read, with several themes
methodically developed in stages and interrelated over the course of the

With respect to this week's theme, the book is my first attempt to address
electronic music. It was always surprising to me over the years that many
electronic musicians expressed their appreciation for my book Noise Water
Meat (1999) since there was really nothing on electronic music in the book
and I had nothing to say about it generally. By investigating it through
energies rather than the parade of inventions/inventors,
composers/performers, and cinema/television soundtracks through which the
standard histories of electronic music are written, I believe there is way
to engage electronic music (and related artistic practices) in a way
amenable to nature and ecology...it's in the book. With a little distance
from the normal motifs one can notice broad approaches toward technological
control and to what is controlled, with 1920s electronic music and much
that followed concerned with the former and 1960s (Mumma, Lucier, Oliveros,
etc.) with the latter. And with this, to circle back to Johannes, there is
a politics. It is not the only political dimension but one that relates to
broader operations of politics. 




> ----------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 J�rgen Sk�geby'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
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