Four aural-neiric speculations with a very fat head

Video of a paper presented at the Tuning Speculation conference in Nov. 2013, organized by Marc Couroux and eldritch Priest.

Four aural-neiric speculations with a very fat head
The impulse behind this paper is a desire to speculatively historicize sound, both in its mechanical and psychoacoustic trajectories. Since the mid-60s, our understanding of sound has been dominated by spectrum analysers that effectively represent a given sound as a combination of frequencies, a representation that is at the heart of both waveform analysis and sound synthesis. Supplementing this (ultimately positivist) rendering of sound, debates have proliferated (under the umbrella of ‘pscyhoacoustics’) over the role of hearing itself in constituting sound: hearing, after all, is a perceptual and sensual event as much as it is a mechanical one. With this in mind the paper considers the wearable artwork FATHEAD—still in a beta version, made with technical assistance from William Brent and Adam Tindale—which basically amounts to a microphone/headset that simulates ways the world would sound if the wearer’s head were 1000 feet wide. The language of thresholds that the piece executes proves a particularly robust site of exploration: the piece supplements the conventional thresholds of audibility (pitch and amplitude) with that of stereo relation.
~ Cecchetto

A Plague on Both Your Ears

A Plague on Both Your Ears —  eldritch Priest
Almost everyone knows what it’s like to have a song “stuck their head,” or more likely, what it’s like to have the abstract refrains of a melodic shard or lyrical splinter spread to the finer tissues of feeling we call thinking. But curiously, no one seems to understand why this occurs or how it may be remedied or prevented. Although research in psychology and the neurosciences is being conducted to ascertain the memory systems and brain mechanisms that are implicated in the production and maintenance of “earworms,” there’s very little philosophical or speculative thinking that aims to address the ecological nature of these attentional parasites and the way their spontaneous capture of attention articulates with certain tactics of cognitive capitalism.

In this work, eldritch Priest takes earworms as symptomatic of the way ubiquitous audio technologies and the omnipresence of music in contemporary culture produce a mode of continuous partial listening that breaks away from the overdeterminations of a sound’s local codings in order to participate in a standardized economy of feeling. He contends that earworms are not simply neurological aberrations but are abstract vectors that intensify cognitive capitalism’s encroachment on the background and “precognitive” registers of experience. In this respect he links the involuntary emergence and passive consumption of earworms to recent attempts in neuroscience to identify a “default-state” for the brain at rest where so-called “task-less” psychic activity—daydreaming and mind-wandering—is being re-figured to function conceptually as the new basis for an essentially distracted self.

Tuning Speculation: Experimental Aesthetics & the Sonic Imaginary
1-2 November 2013, Toronto, Canada