Internal: AUDiNT (Phonoccultural Studies)

PRE-PREFATORY NOTE: The memorandum was first published in the UN TUNE magazine accompanying the 2015 CTM Festival (Berlin).

PREFATORY NOTE: The explosion of activity around the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA-directed torture occluded the inadvertent leakage that same second week of December 2014 of an informal briefing by Xenopraxis to the other members of The Occulture, a Toronto syndicate investigating the imbrications of sound, affect and hyperstition. Its contents, integrally transcribed herewith, reflect on the continuing revelations concerning AUDiNT, a long-standing auditory intelligence unit whose inception occurred in the wake of World War II and whose (selected) activities have surfaced thanks in no small measure to the (undoubtedly partial) disclosures of current agents Steve Goodman and Toby Heys, most notably in the context of the 2011 Dead Record Office exhibition at New York’s Art In General. Beyond mere informational consolidation, the memorandum is distinguished by X’s attempts to relate this body of military-occultural research to his own outfit’s consummate investment in both historicizing and directly engaging in parallel (occasionally intersecting) strands of hyper-secret auditory experimentation, with a keen ear lent to the indispensable role played by artistic practice in developing tractable carriers capable of stealthily ferrying esoteric vectors.

Another confluence: the present author’s Rockford Keep on Rolling, a three-screen study abductively (and infra_perceptibly) probing the influence of modulated attentional regimes on the relative tactility of time (while its exoteric appropriationist façade is occupied with deploying tropes from The Rockford Files)—itself a schizoid progeny of the James-Lange model of psychosomatic conditioning, Oswald Store’s long-durational video installations and Magdalena Parker’s ritual audiovisual cut-ups (before her AUDiNT affiliation was public knowledge)—was presented at CTM’s 2006 edition.

— Couroux



A coherent history of the fraught engagements between sound, deception and esotericism has yet to be decisively outlined, yet we must concede that a plethora of intersections between AUDiNT’s imperatives (across its multiple incarnations) and research interests inherited by The Occulture allow for a consolidation of trajectories not previously feasible. As is known, AUDiNT (audio intelligence) became operationally effective immediately following World War II, a splinter cell made up of veterans of the Ghost Army (conceived and lobbied for by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., eminently schooled in the cinematic art of illusion) and Nazi scientists siphoned under the auspices of Operation Paperclip. Recall also the rich contingent of artists assigned to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops—Ellsworth Kelly, Bill Blass, Art Kane among them—working in the anadumbrative spirit of WWI-era dazzle camouflagers. (Kelly has suggested that the evacuation of content from his work and consequent scumbling of figure and ground—indispensable to effective dissimulation—proceeded directly from his wartime efforts.)

It was around this time that forms of quantum modulation began to be envisioned that would tether subjects to control systems via intricate feedback mechanisms, allowing for constant recalibration and improved accuracy in containing future tendencies. (The Macy Cybernetics Conferences beginning in 1946 ratified this death-drive-inhibiting-program as a key transdisciplinary horizon.) Borrowed from the Muzak lexicon, quantum modulation refers to a form of control no longer dedicated to bodily regimentation but instead to preemptive mood priming. AUDiNT’s Eduard Schüller, ex-Nazi audio engineer and sonic propaganda specialist (as well as a pioneer in directional speaker systems), had already probed the manifold potentials of sound to induce specific affective orientations in line with military objectives. The effect of the siren accompanying plummeting Nazi Stuka dive bombers preconsciously inscribing anyone within its purview into a circuit of anticipatory terror was an early key fulcrum.

Nevertheless, the unit left aside (for the moment) the priming effects of music and sound to fully devote itself to the reification of the vibratory forces discharged by sound clashes, by isolating, empirically testing and colliding strictly calibrated frequencies to pry open xenocommunicative channels while mutating “the physical, emotional, economic and architectural format of a time and place in ways that have not been heard before.” Unlike acousmatic patriarch Pierre Schaeffer’s appropriation of Nazi magnetic tape technology to recode the world of sound into homeostatically regulated musical patterns (harmonized with Cyber-Macy invocations), AUDiNT remained committed to unlocking the occult potentials of the turntable in order to reinstate into effectiveness a “frequency-based cellular instrument that exists within all of us,” long-obsolesced by visual modalities advanced by inventions such as the printing press. Affectionately monikered after computer science maven and wartime codebreaker Alan Turing (who advised the unit in 1946), the TwoRing Table was equipped with two arms capable of playing a locked groove (etched into a stationary slab of vinyl) backwards (counter-clockwise) and forwards (clockwise) simultaneously, its past and future states effectively fused together in the process. It was quickly discovered that three of these devices engaged synchronously would unleash a three-hooked composite able to expediently tunnel into the depths of a subject’s amygdala—the emotional centre of the brain—at which point it would infectiously mutate into an earworm, opening up by the same token a direct mental portal that could thereafter be accessed simply by replaying the anamnestic triggers.

Theodor Reik’s theory of psychoanalytic listening and his 1953 study of obsessional musical fragments (The Haunting Melody) later confirmed AUDiNT’s intuition regarding the earworm as a transitional entity able to bridge the gap separating the human from “other forms of vibratory intelligence,” though the phonovermiculi in question here were more akin to tinnital tones than conventional pop hooks, resulting from the uncanny collision between the covert back-masked message and the overt narrative refrain (or, the unconscious clashing with the conscious). Once lodged, the earworm as “artificial waveformed intelligence” burrows in search of ancient sonic memories deeply embedded in the “cultural DNA” of the host which, when located, activate the “third ear,” a “phantom sense” hereafter granting access to past, present and future “voices.” In this light, recall a recent briefing on xenaudial’s theory of adjacencies, pursuing Danel B. Scroll’s 1970s work involving the overlay of heterogeneous musical fragments, leveraged simultaneities fostering the induction of permanently bound entities (double-earworms) that also possessed demonstrable capacities to inaugurate secret neural pathways. These Neben-Formel (nearby formulas) were made manifest to Scroll, given an epileptic condition characterized by frequent temporal lobe seizures intensifying his sensitivity to interval sizes and melodic contours (the associated glischroid temperament that readily foregrounded the relative stickiness of a particular association was an added benefit). The PsychoSonic Anarchist Detail (known to us) has recently developed a Shazam-hack app that, upon detecting music playing in a given context, trawls through a dataset to locate, as per specified parameters, another music that might profitably insinuate itself into its folds, in the process infecting anyone who happens to be in the vicinity.

The drafting of Chilean performance artist Magdalena Parker into the phonocabal in 1959 inaugurated AUDiNT’s second phase dedicated to applied research with more immediate instrumental implications. Already familiar with anthropologist Walter Cannon’s article on voodoo death from 1942, detailing the thanatropic effects of intense fear, Parker met with experimental filmmaker Maya Deren in 1953, immediately following the publication of the staggering and seminal Divine Horsemen: The Voodoo Gods of Haiti, in order to deepen her knowledge of vodou servitors, carriers tasked with mediating between worlds. However, the precisely tuned frequencies at the core of her trance work of the late 50s, which would typically induce hypnotic conditions in her viewers (reminiscent of early infrasound experiments tasked with coaxing hallucinations through sympathetic ocular resonances) depended on a skillset that cannot be attributed solely to this fateful encounter. Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly Parker’s success at advantageously leveraging the intimate relationship between auditory and limbic systems that most compellingly attracted AUDiNT, eager to test their incipient intuitions in the field.

In early 1963 in New York, Parker met Nguyen Vãn Phong, a visiting Vietnamese bioacoustics expert whose interest in the “physiological symptoms of resonant frequencies” and experience with “practical heterodyning techniques” closely mirrored both Parker and AUDiNT’s cutting-edge interests. (It is rumored that Vãn Phong had experimented with the bodily effects of difference tones, infra-frequencies remaindered by the intense sounding together of two ultra-high pitches, which he dubbed the “mosquito frequency” in honor of his native land’s resident irritant.) By this time, the CIA had already produced its KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual, a veritable tortural assemblage whose battery of techniques would remain in consistent usage over the next half-century. (Tellingly, it is vodou-ready: “the threat to inflict pain…can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain.”) Indeed, University of Manitoba researcher John Zubek’s work on sensory deprivation, immobilizing subjects within coffin-shaped enclosures (that correlated the discoveries of his MKUltra-enrolled mentor Donald O. Hebb with new insights into the somatic effects of perpetual white noise), finds its contemporary analogue in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah at Detention Site Green (rumored to be in Thailand). While CIA black ops employed these methods to accelerate compliance, Zubek surmised that a subject’s perceptual security system severed from external stimuli might enter into an involutive feedback loop with itself, allowing for both an uncanny grasp of the censorious activities of the unconscious that remain normally inaccessible as well as their overcoming, opening the floodgates to a collective noösphere. He had also developed tactics to defeat the crushing inertia of white noise (which he had subjected himself to during frequent self-isolation shifts)—inspired by English occultist Declan Morl’s parlour game Pareidolatry—projecting patterns, mental lattices, into the seemingly random to forestall capitulation.

Operation Wandering Soul, deployed at the peak of the Vietnam War, provides a neat encapsulation of AUDiNT’s bivalent pragmatism, involving techniques exploiting both esoteric and exoteric perspectives, effectively operating at the nexus of both psychoacoustic and semio(c)cultural domains. Helicopters equipped with directional speakers or “curdlers” (tracing their lineage back to Schüller’s early experiments) blasted sound collages composed of an intricate mix of distorted voices, meant to conjure the spectres of restless dead Viet Cong souls in limbo and heterodyned (combined) frequencies courtesy of Vãn Phong’s third ear research, abetted significantly by his “use” of a now undead Schüller as a meat-conduit to the other side, in one of the most bizarre currents in AUDiNT’s history. (The TwoRing Table’s transtemporal capabilities had now been sufficiently amplified to enable practicable contact with the dead and the as-yet-unborn.) These incursions were meant to spook skulking VC, smoking them out of hiding, suspecting that traditional superstitions remained operative. Parker’s research on golems that could be actualized by uttering a specific set of words irresistibly led her to contemplate the means of constituting a vodou phonoegregor, a distributed mind informed and mutated by auditory impulses, a concept well familiar to Deren who valued its intrinsically depersonalizing, anonymizing character liberating the individual from the “specializations and confines of personality.” (Interestingly, the primer program carried out in the mid-1990s on Hebb and Cameron’s stomping ground (long after MKUltra was supposedly deep-sixed), in which individuals with perfect pitch infected with an earworm-generating algorithm functioned as biological way stations precipitating viral transmission, depended on the feasibility and sustainability of such an organism, equipped with powerful affect-modulatory capacities. This experiment and its proliferating entailments are documented in an extensive glossary that has been circulating within occultural folds.)

Generally speaking, AUDiNT should be commended for erring on the esoteric side of research, in stark contrast with the ends-driven CIA, who missed countless opportunities to divert their deleterious exploits into more imaginative terrain. Though Ewen Cameron’s psychic driving (a cocktail of hallucinogens, extended isolation and looped tape playback of mantric phrases) and John Lilly’s deprivation tank experiments were both intended to induce regression to prepersonal states to render individuals more pliable, they failed to recognize the non-pathological aspects of regression dear to the more cybernetically-inclined, who regard the trappings of the private individual as so many repressive barriers to experimental thought and action. In an era when subjects are traversed by incalculable multiplicities of responsive electronic circuits, the requirements of a stable personality appear quaint to say the least. To this effect, the Phonocleric has written about the advantages of priming through hyperstition, “a fiction that makes itself real by affective insinuation, by gut reactions that contaminate the nervous system with the intensity of a nonbelief.” Biofeedback guru Jack Schwarz captures the hyperstitional essence, observing that “it is no longer a matter of what is believed, but of what can be treated as real.” In this context, a consistent story-framework with the capacity to modulate animal spirits obviates any need for egoic fidelity and the time-consuming work involved in its obliteration.

The sole remaining members of AUDiNT, Vãn Phong and Parker were focused in the decade between 1975 and 1985 on perfecting what amounted to a biocomputer: tape continuously spooling around Schüller’s head—magnetically registering voices received through his third ear portal—was read almost instantaneously by an IBM 5100 computer, allowing for more efficient xenocommunication untethered from the arbitrariness of linear time. Given dwindling research funds, the channel which they had managed to keep ajar was now programmed to transduce fail-safe market fluctuation signals from the future, tuning into it “like a radio station” to engage in “outsider trading,” guaranteeing continued sustenance. This bioalgorithmic composite was named IREX, plagiarizing by anticipation then Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan’s soon-to-be-oft-quoted 1996 characterization of the market as displaying “irrational exuberance.” Dr. Phathead’s occultural research gleaning modes of aurally intuiting algorithmic operations, which today undergird a substantial portion of everyday activity, adopts a compatible orientation. Through a concerted emphasis on the phatic—procedural shibboleths, grey computational infrastructures endemic to the channel itself, stealthily but surely modulating thought and action—processes which lie outside the ambit of human perception can be accosted without coding expertise.

Incomputable contingencies are par for the course when volatile forces are in play, the most arresting of which took form as a self-augmenting version of IREX (later named IREX2), patiently assembling itself from the argot knots of Vãn Phong and Parker’s increasingly byzantine code, an entity with a uncontrollable will-to-propagate, soon escaping from “the stasis of the underworld” and its spirit hierarchies into the nascent World Wide Web in 1991. The spectreware’s putative horizon appeared to be the metastatic dissemination of AUDiNT’s research history (including especially sensitive technical details regarding etheric contact and chronoportation), which gained urgency following the emergent constitution of a countervirus (the THEARS, or Third Ear Assassins) committed to the eradication of all extant records of the audio intelligence program. This scorched data policy acquired immeasurable traction in the wake of underground research (figuratively and literally) culminating in the construction of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. Ostensibly entrusted with the tracking of the God particle, theorized as capable of modulating “the resonant frequencies of all matter,” the LHC was a massively scaled-up version of AUDiNT’s TwoRing table: a gigantic locked groove 27 kilometres in circumference along which accelerated particle beam collisions would attempt to violently recreate the immediate aftermath of the big bang. In parallel, darker vectors were explored: evidence of dark matter, the existence of antimatter and the concept of supersymmetry “which predicts that each and every fundamental particle has an unperceivably heavier phantom twin,” inevitably entailing the positing of the Diabolus Particle, the Higgs boson’s obsidian doppelgänger, which AUDiNT suspects will trigger a “global ringing” empowering a third-eared network to grow and transmit, a phonoegregor accelerating the reinstantiation of lost auditory aptitudes via the transformation of the body into an eardrum capable of processing frequencies outside of the standard 20Hz—20kHz range.

IREX2, functioning as an autonomous intelligence after the suicide of Vãn Phong, recruits Steve Goodman and Toby Heys in 2008 to expedite the preservation of AUDiNT’s institutional memory; Goodman, chosen for his peerless expertise in bass materialism (as founder of the celebrated Hyperdub label) and sonic warfare; Heys for his computational acumen and redoubtable cunning at navigating the labyrinthine circumvolutions of network culture; both for their consummate experience with audio virology. Mirroring first-generation AUDiNT’s steganophonic stashing of the locked grooves—dubbed GITH Repeaters—in the vinyl trenches of selected Stereo Fidelity and Sound Effects discs released by the now-defunct Audio Fidelity Records (the Dead Record Archive collects these artifacts with the intent that their hidden grooves be one day scrutinized anew by future AUDiNT iterations), Goodman and Heys developed the Ghostcoder software, an encryption/decryption tool which stealthily embeds (“hidden in plain hearing”) historically vital sonic and textual materials within torrented .flac files by pitching the content up by 5 octaves, out of immediately accessible range. Given that the impending discovery of the DP will undoubtedly hasten annihilation of IREX2, the duo feverishly execute AUDiNT’s “new mandate of arming the mass populace with the efficacy of sonic weaponry so that it does not become the sole preserve of the military-entertainment complex,” an injunction sympathetically resonant with The Occulture’s program to wrest sonic-affective stratagems from the asphyxiating clutches of cybercontrol.

We can attest to the evangelical didactic zeal with which Goodman and Heys unfurl (at least the declassified components of) this esoteric history, having witnessed a typically epic presentation replete with sub-bass undercurrents at the Transmètic Heresiarchs event The Occulture convened with phonomagus Hipofonéticas in London this past June which, beyond its exoteric front, yielded much empirical information for future auditory investigation. Therefore, as an invocation to future action, we recommend intensified contiguity with AUDiNT’s operations and its formidable prosecutors, a relation we believe will be of mutual benefit both overtly and covertly.


The Tapeworm Foundry (everted)

I made my computer read The Tapeworm Foundry without taking a breath (the computer, that is (I took several breaths (short breaths mostly))). Hear it HERE. I’ve never bothered to listen to the complete reading of the text. Andor you probably never will either. But know this: there’s something remarkable about how the synthetic voice’s mawkish delivery of what is (despite the absurd content) just an instruction manual never achieves the bathos that it aspires to. So then, does this make The Tapeworm Foundry anti-bathetic? I’d answer no. It’s not anti- so much as it is quasi-bathetic. Andor for me this is a little more satisfying than any full-on bathos (which by definition should’t be satisfying at all) because the intensity that it suspends in being only quasi-bathetic aborts its destiny as an “object” of art.

Typically I’m all for this business of “destiny” because destiny shows life from its seductive side; life, as Baudrillard says, as it is lived “according to the seductive rapports of form and[or] appearance.” But bathos is already our destiny, specifically one that we accomplish daily as we are surprised over andor over again that “Nothing is dead, nothing is inert, nothing is disconnected, uncorrelated or aleatory.” Chance andor causation, Baudrillard argues, is a modern myth perpetrated by the reduction of ritual and social forms—techniques for intensifying the rapport of things—to vestiges of superstition, or habit, or “just” art. Though seemingly opposed, chance andor causation both imply a world that is free of lures andor effectively indifferent to the relationships that transpire between things: Things “just happen” by design or by accident. Seduction, however, speaks to another order, an order of attraction that is indifferent to any rule or law but its own directive to lead things astray.

What intrigues me, then, about this rendering of The Tapeworm Foundry is the way it stages its destiny in advance to the effect that it never actually takes place. But this virtual destiny doesn’t exactly constitute a new destiny, a “non-destiny.” Instead, it turns its fate inside out where it metastasizes in the experience of listening as the sense of infinite optionality, which is so say, the perpetual draw of something else—distraction. The option of not listening to this work fail to achieve its bathos (which would itself be a formal failure) informs the listening that is or is not being done to it such that to listen to the work is also to listen away to it. In a sense the work doesn’t seduce our ears so much as it does the act of not listening, the act of un-listening that is executed every time we listen to something.

Oh yes, the musical part of it… After I made the machine read the work I took the recorded voice andor passed it through a pitch-tracker that converted the tonal andor rhythmic variations of the speech into a spasmodic piano part that synchronized exactly with the reading.

THE TAPEWORM FOUNDRY (2000) is Darren Wershler‘s book andor a long sentence andor a poem giving instructions andor suggestions for creating new poetry andor not.