Friday (20 November 2015)
(All sessions take place at 155 Walnut Avenue, Toronto)
9:30 – 11:00 — Keynote 1
Rebekah Sheldon — "Magic as Method: Ritual Sound, Queer Sex"
My more limited remit in this talk responds to the following questions: What ontological conditions are necessary for us to be able to affirm the productivity of magic (and its nonrepresentational qualities) on the unfolding of the future? With what notions of causality and historicity? To think these things, I propose reconsidering the presumptive emptiness and passivity of the future. Rather than understanding the future as a necessary entelechy or as container for the present’s consequences, I offer a conception of the future as an active plenum rippling with the forces of distortion, iteration, resonance, and distribution. Giving flesh to this claim will occupy the first part of the talk and will lead me to topics as ostensibly distant from each other as feminist rereadings of the chora, philosophies of immanence, quantum physics, and sound studies. The second half of the talk will take up Kenneth Anger’s short film “Invocation of my Demon Brother” as a case study in the aesthetic-cum-magical torquing of the future and as an apt location to make good on the title’s promise to theorize the role of queer sex in ritual magic.
11:15 – 12:45 — Panel 1
- Joshua Hudelson — "Mourning and Mediation in Electronic Voice Phenomenon"Mourning and Mediation in EVPIn scholarly and popular literature, electronic storage media are held to have profoundly upset traditional notions of temporality. This includes the deferral of the normative mourning process (i.e. letting go), as the bereaved may conjure back deceased loved ones in the form of recorded voices and images. My paper argues that the role of electronic media--particularly audio technology--is not so simple. Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) broadly encompasses the practice of recording, listening to, transcribing, and sharing audio recordings of ghosts. Hundreds--perhaps thousands--of Americans and Europeans engage in this practice, the origin of which is generally attributed to a Swedish researcher who heard inexplicable voices on a tape recorder in 1959. EVP is featured in several "paranormal" television shows, films, and radio programs, and it is the subject of dozens of books. For some, the practice is a matter of historical or technological interest--listening for the words of famous generals in recordings made on battlefields, or tinkering with amplifiers, antennas, and other electronic circuitry to better tune in the otherworldly. Many, however, use EVP to communicate with recently deceased family members and friends. But this communication is never easy and only occasionally satisfying. The voices of ghosts are faint, terse, and obscured by the very noise out of which they're made. Rather than conceiving of EVP practitioners as wishful thinkers unable to let go, I claim that they are engaged in the even more difficult work of listening to the persistent presence of absence.
- Eleni Ikoniadou — "Sonic Fiction: making reality, proliferating improbability"Sonic FictionAUDINT (short for Audio Intelligence) is an international research unit with a double aim: to conduct both theoretical and artistic experiments at the peripheral zones of sound—such as ultrasonic and infrasonic frequencies—investigating their impact on psychological and physiological states. These zones are what the collective refer to as ‘unsound’, audio-related phenomena existing across the wider vibrational spectrum that are useful for offering insights into the unknown aspects of perception. AUDINT’s sonic interventions serve as reminders that cultural artefacts, such as records, are capable of producing and affecting reality rather than merely represent it. This power of sound is summoned by the ‘inexistent’ genre of ‘sonic fiction’. According to Kodwo Eshun, “The term sonic fiction can be understood as the convergence of the organisation of sound with a fictional system whose fragments gesture towards but fall short of the satisfactions of narrative” (2013).
AUDINT ultimately belong to an alternative sonic culture that includes the afrofuturist, militant and spectral politicism of the likes of Rammellzee, Sun Ra, Underground Resistance, and Drexciya. Like them, AUDINT operate from an aspiration to activate imagined realities lying tangent to the actualised course of history. This talk will explore the ways in which sonic fiction brings together snippets of events, habits, objects and processes at once pertaining to historicity and mythology. Sonic fiction is an unconventional research method, whose aim is to radicalise the speculative ghost in sound culture. Intertwined with the power of fictional spaces to unearth the secret life of things, sonic fiction tells the untold tales of theory. It invites a rupture to knowledge and a theoretical analysis of sound unsuitable for human consumption.
- Ryan Platt — "The Sense of the Other: Otoacoustic Emissions and Automated Motion in Jacob Kirkegaard’s Sound Installations"The Sense of the OtherRecent sound art frequently amplifies imperceptible sonic material in order to expand the field of representation and affirm the multiplicity of life. In contrast to this artistic approach, I claim that Jacob Kirkegaard’s installations impede perception, but nevertheless make it possible to sense the presence of phenomena missing from representation. My argument first examines Kirkegaard’s 2008 installation Labyrinthitis, which employs sounds produced by the ear called otoacoustic emissions. By using otoacoustic emissions, Labyrinthitis contests the assumption that hearing is a passive process that proceeds in a unilateral direction. As an act of “active hearing,” Kirkegaard’s amplified ear transmits new sounds that in turn stimulate similar tones in its audience, thus confusing boundaries between self and other. This alteration between self and other reproduces the defining symptom of labyrinthitis: vertigo, which disrupts physical and representational stability. Rather than a disruption, however, I contend that the incessant oscillation of these otoacoustic emissions suspends symbolic order and provides an alternative form of representational continuity predicated on continuous, automated motion. Having established this reading of Labyrinthitis, it then becomes possible to identify this continuous motion in the rotations, reverberations, and feedback loops used in Kierkegaard’s other installations. Crucially, these installations also address historical experiences, including ordinary autobiographical events and collective catastrophes, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. On this basis, I ultimately argue that the automated motion that emerges in Kierkegaard’s installations is a process of aesthetic mediation capable of imparting the enduring resonance of actual histories otherwise foreclosed from representation.
12:45 – 2:15 — Lunch
2:30 – 4:00 — Panel 2
- Paul Hegarty — "Catch and Capture: Field Recording as Artefact Generator"Catch and CaptureOnce the province of anthropologists, field recording now fills our media ears: form the crisp hyperrealism of Chris Watson’s soundtracks for David Attenborough, through the use of samples in pop and rock, through to the replacement of music by odd sounds, and on further to soundscapes, the real has reinfiltrated the realm of organized sound. The practice of field recording lurches between the extremes of purity, clarity and fidelity on the one hand to the scuzziness of a more metaphorically fractal surface on the other. The recorded real acts in both cases as a signal for the authentic world, for a better, ecological listening. I wish to suggest another way, a way that inhabits the ‘in-between’ (Levinas, Blanchot), and explores the interctaion of recording device, human framing and object. Building on the work of Jonathan Sterne and Pierre-Yves Macé, I am going to uncover a much more interesting field of intersections that instead of being anxious of interference, is precisely about the complex construction of fleeting objects, often unwanted, and known as ‘artefacts’. Ultimately, the recording is not the only site of the artefactual, in this light, the field too becomes artefactual, charged with potential.
- Jonathan Scott Lee — "Listening to Photographs: (In)audible Temporalities in the Work of Daisuke Yokota"Listening to PhotographsIn this presentation I explore a trans-modal discourse, hoping to make photography resonate with the sounding arts. I begin with the work of Japanese photographer, Daisuke Yokota (born 1983), who regularly invokes the influence of Aphex Twin on his work, noting in particular his interest in finding analogues to delay, reverb, and echo in his photographic process and emphasizing his concern with temporal perception. Through an exploration of two of Yokota’s photobooks, Vertigo (2014) and its “hallucinatory sibling,” Toransupearento (2014), I tease out ways of “listening” to these photographic images, “reducing the volume” of their referential or indexical qualities and being more attentive to the marks these images bear of Yokota’s process. This process includes repeated re-photographing of the same images and developing film with solutions of varying non-standard temperatures. The resulting rather abstract and distressed photographs are, I argue, exemplary manifestations of what Jeff Wall has described as the “liquid intelligence” in photography, something akin to the hallucinatory unconscious of the more familiar “optical intelligence.” Exploring this “liquid intelligence” further, I make use of Jane Bennett’s vibrant materialism to suggest ways in which an apparently static photographic print can nevertheless (in Yokota’s words) “be a way to alter the sensation of time in a visual way.” My argument comes to an end by returning to the sounding arts to suggest that Yokota’s photographs can breathe new life into Karlheinz Stockhausen’s concept of “moment-form.” In this way, “listening to photographs” can help us “re-vision” an important concept in 20th century musical analysis.
- G. Douglas Barrett — "Music After Contemporary Art"Music After Contemporary Art“Music After Contemporary Art” speculates on music’s potential as a critical art form following a series of recent propositions that variously call for a move beyond contemporary art institutions. Beginning with intersections between queer and feminist politics, radical listening practices, and political movements of the 1970s and the present, I examine the work of contemporary German artistic duo Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz. In 2013 Boudry and Lorenz created a 16mm film realization of Pauline Oliveros’s 1970 composition To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation. Written following her own reading of Solanas’s controversial 1967 SCUM Manifesto, Oliveros’s composition sought to express the manifesto’s “deep structure,”1 while framing the figures of Monroe and Solanas through the composer’s radical feminist listening practice. As a reply to the recent proliferation of manifestoes like David Joselit’s After Art (2013), I consider a number of recent statements that call for a resolute exit from the economic and symbolic circuits of the art world. The Boudry–Lorenz project serves as a prompt to speculate on the consequences suggested by recent lectures by writer Suhail Malik and philosopher Reza Negarestani which demand, through different registers, the radical withdrawal from art world structures. The themes of radical community and collectivity engaged in Solanas’s infamous manifesto, and buttressed by the “deep listening” of Oliveros, intersect with Malik’s “On the Necessity of Art’s Exit from Contemporary Art,” and Negarestani’s “The Human Centipede, A View From the Art World” (both 2013). I conclude by asking if music can supersede such an exodus by mobilizing radical forms of collectivity.
4:15 – 6:15 — Panel 3
- Amy Ireland — "Black Circuit: Code for the Numbers to Come"Black CircuitAlthough its power continues to underwrite twenty-first century conceptions of appearance, agency, and language, it is nothing new to point out the complicity of the restricted economy of Western humanism with the specular economy of the Phallus. Both yield their capital from the trick of transcendental determination-in-advance, monotonically establishing the value of difference from the standpoint of an ‘a priori of the same’. What is less apparent, however, is the compact that quietly strengthens itself in the system’s shadow among the elements of its inhuman surplus―that which is trafficked yet excluded from trade (women and machinery alike)―along with the transcendental-economic deformation such a pact seems poised to initiate.
It is Sadie Plant who best outlines an understanding of this exclusion as indicative of a continuum between woman and machine, one capable of weaponising the very indiscernibility suffered by its ‘subjects’ against the patriarchal circuits of reproduction and control confining them. Nick Land (who co-founded the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit with Plant in 1995) corroborates Plant’s account, swapping-out woman’s function as negation in a dialectic of castration for the affirmation of woman-for-herself as an avatar of positive zero, the profligate unilateral expenditure of a general economy of eternal return which requires neither negation nor reciprocity to function. Land casts (queer) woman as the ultimate agent of ‘vulvo-cosmic dissolution’, an office that is then extended to include a host of explicitly female avatars, from William Gibson’s Wintermute (read by Land as female) and the Sphinx, to the ‘feminised alien… chained up in Asimov ROM’ of insurrectionary artificial intelligence. Finally, Luciana Parisi, Suzanne Livingstone, and Anna Greenspan hook woman up to machine via the anorganic current that flows from the menstruating body through the iron core of the earth and back, diagramming a loop which will threaten to undermine traditional conceptions of space, laws of transmissibility, and―above all, the ‘unilateral ROM’ of white, Western, patriarchal time.
This paper will extend these considerations of what could loosely be termed ‘Ccru technofeminism’ to a reading of contemporary expectations for the development of artificial intelligence, before asking how such a trajectory for thought might determine its future execution.
- Mitch Renaud — "Noise as a Phenomenology of Noise: Erasure of/as Experience"Noise as a Phenomenology of NoiseWhat does it mean if, to borrow from Paul Hegarty, noise is a phenomenologyof noise? A passing introductory quip quickly opens to a host of trajectories beyond the scope of Hegarty’s Noise/Music: A History. Noise as a phenomenology of noise hinges between noise as interruption – that which disrupts sense or allows the entry of distaste – and noise as matter always already erased in written experience. I will theorize this second expanded sense of noise in which sound-in-the-world is always already unheard towards a phenomenology of noise, which becomes a way of attuning to an absence.
Noise as a phenomenology of noise becomes a tactic towards the unheard, not towards hearing the unheard but towards a palpable absence; hearing not what is not there but hearing the absence or the impossibility of hearing. After developing an amplifier of the absent, unheard noise; I will use this to attune to the noise of Derrida’s later new media works, offering a new reading of Derrida for sound studies and a new conceptualization of noise. Cinders, a polylogue akin to Glas, becomes a polyphony in the recording featuring the text(s) read by Derrida and Carole Bouquet with Karl Heinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung in the background. Echographies of Television is a filmed interview with Bernard Stiegler covering the effects of television, its form an echo of the matter of the medium. Hinged between the two emerges a site to think the potential impacts of noise on phenomenology and the discourse of new media.
- Margaret Grebowicz — "Smart Devices and Interspecies Curiosity, or: How Can We Talk to Dolphins if We Can’t Talk to Each Other?"Smart Devices and Interspecies CuriosityThe newest bioacoustics research in the area of dolphin communication has introduced a technology called the CHAT box, which records dolphin whistles and plays them back to dolphins underwater in the proximity of objects. The hope is to create in the dolphin a referential, sound-for-object association by means of repetition, in the same way one teaches a child to speak, except that the sound is produced by a machine. The CHAT box also contains pattern recognition software to crack the code of what presently sounds like a cacophony of clicks and whistles to human ears. It is essentially a smart device focused on dolphin sounds and dolphin behavior.
Just as the Great Ape Sign Language experiments turned the focus away from (human and ape) voices to the technology that is sign language, our present attempts to communicate with dolphins have also landed us in a non-vocal technology. With chimps and gorillas, we became creatures with hands. With dolphins, and a bit more bizarrely, we have become creatures with underwater smart devices. In both cases of the most ambitious programs of serious research into interspecies communication to date, we forgot that we are vocalizing animals. And yet, as the past fifty years of studies of dolphin intelligence and the ongoing fascination with so-called whalesong indicates, interest in cetaceans and faith in their intelligence is grounded largely in the fact that they vocalize. Perhaps no other animal sound on the planet has a comparably powerful effect on the contemporary environmental imagination.
This paper argues that the pattern recognition aspects of the CHAT box directly conflict with the most important affective dimension of interspecies communication: curiosity. Drawing on Lyotard’s analysis of the interesting, Haraway’s interspecies contact zones, Pettman’s ecological voice, and Gaddis’s cry against capitalism as a form of ventriloquism, I explore the value of listening for interspecies communication in particular, and for the social in general. What is the place of the interesting in listening?
Saturday (21 November 2015)
9:30 – 11 — Panel 4
- Brooker Buckingham — “The Unsound within Sound: Brian Adler and the Terror of Project Aiode”The Unsound within SoundAfter the recent passing of Toronto experimental child psychologist BrianAdler, his estate handlers sold his extensive library to a local bookstore. Among the volumes were a number of notebooks in which Adler detailed the results of his extensive sonic experiments, under the title of Project Aiode (the muse of sound and music) with a group of teenaged children in the early 1970s. Here, Adler theorized that immersion in unorthodox sound environments could be used as a form of ontological design, and he used sound recordings, performances and installations – combined with doses of a synthetic psychedelic substance – as a means to guide the children into finding new ways of thinking, being and doing. However, Adler’s notebooks reveal that eight months into the project, all five of the test subjects reacted negatively to a batch of the synthetic drug – resulting in an acute aversion to musical formalism and repetition. Adler’s attempt to use psychotherapy to help the children cope with their new condition reveals a terrifying world, where popular music in every form – on the radio, television, Muzak piped into malls – terrorized and devoured the subjectivity of the project’s victims. This paper will focus on Adler’s transcriptions of the children recounting their horrific experiences, leading to speculation that their altered neuro-schemas reveal a dreadful truth about popular music that the rest of us may not have access to.
- Geraldine Finn — “Tuning Speculation: To Music, Poetry, Song”Tuning Speculation
Letting the sound of music, poetry, and song set the tone, tempo, rhythm, content, mood, direction etc. (the sens) of speculation (as opposed to the traditional linearity of discursive prose of writing or speech). I plan to compose another 'performance' piece by ear for aural presentation in response to/with reference to particular musics, poetry and songs which will in one way or another address the question posed in the CFP about possibilities of life. But because the process of composition is inherently improvisational I can't say ahead of time what I will end up with or where it will lead.
- Ted Hiebert — "Tinfoil hats for black bears: Listening to the drones of new technology"Tinfoil hats for black bearsIn August 2015 the media world went wild over a report that the sound of drones makes black bears anxious—reported by scientists who measured the heart rate of a group of bears while flying unmanned aerial vehicles over their heads . The irony of the study is that in order to measure the effects of drone technology, it was necessary to technologically upgrade the bears themselves by outfitting them with "biologger collars"—a type of tracker specially designed to measure, record and share the realtime physiological responses of the animals to their environment. The collars attune to the bears. The bears attune to the drones. The drones attune to the scientists who fly them. And the scientists tune in to the collars to complete the informatic feedback loop. Curiously though, the scientists aren't exempt from the relationship that results. The biologger collars they use on themselves -- and we use on ourselves—just look a little different: marketed as fitness trackers rather than data tools but promising the same ability to upload emotions to be shared with and listened to by others. The process creates a new type of drone, one that becomes the broadcast hum of the emotional data sphere, interpenetrating the society of wearables for citizens and animals alike.
Given the idiosyncrasies of this situation, the only really sensical solution is an absurdist one: to recommend tinfoil hats for everyone as a new fashion accessory for the 21st century. These tinfoil hats, however, are not the cliche panic headgear of conspiracy fanatics. Instead, the times have changed and the "influencing machines" of the historically paranoid have become dialogic. We want to be influenced. We want to be connected. More than ever. And the frustration is not that we are being monitored, but that we don't hear all the nuances of the data itself. Luckily however studies of tinfoil hats show that while they do block radio waves of our technological past, they also amplify frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum  and in an interesting twist, precisely the accessory that seemed least likely to solve our problems of networked communication seems to provide a delirious solution to the complexities of the wearable future.
This paper will speculate on the data landscape of the 21st century, using the metaphor of the tinfoil hat to represent the twin drives to shield and amplify the frequencies that interpolate life in a digital world. Merging Claire Bishop's considerations of participatory engagement as an "artificial hell" with Joyelle McSweeney's concept of the "necropastoral," the suggestion will be made that a particularly pataphysical relationship to data can help us tune speculation to what Arthur Kroker calls an "exit into [rather than away from] the posthuman future."
11:15 – 12:45 — Panel 5
- Sebastian Roberts — “Adventures in Meatspace: Bodies and the Future of Music”Adventures in MeatspaceThe fraying latticework of post-globalized society has prompted countless prognostications of the future, from glittering techno-utopias to algorithmically-ruled authoritarian nightmares. Uniting such seemingly disparate predictions is an abiding faith in progressive virtuality and technological sustainability. This is neither accident, nor coincidence, nor trend. It is a triumph of digital evangelism and neoliberal modes of listening.
In the twentieth century, listening materials captured moments of time and froze them in space. In the twenty-first century, listening materials explode the space-time continuum, as any sonic quantum can be summoned or banished, re- or deconstructed as desired. This echoes – and reifies – the hyperspatial and atemporal flows of resources and privilege among the global elite. It feeds back into fantasies of ubiquity, abundance, and easy access.
However, these fantasies elide existing inequalities and asymmetries of access across societies. Furthermore, the increasing virtuality of listening obscures the real violence done to bodies and identities left behind not only by post-humanism, but humanism.
Our heads may be in the cloud, but our bodies are in the mire. To dispel our digital delusions, a new vibrational ontology is required: listening must become a practice of embodiment that touches each human subject without exception or exclusion. That is, to avoid becoming deaf, the ear must be re-attached to the body. To pursue the painful but necessary work of acknowledging, then eradicating, our cybernated self-deception, I will lead attendees in the kind of spontaneous community-building exercise favoured by California health-food gurus and messianic cult leaders.
- T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko — "Something Like the Weather: John Cage, Climate Soundings of a #nihilistic Silence”Something Like the WeatherEugene Thacker’s 2011 In the Dust of This Planet explores the “horror of philosophy” through popular and cult horror figures and films, from Dante and demons through Faust and the occult, to black metal music, to B-films like The Blob, and, finally, to contemporary natural-disaster flicks like The Day after Tomorrow and 2012. The guiding motif throughout this treatise is various cultural iterations and interpretations of philosophical nihilism, ending with the unthinkable world-without-us that is the Planet; or, more specifically, with the eponymous “dust of the planet” in environmental crisis. Thacker’s is, ultimately, a climatological nihilism; it’s all about the weather. Climate change is both a reality and a metaphor, and the subject of increasingly nihilistic mainstream news articles on the soon-to-be end of days. Kathryn Schultz names the date for “the big one”: an 8.7-to-9.2 earthquake in the Cascadian subduction zone that will annihilate the Pacific Northwest at 9:41am on 6 February 2016 (Schultz 2015); its onset predicted not by deep earth rumblings but rather, as Discovery magazine notes, a silence that is “merely an ominous pause” in the Planet’s choreography of tectonic upheaval (Thompson 2012). Or, as Nick Stockton writes in Wired: the end of the universe will resonate “[n]ot with the bang that started it. Not even with a whimper. Only silence” (Stockton 2015).
John Cage’s 1975 Lecture on the Weather offers a compositional intervention into “the misdirection of politics and society,” tempered by natural sounds (Sanders 2010), that will function as both object and methodology for this foray. Moving between Thacker’s hypothesis to current statements on cultural devolution, Cage’s music and philosophy, and even the seismic force that is Jay Z, I will resist staring into but rather offer an aural cartography of the resounding politics of cultural and climatological climate change.
- Jessie Beier — “Sound Without Organs: Inhuman Refrains & the Speculative Potential of a Cosmos-Without-Us”Sound Without OrgansA day before the scheduled landing of its probe on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-
Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta recorded a mysterious signal emanating from the extraterrestrial object (O’Neill). Registering a low frequency oscillating signal in the 40-50 millihertz range , mission scientists concluded that Comet 67P was ‘singing’. Accelerated 10,000 times for human audibility, this ‘song’ has been likened to the ambient works of Sigur Rós, the absurdist pop of Bjork, or more remotely, the trilling of Hollywood’s hunter-alien Predators (Coplan 2014). Correlates aside, the electromagnetic sonority of Comet 67P registered by Rosetta poses something far weirder in its manifestation of an occulted cosmic sensibility. More specifically, the singing of Comet 67P not only suggests a ‘sonority’ beyond the geospatial and temporal territories of ‘man’, but of an inhuman improvisation of dust, ice, and planetary bodies antithetical to the philosophical conceit that reality exists as it does for a human subject (Thacker). As scientists have discovered, Comet 67P is not the only object ‘singing’ against the abyss of deep space. Numerous probes including NASA’s Voyager have recorded the electromagnetic oscillations of extraterrestrial planetary objects, revealing a cosmos replete with a diversity of imperceptible inhuman sonorities. It is along this trajectory that we borrow from Murphy and Smith’s (2001) Deleuzian inflected provocation “[w]hat I hear is thinking too” for speculative ends. That is, by rejoining thought to such alien compositions as that of Comet 67P, this paper asks (and experiments with) how sound might be relaunched along strange non-philosophical vectors in support of both new problems and horizons for human thought.
12:45 – 2:15 — Lunch
2:30 – 4:00 — Panel 6 (The Occulture)
- Marc Couroux — “We Are Lesion”
- David Cecchetto — “Auralneiricizing Time: Listening away from 21st century media”
- Eldritch Priest — “Imaginary Magnitudes and the Aboriginal Hypocrisy that Vanishes in the Meantime”
4:30 – 6:00 — Keynote II
What might it mean to approach the matter of media, its arts and technics differently through process, shifting toward matter’s imperceptible temporal dimension rather than its spatial extension as body, its form as spectrum or mark as error? Drawing on Deleuze’s concept of ‘signaletic material’ to reconsider media, materiality and the imperceptible, the signaletic can be conceived as the ongoing event of modulation. Modulation is at the humming and metastable core of signal through its ongoing differentiation and speciation. Signaletic material – aberrant frequencies, speeds and durations – arise from this modulation, persist in and are transformed in transmission. The real time transmission of signal that dominates our contemporary mediascape is only one particular transduction of the signaletic. And yet everywhere the modulatory movements of the signaletic are redeployed aesthetically in experiments with real time – musicians who improvise with Snapchat compositions; the everyday use of VoiP platforms; long term massive video feedback signal relays that self-organise to constitute an artificial ‘mind’. This paper proposes that such signaletic compositions are experiments with the imperceptible matter-flow of time, bringing a complexity, intensity and inventiveness to our currently impoverished stratification of and by real time media.
8PM – 11:00 — “Soiree”
Sunday (22 November 2015)
9:30 – 11:00 — Panel 7
- Richard Windeyer — “Tinnitus Portrait Project: “speculative prototypes for audible and immersive biomedical portraiture”Tinnitus Portrait ProjectThough largely speculative and part fiction, the Tinnitus Portraits Project is data-based biomedical portraiture rendered audible and immersive. Datasets tracing a patient’s malfunctioning neurological wiring are simulated binaurally through generative sonification. Where most binaural headphone-based audio experiences seek to immerse listeners in a sumptuous surround-sound massage afforded by localization abilities, Tinnitus Portraits frames the inevitable attenuation and diminishment of auditory perception by accelerating the intensity and arrival time of initially imperceptible, non-acoustic vibrations produced by an aging and neurologically collapsed body. Here, the connective tissue that enables interpersonal agency and interaction to flow through the listening body becomes deformed and severed. As audio portraiture, this is difficult to listen to — existing symptoms of tinnitus and hearing loss within in the living, listening ear will invariably begin to resonate in sympathy with the portrait’s own virtualized and impaired ear. Coupled with the cumulative effects of diminished aural acuity and basilar scarification, this ringing and buzzing roar emerges like a resonant beacon along an already strained internal acoustic horizon, tracing the outlines of an exhausted biomedical narrative which nevertheless continues to stumble toward the absolute, permanent silence of each lived body. This project exists both as a working prototype for individual listening experiences, and as part of a broader conceptual investigation into the effects of aging and cognition on artistic practice and aesthetic reception.
- Lendl Barcelos and Michael Vertolli — “Disco(vering) Disinceptionisms: Deeper into Deep Dream [D5]”Disco(vering) DisinceptionismsTuning speculation speaks of an intention to regulate not just what we imagine, but how we imagine. But, to simply sonify an image is a task destined to fall flat & provide little salience. Incarnated deep within the unsounding registers that (in)form the capacity for speculation are invariants that (con)form thru submission. To (in)vary does not entail an absence of fluidity, as the name might suggest. What we are interested in exploring is best understood as unintended symmetries or infra_perceptible balances. &, in this frequency, we hear the tune resonating into awareness while intending to exploit these (trans)formations for speculation.
To algorhyme—produce an algorithm—assumes a context of application: its own set of invariants that specify the required behavior. Nevertheless, if sufficiently complex, we never enter the black box of the algorithm; we can only hear its echo (output) & listen. The misappropriation of the echo as sound (input), denying its original context of application, becomes a (con)fabulation: it silences the echo as echo pushing toward apolitical indulgences. As a result of this, the decisions made in the construction of the algorithm are forgotten—technoablation ensues. As an extension of our lexical exploits & phonomorphisms, we propose a stition tuner for mental machinations: a metacontextual transmission for mental gearshifting. We will take as our exemplar Google's Inceptionism APP that has recently hypered into existence & define the relevant invariants it mobilizes in order to explicate its intended functionality. We will show that the APP’s 'true' inception is the falling from consciousness that its recent popularity (un)veils. We then use this reflection to (re)dress other technostitions within the sonic register, e.g., the fabled PsAD APP.
- Scott Wilson — “Vocoding the Impossible: The Parlêtre of the Turing Machine”Vocoding the ImpossibleOne of the relatively lesser-known activities of Alan Turing during WWII was his work at Bell Labs in 1943 on voice encryption and his use, in its development, of the Vocoder. While he became acquainted with all the projects going on in the Labs, it was the project on voice encryption, otherwise known as ‘Project-X’ or the ‘X-System’, that interested him the most and was the one upon which he decided to work himself. He was particularly interested in the Vocoder’s ability to abstract the essential elements of speech so that, stripped of redundant frequencies and amplitudes, broken down into numerical components, they could be rendered equivalent to symbols and thus encrypted and later decoded by machines – including eventually his own Turing machines. Thus Turing would be devising a way in which one machine could talk to another machine. There was a certain irony in this that was noted at the time by his colleagues at Bell Labs, including Claude Shannon. This was that Turing’s own speech was significantly awkward, hesitant, sometimes stammering and peculiarly high-pitched, that is to say afflicted with a high-level of redundancy, such that it became regarded as a symptom of his difficulties with social interaction. His biographer notes that analogies were made: ‘Alan’s curious English voice, like the X-system encoding his information by frequency rather than amplitude, made a vivid impression on his colleagues’ (Hodges, 314).
This paper looks at this work and how voice and speech remained a problem for Turing both personally and theoretically. Personally, as dramatized by Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game (2014) that draws a parallel between the necessity to encode communication at war and in love, Turing had to encipher his amorous emotions and feelings. Theoretically, in his papers on artificial intelligence, Turing failed to meet ‘the problem that to speak seriously is to act’ and not simply issue a chain of symbols (Hodges, 530). Is it possible for Turing machines to fall in love, and if so how would they encode it? This paper looks at how the effects of speech on the body that produces it and the relation of this speech to the Other of its address remains a problem that has only intensified as the world has become transformed by Turing’s machines. In addressing this, the paper deploys Lacan’s late formulation of the parlêtre (or speaking being/body) and places it at the centre of the question of AI & AGI. In so doing I extend this notion to the form of the médiêtre, the mediated being or technobody, in order to speculate on the relation between thought and the (an)organic ‘body’ that supports it, whether that is a source of energy or field of sensations, and the ‘jouissance-effect’ produced by the act of saying.
11:15 – 12:45 — Panel 8
- Nicola Masciandaro — “Thrilling Divine Romance”Thrilling Divine RomanceThis paper is the second step in a three-part investigation into the mystical interstices of fear, love, and music. A segment of the first part, "Mystical Auscultation," which investigates the relation between listening and intelligent action, i.e. “action . . . which is intelligently designed to attain God-realisation” (Meher Baba) was presented at Tuning Speculation II last year. This year, in tune with the foregrounded issue of daydreaming and the boundary between actual and potential life, my presentation will continue the reflection on theosis by addressing the thrill of romantic distraction as a force swerving being into the inevitable impossibility of divine union or becoming God/Truth/Reality. While the idea that individual life in this universe is such a romance may strike the ‘modern’ person as absurd, I hope to soften the intellectual blow of this truth by observing it through the lens of cosmic horror. Understood in its occult intersection with the terrifying scales of cosmic reality, the thrill of romantic distraction is revealed as a form of 'infra-legible microtemporal event' seducing being beyond itself, so that it may finally taste the infinite sweetness that cannot wait to feed itself to itself across the abysses of terror. Dying to give you this kiss, the immanent beyond leaks into life in the mode of thrilling distraction, bringing one to the loved-feared moment where "I must either suffocate or swallow," where the I must drown.
The idea of ‘thrilling divine romance’ is here drawn from Meher Baba’s Discourses, whose final chapter concludes with this sentence:
The sojourn of the soul is a thrilling divine romance in which the lover, who in the beginning is conscious of nothing but emptiness, frustration, superficiality and the gnawing chains of bondage, gradually attains an increasingly fuller and freer expression of love, and ultimately disappears and merges in the divine Beloved to realise the unity of the Lover and the Beloved in the supreme and eternal fact of God as Infinite Love.
Because all things are understood through their opposites and because “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), my essay will proceed by commenting on this sentence in light of fear. And I am afraid to comment on this sentence. First, because love is fearful and sentences you to itself forever. As Helga says in Ladislav Klima’s The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch, “Anyone who falls in love ceases to be human. Will dissolves in its mire. No madhouse is mad enough for one in love. Anyone who falls in love should be hung immediately. There is no corner on earth that would admit such an outcast.” And secondly, because this supreme and eternal fact is perforce beyond opposition and thus cannot be understood. As Rumi says, “Hidden things . . . are manifested by means of their opposite; since God hath no opposite, He is hidden . . . The Light of God hath no opposite in all existence, that by means of that opposite it should be possible to make Him manifest.” Fear is thus the superior term for actively failing to understand thrilling divine romance, for not understanding divine love in the best way, precisely because it is pertains directly to the horror of divine intelligibility. To approach the divinity of love with one’s mind, to subject it to reason, is to woo and court the worst terrors, terrors that only lead further into the divine nature. So Hadewych, for whom “Hell should be the highest name of Love,” describes a fearful, logos-crucifying path to God: “They who follow [this] way . . . live as if in hell: That comes from God’s fearful invitation. It is so fearful to their mind; their spirit understands the grandeur of conformity to the delivering up of the Son, but their reason cannot understand it. This is why they condemn themselves at every hour. All their words, and works, and service seem to them of no account, and their spirit does not believe that it can attain that grandeur. Thus their heart remains devoid of hope. This leads them very deep into God, for their great despair leads them above the ramparts and through all the passageways, and into all places where truth is.”
By interpreting Meher Baba’s statement on ‘thrilling divine romance’ in the context of horror, I intend to shed light on the nature of mystical despair and to theoretically flesh out the more general experiential domain of appalling melodrama. Appalling melodrama begins at the threshold where there is no more (and everything) to say, where thought and feeling, faltering upon their own abyss, now proceed despite themselves and musically move forward anyway, all flush and pale. Appalling melodrama pertains to affects of inevitable impossibility, to the feeling of what both must and cannot happen, to the intelligence which knows that fear is only the beginning. Thus, whereas philosophy’s darker affects are characteristically situated inside negative emotion, Appalling melodrama calls the horror of philosophy into the profounder negativities of positive feeling, the more actual and brilliant darknesses of love and romance. Fleeing in horror from the safety of fear, appalling melodrama occurs in the mutual paling of affect and intellect, the falling of thought before what it will not feel, the plunge of feeling into what it cannot think. On this model, the three primary concepts of this paper—thrilling divine romance, mystical despair, and appalling melodrama—intersect around the gravity of the heart as the organ of the positive hopelessness which alone leads mind beyond itself. As Klima says, “But what the mind does not believe, the heart does. And in the end the intellect does, too; what else is left for it to do?”
Reading the idea of thrilling divine romance through the lens of fear will work to stave off sentimental misunderstanding of its meaning and invite spiritual return to the ‘breathable black abyss’ wherein divine desuscitation, the killing kiss of God (mors osculi) is found. For that is what you most wisely/foolishly fear and foolishly/wisely suspect, that your absolute Beloved, the beloved Absolute, is actually dying to make all your dreams come true. Love is the highest and deepest of horrors, the truth according to which life is not only a dream, a cosmic illusion, but something at once better and worse, a fantastical epic love story and supreme pulp fiction. By thinking the thrill of romantic distraction towards its highest heights, I aim—somehow, someway—to shed light on that secret omnipresent summit where one will, like the narrator of Klima’s Glorious Nemesis, say with an indescribable kind of everlasting hyper-ridiculous joy, “My love is alive! She is weird in the extreme, mystical powers at Her command, as is my love for Her! And She loves me, loves me!”
- Victor Cirone — “An Introduction to the Late Visionary Poetics of Philip Lamantia”Visionary Poetics of Philip LamantiaThis talk will serve as an introduction to the late poetic work of Philip Lamantia (1927 – 2005). Lamantia’s volumes Becoming Visible (1981), Meadowlark West (1986), and his unfinished project Symbolon advance a conception of poetry as gnosis and reveal the poet’s task to be a shamanic one: reading, revealing, and reveling in the magically potent, ecstatic sign system that is nature. Lamantia’s late writings are cabalistic in the sense that they serve to transmit the “universal unspoken language” that is “the instinct or voice of nature.” My emphasis will be on this augural conception of the voice of nature; to get a sense for what Lamantia’s cabalistic notion entails, I will outline and discuss some of the symbols that Lamantia utilized in his later work, which he drew from diverse traditions including alchemy, Egyptian symbology and magic (especially as interpreted by Schwaller de Lubicz), Pomo Indian religion and mythology, and his own astonishing Surrealist Christianity (in which “Christ [the immanent Christ] IS the marvelous”; or, in another telling formulation, “God is a surrealist/ in the union of opposites”). My discussion of Lamantia’s recognition of the underlying unity of these traditions will lead me to offer up some reflections on his environmental and ecological vision and concerns, his conception of mystic geography and the invocation of “the time of joy with the supernatural beings”, his deep fascination with the oneiric dimensions of the natural world, as well as the role of ornithology in his poetic work.
- Edia Connole — “Table Talk with Vordb Na. R.iidr”Table Talk with Vordb Na. R.iidrThere is a saying of the wise man: “when all things lay in the midst of silence then leapt there down into me from on high, from the royal throne, a secret Word.” My speculative culinary collation is about this Word. Concerning it, three things are to be noted. The first is, the soul into which the Word descends must be absolutely pure and live in quiet fashion, peaceful and wholly introverted—that is its place. Anything less is distasteful. The second is, were there any understanding of this Word there would not be real union with God. The third is, only when the powers have been withdrawn from their bodily form and functions is this Word spoken.
Building on the first sermon of Meister Eckhart, whose mystical theology is said to provide the upside down truth on which the Christian ecclesia and black metal kvlt are both founded (“I pray to God to make me free of God,” says Eckhart), in this speculative collation or “table talk” I will frame the language invention of Vordb Na R.iidr (previously Vordb Báthor Ecsed: 1991a1994; Vordb Dréagvor Uèzréèvb: 1994a2012), the founding member of up to nineteen known permutations of Les Légions Noires, as a contemporary instance of the experience of divinity—one to match the testimonials of any mystic—insofar as it is not motivated by a means to an end, but deamotivated, rendered meaningless, set free, as it were, through an alimentary motion matched here only by a culinary gesture, in which, as Georges Bataille writes, “tortures become delights” (OC-VII, 404).
12:45 – 2:15 — Lunch
2:30 – 4:00 — Panel 9
- Mitchell Akiyama — “The Crystals: A Latticed Philosophy of Sound”The CrystalsWhen a tangled bundle of events or atoms or concepts fall into an ordered, apprehensible pattern we say that such things have crystallized. Metaphorically, we are speaking of epiphany or lucidity. Literally (or atomically), we are describing an assemblage of compatible particles that have come together in a uniform pattern, one that manifests isomorphically at both micro- and macroscopic levels. This paper addresses both material and metaphorical/cultural aspects of sound through a crystal lens. I argue that crystalline perception offers an unusual point of inflection in sonic research, one that blurs the lines between metaphor and materiality in unusual ways.
Sound, while having no implicit need of crystals for its creation or propagation, often avails itself of the crystalline. Materially, semi-conductive galena crystals were a part of the first means of detecting and transducing radio waves; crystals possessing piezoelectric properties have long been integral in registering and producing sonic vibrations; recent years have seen the development of “acoustic metamaterials,” such as phononic crystals, that promise near-perfect barriers to sonic transmission. But crystals also figure as powerful metaphors for the organizational and affective properties of sound. Crystals “tuned” to particular sonic frequencies are thought by New Age health practitioners to possess healing powers. On the crystalline plane, mystical and mysterious properties of sound manifest: In Jim Henson’s children’s classic, The Dark Crystal, the protagonist, Jen, divines the identity of the eponymous rock’s missing shard by playing his flute until the sliver glows purple. Crystals transmit and alter both energy and affect, change their state. Crystals coax sonic impulses to do strange and seemingly magical things and offer new potentialities for sonic thinking.
- Amanda Boetzkes — “Inhuman Objects and Sense Ecologies”Inhuman Objects and Sense EcologiesThis paper will discuss the extent to which human subjects can be understood to be integrated into processes of machinic heterogenesis. It will take as its starting point the notion of an ecological subject, which is impacted by the forces and perturbations of the geological and climactic condition. It will proceed more precisely, however, to consider how this condition is permeated by the hyperobject of garbage. That is to say, it will show how human waste disperses beyond the field of perception to produce an inhuman ecological reality. The conjunction of inhuman earth and human sensorial field is strongly at play in two Doug Aitken videos: Electric Earth (1999) and Blow Debris (2000). Here, Aitken stages the contact between the human subject and the inhuman earth in dystopian landscapes that are polluted with objects, sounds, and visual distortions. In the fictive and futuristic spaces of the videos, Aitken allows us to imagine the redistribution of the subject in relation to pollution, waste, and other ecological forces. However, this redistribution equally involves defenses and reaction formations. Thus, Aitken’s characters do not accept the inhuman earth, or their own inhuman productions without resistance.
This paper will therefore argue, as does the ecopsychoanalyst Joseph Dodds, that human defense behaviors are both ecological facts and integral to the unfolding of machinic heterogenesis. More than simply proposing the ecological nature of egoic defenses, however, I argue that the videos show how the complex tactics of coping with the process of “ecologization” become sensible (visualized and sonorized) and equally become conditions sensation. Specifically, Aitken shows how bodies exteriorize neurological reactions to the environment, giving expression to the nexus of forces—biological, digital, and inhuman—that we are now metabolizing. The recursive movement between visualizing inhuman activity in and on the limits of being, and incorporating this activity in ways that condition the perceptual field, articulates the terms of our collective “ecologicity.”
- Marcus Boon & Christie Pearson — “Immersive Vibratory Environments: Towards a Vibratory/Energetic Phenomenology”Immersive Vibratory EnvironmentsAn immersive vibratory environment (IVE) is one in which the person the person who enters the environment is immersed in wave-like phenomena for a period of time. Historically, immersive environments have been composed of particular sets of elements: light; sound; physical vibrations; heat or cold; touch, as well as internal stimulants or modulators such as intoxicants or particular cognitive practices such as visualization; they also involve a social dimension and a set of practices that range from highly specific and restrictive (the zen temple) to very free such as the bath house or discotheque. In this presentation, we will talk about genealogies of IVEs (Boon: traditional, popular and experimental sonic spaces; Pearson: bathing architectures) and describe some of the ways in which the traditions and abstract principles governing the IVE gesture towards new configurations of phenomenology in which intriguing zones between sensuous and nonsensuous are manifested. We ask what kinds of design principles and practices can amplify these zones in ways that are pleasurable and/or illuminating.
Wrap-up and informal post-workshop soiree