Hideaki Anno – The End of Evangelion

Hideaki Anno

The End of Evangelion

1997

Animated film

Following on from my previous post regarding Cronenberg’s Videodrome, the animated film The End of Evangelion is another example of the body being inflated to breaking point, while at the same time remaining recognisably human through the use of the non-verbal voice. In this instance the pre-verbal breaths, stutters and hesitations of the protagonist – Shinji are increasing foregrounded as the film progresses. When the plot finally reaches fever pitch, their placement seems to suggest the film’s entire world (literally planet Earth in this case) being swallowed whole, ingested into Shinji’s own interior space.

This has prompted me to consider how when using disembodied voice to conjure an abject bodily presence, once that perceptual link has been established it’s actually fairly robust and perhaps I could push it much further.

The End of Evangelion. [Film]. Dir. Anno. H, Tsurumaki, K. (Toei Company, 1997), 85 minutes.

Categories: Voice as Material / Transhuman

David Cronenberg – Videodrome

David Cronenberg

Videodrome

1983

Film

Cronenberg’s 1983 film uses human breath throughout to render a world in which the body’s borders are ambiguous at best. Video cassettes wheeze, TVs groan and hand guns hiss – all becoming extensions of the human, while the actors themselves become non-characters, vacant bodily sites of pure potentiality. The use of breath is so all encompassing here (sound design and score) that not only does it conjure limitless bodies within the film, but the film itself as an object becomes a kind of queasy pornographic animal, both human and un-human.

As Philip Brophy has pointed out “As cinema spends much care not to advance or promote the non-linguistic utterances of the mouth (breath, gasps, drips, sniffles, groans, burps etc.), it leaves pornography to be the sonic realm that celebrates and fetishises the mouth running at its pre-verbal fervour. Listening to Videodrome can be like hearing pornography – or, in accordance with the plot’s themes – picking up interference deliberaely being broadcast from an Other dimesion(p. 247)

The film has provided some useful ideas as to how my own project could use the voice as material – not only to conjure phantom bodies, but that non-verbal utterances can also be used to convert any thing or space (gallery) into a type of body.

Videodrome. [Film]. Dir. Cronenberg. D. Pro. Héroux. C, David. P, Solnicki. V. (Universal, 1983). 89 minutes.

Brophy. P. (2004). 100 Modern Soundtracks. London, UK: British Film Institute.

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Nathan Gray – Pt. 1 – Our Voice

Nathan Gray

Pt. 1 – Our Voice

2019

Podcast [headphones recommended]

Drawing on Douglas Kahn’s concept of the “deboned voice”, Nathan’s agonisingly boring podcast (not a problem as this seems a deliberate part of his schtick) uses binaural recording techniques to sonically illustrate the difference between the way in which we hear our own voice (both through the skull and acoustically through air) in contrast to the voice of others (only through air). Kahn’s concept of the deboned voice is significant in that it emphasises the rupture which took place as a result of Edison’s invention of the phonograph. A moment in which that major binary of interiority vs exteriority – was utterly transformed.

Kahn, D. (2001). ‘Noise, Water, Meat. A History of Sound in the Arts’. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Gray. N. (2019). Pt. 1 – Our Voice [Podcast]. Retrieved 24/09/2019 https://soundcloud.com/themeniscus/i-will-listen-with-your-2

Categories: Processed Voice / Voice as Material

Joan La Barbara ‎- Tapesongs

Joan La Barbara

Tapesongs

1977

LP

The metaphor on the cover of La Barbara’s 1977 album of extended vocal music is wonderfully simple. A cloak of sound, or a kind of sound-skin. A protective sonorous outer layer. But this is also magnetic tape – sound which has undergone some fragmentation and abstraction, small pieces of audio which have been cut off from a prior context and recombined to form new constellations of meaning.

Lauri Anderson who was also making extended voice works at that time in the USA, has spoken at length about her own use of audio voice-masks. Both through the deployment of pitch shifting techniques – to muddy representations of gender, and also through the use of quotational style lyrics – to muddy subjectivity and authorship.

La Barbara’s voice masks from this period work entirely differently, instead through forms which are highly idiosyncratic. Not quite music, not quite linguistic and not quite animal – they instead suggest a peculiar logic all to their own. A logic which is not directly accessible by the listener, but is there regardless.

La Barbara. J. (1977). Tapesongs [LP]. Pennsylvania, USA. Chiaroscuro Records.

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Mamoru Oshii – Ghost in the Shell

Mamoru Oshii

Ghost in the Shell

1995

Anime, 82 minutes.

One of the most striking ways in which the human voice is rendered within Ghost In The Shell, is the use of what was then cutting edge technology – the spatializer. Throughout, dialogue is processed to depict voices which are both outside of the body, or within the metaphysical internal space, or occasionally channeled from other entirely synthetic spaces.

Going back to Derrida’s Grammatology, where he talks of the implications of this internal / external vocal dichotomy,

‘The system of “hearing (understanding) oneself speak” through the phonic substance which presents itself as the non-exterior, nonmundane, therefore nonempirical or noncontingent signifier – has necessarily dominated the history of the world during an entire epoch, and has even produced the idea of the world, the idea of world-origin, that arises from the difference between the worldly and the non-worldly, the outside and the inside, identity and nonidentity, universal and nonuniversal, transcendental and empirical” (p. 8).

As a major theme within the film is that of the individual subject being superseded by the network, it’s interesting how crucial this internal / external treatment of the dialogue is in depicting a splintering of the post-enlightenment individual.

Derrida. J. (1976). ‘Writing before the letter‘. In: Of Grammatology. Translated by G. C. Spivak. Baltimore & London. John Hopkins University Press. pp. 1 – 87.

Ghost in the Shell. [Film]. Dir. Oshii. M. Pro. Mizuo. Y, Matsumoto. K. Iyadomi. K, Ishikawa, M. (Shochiku, 1983). 82 minutes.

Accessed 20/09/2019 https://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/13-12.htm

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Kate Brown – Title Unknown.

Kate Brown.

Title Unknown.

2019.

Extended Voice Performance.

As part of Liquid Architecture’s satellite events surrounding the Ventriloquy show at Gertrude Contemporary, Sydney artist Kate Brown performed an extended voice work at the Melbourne Meat Market. Using a stripped back setup of contact mics and talk-box, the performance masterfully undermined naturalist and stable representations of the voice and its associated body. While the concept of a prostheticised, distributed and outsourced self certainly speaks to our current condition, it was interesting how through costume Kate was able to viscerally draw in historical references to 19th century gothic horror, a genre in which the voice’s relationship to a rightful owner was often stretched to breaking point.

Brown. K. (2019). Title Unknown [Extended Voice Performance]. Melbourne, Australia. 09/07/2019.

Images: https://liquidarchitecture.org.au

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

F. Marion Crawford – The Screaming Skull

F. Marion Crawford.

The Screaming Skull.

1911.

Fiction.

Following the historical thread of voices which appear in science fiction as synthetic, disembodied, hallucinatory, channeled and conjured – has lead me to the genre’s predecessor, 19th century Gothic Fiction. This tale from F. Marion Crawford (1854 – 1909) was posthumously published slightly later in 1911, with the author quite literally communicating from beyond the grave! What interests me most about this literary period, is that we can see the voice begin to detach both from the body and also from the world of language; themes which would become central to both science fiction and experimental music in the following century.

It’s interesting to consider the way in which this period (roughly speaking) also saw the invention of the phonograph. Firstly as this invention provided a direct way in which the voice could be mechanically detached from a body. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, while the phonograph was originally described as a speaking machine, an unintended consequence was that it captured not only language, but all sound – splitting the voice into existing simultaneously both as a carrier of language and as a material value.

Crawford. F. M. (1911). The Screaming Skull. In: Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. London, UK: Hammond, Hammond & Co. pp. 381 – 404.

Categories: Processed Voice / Transhuman / Voice as Material

Ignacio Uriarte – History of the Typewriter

https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js

Ignacio Uriarte.

History of the Typewriter.

2010.

Voice effect film, featuring Michael Winslow.

Recently I’ve been reading Simone Schmidt’s essay The Material Value of the Voice in Art which looks at the ongoing tension between the voice as a carrier of language and the voice as a sound – a sound with a “material and relational value” (p.1). Her paper highlights art’s both ability to, and history of disrupting the omnipresence of language in order to foreground this other value.

I couldn’t think of a better illustration to this argument, than this extended vocal performance of the sonic history of the typewriter. If we consider the typewriter as a kind of speech prosthesis (and before that – mechanical type, the pen, the clay tablet…), then its interesting to consider what sonic value it has beyond language, as a sign which signifies it’s own political agency and relational value.

Schmidt. S. (2017). The Material Value of the Voice in Art. Retrieved 27/08/2019.academia.edu/36571280/The_Material_Value_of_the_Voice_in_Art

Uriarte. I. (2010). History of the Typewriter. [voice effect film]. Accessed 27/08/2019 https://vimeo.com/12171944

Categories: Language / Voice as Material / Processed Voice

B+ – B-Beat Classic (Vocal)

B+.

B-Beat Classic.

1983.

12″ Single – West End Records.

Following on from Laurie Anderson’s use of processed voice as an audio mask, I was reminded of the early rap record from Spyder D, where in order to escape the trappings of a terrible record contract, he chose to mask his identity through a wailing vocoder. Or at least that’s the way the story goes. Having initially been developed as a way of masking speech during the second world war, here we see the vocoder used once again as an audio mask. With regards to processed voice more generally, its worth considering the way in which the weaponising of vocal techniques such as vocoders, magnetic tape and radio of the second world war, afterwards spilled over into popular music. This technology which had been used to abstract, morph and distribute the voice was pivotal in the emergence of post-war entertainment and commodity culture.

“I made this for the cats droppin’ acid in Europe” – Spyder D

B+. (1983). B-Beat Classic. [12″ single]. New York, USA. West End Records.

Tompkins. D. (2008). Re-Discovery #3 In: Wax Poetics Vol 26. New York, USA. Wax Poetics. pp. 24.

Categories: Voice as Material / Avatars / Processed Voice

Jenna Sutela – Nimiia Vibié

Jenna Sutela.

Nimiia Vibié.

2019.

LP – PAN Recordings.

Jenna Sutela’s album of extended voice works has prompted me to consider just how much can be gained from making work which is deliberately opaque. As the album starts, a breathy and tubular voice speaks in an unknown language of airy wet succcksss and shlloockks, then is gradually suppressed by the garbled speech of what could be an alien newsreader. Rather than approaching the transhuman voice through quasi-scientific analysis, Sutela turns to sound’s greatest strength, it’s murky ambiguity. The fact that we’re unable to grasp the source material, or even discern a clear compositional logic is what makes this such an engaging work. It’s a useful reminder that as artists we can deliberately withhold information from the audience to great effect.

“Aspiring to connect with a world beyond our consciousness and our planet, nimiia vibié sounds the interactions between a neural network, audio recordings of early Martian language, and microscopic footage of extremophilic space bacteria. Here, the computer is a medium, channeling messages from entities that usually cannot speak. However, it is also an alien of our creation.” – PAN Records 2019.

Sutela. J. (2019). Nimiia Vibié [Vinyl LP]. Berlin, Germany. Pan Records.

Categories: Transhuman / Processed voice / Voice as Material