Automobility and “aristocratic silence”

We will explain how and why the car-manufacturing industry promoted mechanical, convenient, and aristocratic silence as distinct conceptions of sound and what this orientation meant within contemporary car culture. The pursuit of silence reflected an ideal more than a reality, but, as we will argue, the silencing effort sustained the highly valued visual experience of the driver.
“Speed is the aristocracy of movement, yet silence is the aristocracy of speed.” This aphorism was formulated by Maurice Goudard, president of the French Society of Automotive Engineers in 1935. /…/
We have alreadu explained that until about 1900 loud sound possessed a rather straightforward connotation of power, both within and beyond the engineering community. For twentieth-century mechanical and automotive engineers, however, the loud sounds generated by machines gradually came to be seen as the by-product of energy-absorbing friction and, as such, became noise, or unwanted sound. Culturally speaking, the symbolic links between loud sound and power were less easy to decouple. As many historians, soundscape scholars, and anthropoligists have shown, Western societies have long been ordered in such a way that those in powerful and high-ranking positions possessed more rights to create loud sounds and make themselves heard than those in lower-ranked position.
All these associations between aristocracy and silence can be found in the car ads of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. /…/
Our study of European literary sources showed that in the first decades of the twentieth century literary motorists described driving as being elevated above everyday life, experiencing the world as being more distant and less intrusive than normally, similar to the experience of watching a movie. The closed car body impeded this experience, however. /…/ It was exactly for this reason, as we have come to know by following American engineers, that the automotive industry started to study the multisensorial percaption of noise, vibration, and harshness by drivers, and invested in improvements in suspension systems and tires. This effort contributed to preserving the tourist gaze associated with early automobility.
Reducing noise was about creating a sense of trust in the car’s reliability, but silence was also sold by referring to its convenience and aristocracy. In doing so, advertisers made use of long-standing cultural connotations. They published images of animals that exuded both strength and silence (the swan, the panther) and tapped into the links between wealth and tranquility – controlling one’s acoustic environment – or between elites and the ability to keep deferentially silent. At the very same time, they unlinked earlier, or other, notions that connected noise to power.

Excerpt from Sound and safe. A history of listening behind the wheel by Karin Bijsterveld, Eefje Cleophas, Stefan Krebs, and Gijs Mom (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Random perspectives on Haruki Murakami

“The dissociation of the world into two sides is a theme which can be seen in many novels of Murakami. In the novel Dance, Dance, Dance, there is another world on the other side of the wall or in the other hotel. In Hard-boiled Wonderland and the end of the World and Kafka on the Shore, two different parallel stories go on; in one chapter one story, in the next chapter the other one. the other world has the clear implication of a mythological world, the world of Gods and of the dead. The connection to and dissociation from the other side is an important theme in Murakami’s novels. /…/
Something essential is lacking and is probably on the other side. Because of the missing essential, this side is not complete; literature, music, and love are not true. And reality, as such, is not complete. /…/ One can think of this as the cultural complex that Murakami is exploring. /…/
So there is a meaningful but sexless relationship on one side and a meaningless sexual relationship on the other side. This dissociation might be reflected in modern Japanese society where teenaged prostitutes and couples in sexless relationships are often reported.
According to Murakami’s novels it is typical for postmodern consciousness in Japan that there is still a sense of lack and longing for what is lost. /…/ The Japanese soul is still between postmodern consciousness and the list mythological world. This dissociation is possible bevause modern consciousness, in the Western sense, has never been established in Japan. /…/ In many ways, Murakami’s novels and the postmodern consciousness of his characters reflext the emergence of a cultural complex in the Japanese collective psyche. /…/
It is probably a misunderstanding to try to overcome the dissociation and find literal union again. As Jung says, we should not try to overcome the dissociation, but to be thaught by it. /…/
If negation and dissociation are dominant, how can people be connected? In this novel, phone calls and letters are important. In other novels or Murakami, the computer plays an important role. It is not the problem of media to be understood. The point is that there is no directness.”

Toshio Kawai: ‘Postmodern consciousness in the novels of Haruki Murakami’. In The. Cultural Complex, eds. T. Singer & S. Kimbles. London: Routledge. Murakami, H. (2000).

“It was demonstrated in an earlier chapter that the vexed question of Japanese modernity turns on the problem of an inadequately defined subject and subjectivity. /…/
In Nejimakidori, Murakami has utilized three versions or aspects of the sublime in order to deal with the complex issue of referentiality in such a way as to not foreclose new ways of thinking about the subject of/in Japanese modernity. These three versions can be described, in broad terms, as the ‘psychoanalytic sublime’, the ‘historical sublime’ and the ‘political sublime’, and it will be demonstrated that the major narrative strands of Nejimakidori variously employ one or more of these. Each of these versions of the sublime indicates and engagement with the problem of ‘presenting the unpresentable’ as a disjunctive modality of the simultaneous affirmation and negation of the subject, whereby the limits of such subjectivity remain uncertain and tentative.
In narrative terms, these aspects of the sublime are integrated through the discursive trope of irony proposed by White, and assume their apotheosis in the figure of Wataya Noboru, where their threat to subjectivity is expressed in terms of an incommensurability in the modalities of presentation of that which cannot be directly presented – ultimately, that is, in the form of what Lyotard has termed the ‘differend’. /…/
we nevertheless cannot ignore the subject of Japanese modernity in terms of a tendency towards a system of pervasive, ongoing ‘fascism’ in the post-was system of political and economic practices and structures, aptly described by Miyoshi and Harootunian under the rubric of the term ’emperorism’. Nejimakidori is implicitly concerned with all of these issues, and this fact is justification enough to make it a text worthy of serious critical attention. /…/
The aspects of the sublime with which we will be working in these chapters are based primarily on Kant’s discussion of the sublime /…/, as well as on Hayden White’s ‘historical sublime’ and Lyotard’s re-reading of the Kantian sublime and subsequent invocation of a form of ‘political sublime’. /…/

in our discussion of Nejimakidori we are faced with a consideration of whether it is possible (or indeed desirable) to reconcile three seemingly irreconcilable perspectives on the nature of historu:
(i) History is a recuperable, representable reality which can be spoken and written.
(ii) History is simulacral – it arises merely as an effect of speaking and writing, and is not co-extensive with any referent.
(iii) History inheres only in the unutterable aporia of meaning/sense, arrayed between memory, thought, speech and writing.
Clearly, these competing views on the nature of history are related to the question of subjectivity and Japanese modernity, and turn on the possibility of being able to stipulate history-as-subject, or, alternatively, the subject in/of history. The first proposition incorporates what have been broadly described as ‘reconstructionist’ (empiricist) and ‘constructionist’ (‘social theory’) forms of history. The second and third propositions are somewhat complementary, and indicatice of what can be described as a ‘post-structuralist- view of history. /…/

“The opening passage of Nejimakidori, with its cacophony of sound-images – boiling water, whistling, ringing telephone, and radio broadcast – sets a remarkably ‘auditory’ mood for the presented world of the novel. It also helps establish the physicality, the marked corporeality of many of the protagonist’s narrated experiences. /…/
In Nejimakidori, there is no doubt that the focus on the auditory sense broadens the range of interpretative possibilities of the work as fictional art. /…/ The central trope of the mysterious, screeching cry of the unseen ‘wind-up’ bird which marks out ‘individual’ and ‘historical’ time and is often heard by characteers in the in-between state of dreaming and waking, consciousness and unconsciousness, is one of the most obvious examples here, but there are various episodes throughout the novel in which specifically auditory hallucinations and images figure. /…/
In terms of the social dimension, Koizumi suggests that in Nejimakidori Murakami is conducting an original and sustained critique of the hegemony of the visual in contemporary Japanese culture. /…/ stridently ‘anti-mass media’, ‘anti-televisual’ – in short, anti-visual /…/
This critique of the visual exposes the myth of Japan as the ‘information society’ (jôhô shakai) which emerged in the eighties, and is clearly connoted in the figure of the thirty-year-old unemployed Boku whose life is effectively in moratorium mode – he neither watches television nor reads newspapers – and is connected to the outside world only through the auditory modality of the telephone.
In stark contrast to this, claims Koizumi, the figure of Wataya Noboru, the consummate political performer and ‘television man’, violates Kanô Kureta [Kreta Kano] through an ‘act of seeing’ – and this is part of a larger, generalized violence of the visual that permeates and controls every corner of contemporary daily Japanese life. /…/
taking as our starting point the basic fact of the sign as being comprised of an audio-image (signifier) and a visual-image (signified), we are left to ponder the implication of how the privileging of the auditory over the visual might prescribe the range of subject positions available to the reader of Nejimakidori. /…/
Freud acknowledge that although in dreams we do ‘make use of auditory images’, in these non-waking states ‘we think predominantly in visual images’. So there is, in terms of the Freudian system, a clear distinction between the visual and audio in relation to the unconscious. /…/
From this it can be surmised that if we could identify a strong opposition between the audio and the visual as dominant narrative tropes or modalities in Nejimakidori, we could extrapolate from the reading of that text an implied threat to the Lacanian symbolic order, which suggests a movement back to the presymbolic stage of the imaginary and the undifferentiated self-perception of the subject, in a way not dissimilar to – and even indicative of – the moment of the subject just prior to abjection. It will be argued later that this is perhaps one of the effects of the privileging of the auditory: to indicate a potential dissolution of the presented Oedipal configuration in Nejimakidori, constructed around the figure of Wataya Noboru.”

Michael Seats: “Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture”

Marshall McLuhan on recorded sound

From “Understanding Media” (Routledge Classics, 2001), first published 1964

300: “The phonograph, which owes its origin to the electrical telegraph and the telephone, had not manifested its basically electric form and function until the tape recorder released it from it mechanical trappings.”

300: “Just how obliquely the phonograph was at first received is indicated in the observation of John Philip Sousa, the brass-band director and composer. He commented: ‘With the phonograph vocal exercises will be out of vogue! Then what of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?’
One fact Sousa had grasped: The phonograph is an extension and amplification of the voice that may well have diminished individual vocal activity, much as the car had reduced pedestrian activity.”

302: “In [Edison’s] own case, his determination to give the phonograph, like the telephone, a direct practical use in business procedures led to his neglect of the instrument as a means of entertainment. Failure to foresee the phonograph as a means of entertainment was really a failure to grasp the meaning of the electric revolution in general. In our time we are reconsiled to the phonograph as a toy and a solace; but press, radio, and TV have also acquired the same dimension of entertainment. Meantime, enterteinment pushed to an extreme becomes the main form of business and politics.”

303: “Electric media, because of their total ‘field’ character, tend to eliminate the fragmented specialties of form and function that we have long accepted as the heritage of alphabet, printing, and mechanization. The brief and compressed history of the phonograph includes all phases of the written, the printed, and the mechanized word. It was the advent of the electric tape recorder that only a few years ago released the phonograph from its temporary involvment in mechanical culture.”

304-305: “It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of complex mechanical forms such as film and phonograph as the prelude to the automation of human song and dance. As this automation of human voice and gesture had approached perfection, so the human work force approached automation. Now in the electric age the assembly line with its human hands disappears, and electric automation brings about a withdrawal of the work force from indystry. Instead of being automated themselves – fragmented in task and function – as had been the tendency under mechanization, men in the electric age move increasingly to involvement in diverse jobs simultneously, and to the work of learning, and to the programming of computers.
This revolutionary logic inherent in the electric age was made fairly clear in the early electric forms of telegraph and telephone that inspired the ‘talking machine’. These new forms that did so much to recover the vocal, auditory, and mimetic world that jad been repressed by the printed word, also inspired the strange new rhythms of ‘the jazz age’.”

305: “Jazz is, indeed, a form of dialogue among instrumentalists and dancers alike. Thus it seemed to make an abrupt break with the homogenous and repetitive rhythms of the smooth waltz. /…/ The waltz is precise, mechanical, and military, as its history manifests. /…/ To the eighteenth century and to the age of Napoleon, the citizen armies seemed to be an individualistic release from th feudal framework of courtly hierarchies. Hence the association of waltz with noble savage, meaning no more than freedom from status and hierarchic deference. The waltzers were all uniform and equal, having free movement in any part of the hall.”

306: “If jazz is considered as a break with mechanism in the direction of the discontinous, the participant, the spontaneous and improvisational, it can also be seen as a return to a sort of oral poetry in which performance is both creation and composition. It is a truism among jazz performers that recorded jazz is ‘as stale as yesterday’s newspaper’. Jazz is alive, like conversation; and like conversation it depends upon a repertory of available themes. But performance is composition. Such performance insures maximal participation among players and dancers alike.”

306: “The separate virtuousity of voice and instruments became the basis of the great musical developments of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The same kind of fragmentation and specialism in the arts and scieces made possible memmoth results in industry and in military enterprise, and in massive cooperative enterprises such as the newspaper and the symphony orchestra.

306-307: “Certainly the phonograph as a product of industrial, assembly-line organization and distribution showed little of the electric qualities that had inspired its growth in the mind of Edison. /…/
It was radio that finally injected a full electric charge into the world of the phonograph. the radio receiver of 1924 was already superior in sound quality, and soon began to depress the phonograph and record business. Eventually, radio restored the record busines by extending popular taste in the direction of the classics.
The real break came after the Second War with the availability of the tape recorder. This meant the end of the incision recording and its attendant surface noise.”

308: “To be in the presence of performing musicians is to experience their touch and handling of instruments as tactile and kinetic, not just as resonant. So it can be said that hi-fi is not any quest for abstract effects of sound in separation from the other senses. With hi-fi, the phonograph meets the TV tactile challenge.
Stereo sound, a further development, is ‘all-around’ or ‘wrap around’ sound. /…/ The hi-fi changeover was really for music what cubism had been for painting, and what symbolism had been for literature; namely, the acceptance of multiple facets and planes in a single experience.”

309: “But the rape recorder in combination with l.p. revolutionized the repertory of classical music. Just as tape meant the new study of spoken rather than written languages, so it brought in the entire musical culture of many centuries and countries.”

309: “A bried summary of the technological events relating to the phonograph might go this way: /…/
The telephone: speech without walls.
The phonograph: music hall without walls.
The photograph: museum without walls.
The electric light: space without walls.
The movie, radio, and TV: classroom without walls.
Man the food-gatherer reappers incongruously as information-gatherer. In this role, electronic man is no less a nomad than his paleolithic ancestors.

Matthew Fuller on pirate radio, material media and nomadology

Matthew Fuller: Media Ecologies. Materialist energies in art and technoculture
Excerpts from Chapter 1, “The R, the A, the O, the I, the O”

18: The metallurgist posseses an intense relation to materiality: a proprioception of and through changes of state of the matter that one is working with, becoming aware of its tics and glitches in terms of how they are mobilizable, in that realms they operate in topological terms, what they connect to or elide. An experimental science or tacit knowledge formed through the use of impurities and changes in structure and integration of metals by leaps between temperatures through heating and quenching. /…/ This minor science is presented in A Thousand Plateaus as being a tradition counter to or partly submerged by that of hylomorphism. This schema, or “form-matter model”, has dominated Western thought since the first systematic schools of ancient Greece. In the treatise on nomadology by contrast, Deleuze and Guattari propose an emphasis on the morphogenic capabilities of material itself: the moments when a series of forces, capacities, and predispositions intermesh to make something else occur, to move into a state of self-organization.
Hylomorphism is “a model of the genesis of form as external to matter, as imposed from the outside like a command on a material which is thought inert and dead”.

19: But as Kittler easily points out, “Electrics does not equal electronics”. The media systems that in combination produce the current form of pirate radio include both the primarily electrical or electromagnetic (the T1200 gramophone, the transmitter coil, etc.) and those that exist in the mode of digital information and electronics (e.g., the GSM phone – something of a bastard case in that it necessarily maintains an interface to electromagnetic waves; and computationally based samplers and synthesizers, etc.). Both electric and electronic sound technologies also allow a sense of a doubling of the machinic phylum in that the manipulation of singularities and flows at one level becomes explicable only when it manifests as another – in sound waves.

20-21: Radio’s section of the electromagnetic spectrum was born regulated. At the end of the nineteenth century, the British government “Made the wireless telegraph a state monopoly, assigning it to the Post Office, with oversight granted to the Admirality.” The only portion of the spectrum not directly falling under state control and procedures of listening is that visible to the naked eye.

23: Pirate radio has shown a capacity to generate medial growths that ground themselves in the attempt to impose form on them, to synthesize what is fundamentally heterogenous. That is, the attempted hylomorphism itself becomes “content” – there is a coevolution, an arms race that feeds the machinic phylum. /…/
Mutual escalation of competing technologies, of legislation and its object, of the appropriation of locations for studios and for transmitter sites, produces its own mutational field in the composition of the machinic phylum of radio – /…/ but the result is in excess of what had previously been legislated against. It is now harder to locate and capture a radio station connected in this way to a transmitter than it was before the legislation was introduced.

24-25: The turntable, with its appendages, is a stalled computer: a head and an infinite tape. It can read stored material, it can reproduce any sound; but used in the standard way, it can only read, not store. Hip hop declared war on this nonfacility by throwing the disc into reverse, mutilating predetermined regimes of speed and frequency. Hip hop mobilized the third category of action of the computer; alongside reading and storing information, the universal machine must be able to act on itself, to calculate. The pace space of all possible sounds of the turntable is determined by the table drawn up at the intersection of speed and frequency. turntablism opens this space up to mutation outside of the regimes of melody, harmony, and voice by forming a copula between the two series, thythm and noise. The endless tape of the Turing machine is imposed on the finite coil, causing it to leap from break to break. /…/ The turntable invents the DJ in order to compute.

40: The aesthetic of mass radio is formed at the same time as that of the autobahn. The conjunction of car and radio accelerates toward the absolute immobilization of drive time.

40-41: The MP3 file format, which has achieved such mass usage as a means of circulating tracks via the Internet, is designed simply to match the included middle of the audio spectrum audible to the human ear. Thus, it obligerates the range of musics designed to be heard with the remainder of the body via bass. This is not simply a white technological cleansing of black music but the configuration of organs, a call to order for the gut, the arse, to stop vibrating and leave the serious work of signal processing to the head.

51: SMS triangulates the historical interconnection of wireless telegraphy, the telegraph, and the phone by providing a way for the compressed forms of writing employed in the telegraph to return via the telephone. The constraints imposed by the multiple usages of every key on the keypad, by the 160-character limit to each message and the tight limit on the amount of text viewable at any time on the small screen of the phone, have been taken up by a telegrammatic speech in which compression is achieved via the shedding of vowels redundant in signifying the word /…/ Language reinvents the alphanumeric character set into thick clots of association.

Simon Frith: The industrialization of music

From Andy Bennet, Barry Shank, Jason Toynbee (red.): The Popular Music Studies Reader (Routledge, London 2006), s. s. 231-238

231: “The contrast between music-as-expression and music-as-commodity defines twentieth-century pop experience. /…/ Read any pop history and you will find in outline the same sorry tale. However the story starts, and whatever the author’s politics, the industrialization of music means a shift from active musical production to passive pop consumption, the decline of folk or community or subcultural traditions, and a general loss of musical skill. […]
What such arguments assume /…/ is that there is some essential human activity, music-making, which has been colonized by commerce. /…/
The flaw in this argument is the suggestion that music is the starting point of the industrial process – the raw material over which everyone fights – when it is, in fact, the final product. The industrialization of music cannot be understood as something which happens to music, since it describes a process in which music itself is made.”
231-232: “Twentieth-century popular music means the twentieth-century popular record; not the record of something (a song? a singer? a performance?) which exists independently of the music industry, but a form of communication which determines what songs, singers and songwriters are and can be.”
232: “We are coming to the end of the record era now (and so, perhaps, to the end of pop music as we know it) /…/
rock and roll was /…/ the climax of (or possibly footnote to) a story that began with Edison’s phonograph.”

236: “Pop music meant pop records, commodities, a technological and commercial process under the control of a small number of companies. Such control depended on the ownership of the means of record production and distribution /…/ Live music-making was still important but its organization and profits were increasingly dependent on the exigencies of record-making. The most important way of publicizing pop now – the way most people heard most music – was on the radio, and records were made with radio formats and radio audiences in mind”
237: “Record companies quickly realized tape’s flexibility and cheapness, and by 1950 tape recording had replaced disc recording entirely. This was the technological change which allowed new, independent producers into the market – the costs of recording fell dramatically even if the problems of large-scale manufacture and distribution remained. Mid-1950s American indie labels like Sun were as dependent on falling studio costs as late-1970s punk labels in Britain /…/
what could be done during this intermediary stage, to the tape itself, that transformed pop music-making. Producers no longer had to take performances in their entirety. They could cut and splice, edit the best bits of performances together, cut out the mistakes, make records of ideal not real events.”
238: “By the mid-1960s the development of multi-track recording enabled sounds to be stored separately on the same tape /…/ Studio-made music need no longer bear any relationship to anything that can be performed live; records use sounds, the effects of tape tricks and electronic equipment, that no one has ever even heard before as musical. /…/
It was pop producers, unashamedly using technology to ‘cheat’ audiences (double-tracking weak voices, filling out a fragile beat, faking strings) who, in the 1950s and 1960s, developed recording as an art form, thus enabling rock to develop as a ‘serious’ music in its own right.”

From the Edison rupture to acid house

79: “Until the rise of recording, sound was essentially fleeting and intangible, floating above the site of its making, before fading inevitably away. Every performance of a song or scored composition would be different, varying according to circumstance, musicians, instruments and acoustics /…/ In contrast, recording changed this by capturing a singular snapshot, replacing the aura of the artwork with the permanance of the ‘audio document'”

80: “Listen to one of Edison’s early recordings and what strikes you is not so much the words transported from another age, as the surface of noise that obscures them, a surface of static over which recognisable shapes – a human voice, the words to a poem – flicker like shadows. Edison intended his phonograph to offer a transparent window onto past events, to revord for posterity business transactions or the last words of a dying relative. But within the inconvenient cloud of interference can be heard the first hints of the subsequent century of sound waiting to unfold, for this inherent imperfection contained within itself a musical potential that would come to be explored during the course of the twentieth century within electronic music, in a counter-history marked by accident, manipulation and reuse that detached itself from the telos of representational technologies.
Moreover, in preserving sound as a material trace, recording created an artefact that is available to be reworked, and so a second order domain of sonic transformations. /…/ This opened the door to a new kind of music making, one based in a foregrounding of interference, citation and secondary processes, a plastic art working within and through the grain of the machine.”

82: “What we might term a ‘studio art’ came of age when producers surrendered the transparent reproduction of live performance and instead explored the potential of the recording medium in its own right. The key shift sway from documentary realism and towards the productivity of the simulacra came with developments in electrical recording. Once sound was converted to a set of electrical signals, studio technicians were able endlessy to manipulate variable parameters.”

83: “the sence of music being transformed from the transport of song and voice into the production of a surface affect is most clearly captured in the ‘wall of sound’ developed by the Los Angeles based producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s /…/
A decisive break came with the echo chambers of 1970s Jamaican dub.”

84: “Another well documented case, one which highlights how the sonic machinic broke from the telos of representational technologies, is the assemblage of acid house and the Roland TB-303. Indeterminacy in music had been extensively explored by Cage and Fluxus, but with the Roland TB-303 it arose in an implicit way within a culture of misuse. This piece of studio equipment was designed to produce an accurate reproduction of bass-guitar lines to be used in studio sessions, but notoriously bad at what it was intended for, it was very good at making mistakes. /…/ Soon the misuse became the norm, as the unique squelching sounds produced by its filters came to define a whole genre of music – acid house – mapping out a template first sketched in 1985 by DJ Pierre, Spanky and Herbert J with Phuture’s ‘Acid Trax’. In the place of the despotic studios of dub there emerged the ‘bedroom producer’, deterritorialising yet further studio production.”

Drew Hemment: Affect and Individuation on Popular Electronic Music.
In Ian Buchanan & Marcel Swiboda (ed.): Deleuze and Music. Edinburgh University Press, 2004, p. 76-94

Friedrich Kittler: Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

“Overtones are frequencies, that is, vibrations per second. And the grooves of Edison’s phonograph recorded nothing but vibrations. Intervals and chords, by contrast, were ratios, that is, fractions made up of integers. The length of a string (especially on a monochord) was subdivided, and the fractions, to which Pythagoras gave the proud name logoi, resulted in octaves, fifths, fourths, and so on. Such was the logic upon which was was founded everything that, in Old Europe, went by the name of music: first, there was a notation system that enabled the transcription of clear sounds separated from the world’s noise; and second, a harmony of the spheres that established that the ratios between planetary orbits (later human souls) equaled those between sounds.
The nineteenth century’s concept of frequency breaks with all this. The measure of length is replaced by time as an independent variable. It is a physical time removed from the meters and rhythms of music. It quantifies movements that are too fast for the human eye, ranging from 20 to 16,000 vibrations per second. The real takes the place of the symbolic. Certainly, references can also be established to link musical intervals and acoustic frequencies, but they only testify to the distance between two discourses. In frequency curves the simple proportions of Pythagorean music turn into irrational, that is, logaritmic, functions. Conversely, overtone series — which in frequency curves are simply integral multiples of vibration and the determining elements of each sound — soon explode the diatonic music system. That is the depth of the guld separating Old European alphabetism from mathematical-physical notation.”

46: “In the wake of Mondrian and the Bruitists (who wanted to introduce noise into literature and music), Maholy-Nagy already suggested in 1923 turning ‘the gramophone from an instrument of reproduction into a productive one, generating acoustic phenomena without any previous acoustic existence by scratching the necessary marks onto the record.'”

* Time Axis Manipulation (TAM)

“Of course Europe’s written music had already been able to move tones upward or downward, as the term ‘scale’ itself implies. But transposition doesn’t equal TAM. If the phonographic playback speed differs from its recording speed, there is a shift not only in clear sounds but in entire noise spectra. What is manipulated is the real rather than the symbolic.”

“Voices that start to migrate through frequency spectra and time axes do not simply continue old literary wordgame techniques such as palindromes or anagrams. This letter-bending had become possible only once the primary code, the alphabet itself, had taken effect. Time axis manipulation, however, affects the raw material of poetry, where manipulation had hitherto been impossible. Hegel had referred to ‘the sound’ as ‘a disappearing of being in the act of being’, subsequently celebrating it as a ‘saturated expression of the manifestation of inwardness’. What was impossible to store could not be manipulated. Ridding itself of its materiality or clothes, it disappeared and presented inwardness as a seal of authencity.”

“Whereas Morse signs are much too discrete and binary to be a symbolic code for radio waves, the continuous low frequencies of records are ideal for the amplitude and frequency modulations known as broadcasting.”

“The entertainment industry is, in any conceivable sense of the word, an abuse of army equipment. When Karlheinz Stockhausen was mixing his first electronic composition, Kontakte, in the Cologne studio of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk between February 1958 amd fall 1959, the pulse generator, indicating amplifier, band-pass filter, as well as the sine and square wave oscillators were made up of discarded U.S. Army equipment: an abuse that produced a distinctive sound.”

“Lennon, Hendrix, Barret och andra började spela in sina Gesamtkunstwerke genom att fullt ut använda sig av andra världskriget mediainnovationer”.

Fridrich Kittler: Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
Stanford University Press, 1999 (1986)