This month’s reading:1
“Frantz Fanon’s Radio: Solidarity, Diaspora, and the Tactics of Listening” by Ian Baucom.
Additional texts in the reader: “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Nativeland)” by Aimé Césaire, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Other Dimensions in Music, “Ghostcatching”” by Fred Moten / Excerpt from “Words Don’t Go There: an Interview with Fred Moten” by Charles Henry Rowell, “It Ain’t Where You From It’s Where You At” by Paul Gilroy, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” by Stuart Hall.
- Collective reading in times of COVID-19: voice messages.
This month, we followed the Sonic Meditation “Engery Changes” until the sound of the sirens went off.
Sonic Meditation meetings are inspired by Pauline Oliveros, who introduced them as non-verbal group work, as a way of attuning yourself to others, through one's own voice1 as well as exercising to listen to each other without the pressure of daily speech, often being marked by gendered parameters.
LISTEN TO THE ENVIRONMENT AS A DRONE. ESTABLISH CONTACT MENTALLY WITH ALL OF THE CONTINUOUS EXTERNAL SOUNDS AND INCLUDE ALL OF YOUR OWN CONTINUOUS INTERNAL SOUNDS, SUCH AS BLOOD PRESSURE, HEART BEAT AND NERVOUS SYSTEM. WHEN YOU FEEL PREPARED, OR WHEN YOU ARE TRIGGERED BY A RANDOM OR INTERMITTENT SOUND FROM THE EXTERNAL OR INTERNAL ENVIRONMENT, MAKE ANY SOUND YOU LIKE IN ONE BREATH, OR A CYCLE OF LIKE SOUNDS. WHEN A SOUND OR A CYCLE OF SOUNDS IS COMPLETED REESTABLISH MENTAL CONNECTION WITH THE DRONE, WHICH YOU FIRST ESTABLISHED BEFORE MAKING ANOTHER SOUND OR CYCLE OF LIKE SOUNDS.
WHEN THE SIRENS / ALARM GOES OFF, OPEN YOUR EYES AND LISTEN TO IT UNTIL IT STOPS / YOU WANT TO STOP IT.
Straw Phonation and Collective Gargle, exercises led by the WTFPC, followed by a Silent Lunch. This month’s WTFPC Incorporation Ritual, hosted by Somnath Bhatt, along with other WTFPC activities, can be tracked here.
Why is the styrofoam sobbing? A product-oriented-ontology. EPS is a rigid, closed cell, thermoplastic foam material, produced from solid beads of polystyrene. Expansion is achieved by virtue of small amounts of gas contained within the bead. The gas expands when heat in the form of steam is applied. These cells occupy approximately 40 times the volume of the original when heated enough. Styrofoam peanuts1 come from beads in the shape of a S, or a Z, we don’t know, an ambiguous wave that works as a subtle branding, an alphabetical trace, the representation of a sound. When observed closely, different sizes can be distinguished, growth is discerned, various generations of peanuts based on the amount of heat they received during the process. The more heat the bigger, wrinkled and fragile, the less heat the smaller, smooth and compact. By rubbing the smooth against the wrinkled, a sound is generated, the interaction is recorded until the fragile breaks. Small pieces with a million-year lifespan, a paradoxical dialogue around the potentiality of loss.
“Unheard (fragments)” is a series of audio snippets created as a response to Ian Baucom's essay “Frantz Fanon's Radio.”
In particular, the work explores the themes of listening, hearing, misinterpreting and reproducing the voice.
“The listener would compensate for the fragmentary nature of the news by an autonomous creation of information … the whole nation would snatch fragments of sentences.” (Baucom, p.24)
Created with voice cloning software, these audio snippets are fragments of excerpts from Baucom's text. The voice is a broken down, synthesis of my own and a machine learned model voice which has been generated by the software from listening and (mis)interpreting samples of my own voice and reconstructing these in the form of its own unique murmurs and whispers.
“Agency shifts from the speaker to the listener, who reproduces what she or he has heard. This act of reproduction is not, however, motivated by a desire to be faithful to the original, to represent exactly what has been lost. Rather, in their work of acoustic translation, the listeners refashion the broadcast in their own images, lend their voices to fill in the silences in the Voice. At this moment what has been a univocal address is polyvocalized.” (Baucom, p.24)
To allow room for more general approaches to the reader prompts, each “An Phantom Voices” monthly session closes out with “Intermezzo,” an evening gathering of spontaneous collective listening, to close the week, yet also already point to the next one. Intermezzo: as in between two sonic entities.
This month, a physical gathering wasn't possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We instead did an at home screening of Isaac Julien’s “Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask” (UK, 1995).