A critical media response to Reflections on the Voice, Sawyer Seminar event with Brian Massumi and Steven Connor (April 14, 2014)
Steven Connor reframes spoken para-language — hiccups, slips, laughter, stammering — into a type of insurrection. Some body parts ally themselves and go to war. ‘Sadistic listening’ amplifies the situation – another listening body interferes, it enters into the alliances made by one’s own spastic, fulminating organs. Connor’s psychoanalysis of the voice reveals the Enlightenment subject’s secret eviscerations – the demilitarized zones in the body at war, the gaps bubbling between emerging, opposing physical agencies. Connor’s concern for vocal gaps evokes the language of “crannies” in Brian Massumi’s paper about the infamous half-second delay in cognition. Teeming with processual energy, Massumi’s paper posits a non-self-reflective subject beset with gaps and abeyance in cognitive action. However, for Massumi, these crannies in the ephemeral “half-second” of movement-sense are not merely cognitive voids or lost time, but positive spaces overfull with philosophical possibility.
Connor and Massumi’s configurations of gaps and crannies inspired our media project. On one side, vocal “gaps” elicit power shifts among bodies and sadistic allies; on the other, slips in cognition constitute a positive processual mode of being. Our project attempts to address both thinkers’ theoretical figurations of gaps within a playful sonic experiment. Our material consists of processed speech and sadism, recontextualizing the various quotes strewn through Connor’s paper into granular exercises of power. From Massumi, we take the structural concept of the populated void, the overfilled and ripe emptiness from which a semblance of the higher-order emerges. Though our work allows some identities to assert themselves, their saturation threatens to collapse any utterance backwards into the gappy para-language from whence they came. We then created physical distance (gap) to our diegetic gaps. After transferring the tracks to a portable cassette recorder, we played the tape composition while exploring a few geographical sites in Nahant, Massachusetts, known for its rocky shoreline outcroppings and scenic “crannies” in the land. It is our hope that the project resounds in layers of theoretical gaps and crevices, permeating acoustic spaces with unexpected sonic textures and unlikely associations.
Producers/editors: Caufield Schnug and Marek Poliks