Stronger Loving World

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Friday, December 17, 2004


Everyone has an atribute which they arbitrarily associate with presence. Mine is the voice. Like most people, a sweaty body panting under mine is the preferred signification of presence, but the only prerequisite for me to anchor meaning and emotions onto a fixed subject, to make someone "real", is the human voice. Synesthesia isn't always a jumbling of sensoral inputs, it can also manifest through synechdote; the part representing the whole. To vocal fetishists, all attributes of the body manifest in the voice, curled and coded in its texture and rhythm. Nervous twitches crackle and manifest in sighs and in your casual sing-songy pleas. This is why I like magnetic tape and radio teleplays, and why I hate my current mobile phone's really fucked reception.

Burroughs believed that auditory signals are such deeply rooted associations for subjectivity that the semiotic value, the symbolic exchange created by recording technology, is interchangeable with its physical value. He believed the whole of society was governed by auditory signs; from the heartbeat's effect on the immune system to the effect of traffic and police sirens on our blood pressure. This went back to the Garden of Eden, when God's voice had been hiding around the Tree of Knowledge, disassociated from a corporeal body. (I wrote way too much on this subject, as well as the relationship between Burroughs belief that civilization was governed by auditory scripts that could be re-written and how this influenced early culture-jamming in this entry.) Perhaps God wasn't there, perhaps he left a tape recording of his voice hidden in the bushes.

Voice is a gift because it never dissolves or flattens or dilutes when we reproduce it.(Presuming you take effort to preserve its fidelity) A photo is only a flat representation of its subject, voices are voices. I don't think auditory scripts govern society, but I think that decontextualizing and focusing on individual senses reveals enough sensory information to sketch an accurate- or at least a poetically inaccurate mental map of the person with whom we are speaking. I'd welcome an effort to create anechoic chambers in urban areas, a little white box at the corner of an intersection you could walk into. Sit down with a friend, have a talk. Or just listen. Or hum, or giggle, or belch, what have you.

We already have autonomous, mobile vocal communication spaces, of course. They are called cellular phones, and using them in public makes you amoral, impolite and a symbol America's moral decline. But if someone right next to the jerk with the cellphone is speaking to a friend at twice the decibel level-well, as long as we can see the bastard he's talking to, right? Because treating a voice like a person betrays social etiquette. A solution: gasmasks that cover the face during phonecalls. We can ensure disassociated communicative space exists, protect the public's deranged sense of "etiquette" and make the world look that much closer to a Fellini film all at once.


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