From Nancy’s Listening

December 20, 2007 at 12:08 | Posted in communicative media, Musings, On Sound, sonic, the body, Things related to critical theory, Things related to John Cage | Leave a comment

I’m Listening to Panda Bear’s album Person Pitch while I’m writing this. Attempting to qualify and quantify existential phenomena has not been very hip in my head lately. Until recently most of my ‘philosophical inquiry’ has revolved around trying to understand the world–not necessarily to rationalize, but just to find some way to be able to be ok with the seeming madness and “harmony of overwhelming and collective murder,” that proliferates infinitely (the quote is Herzog, from The Burden of Dreams).

In the past year my preoccupation with the unsolvable, and merely acquaintable, existential phenomena of life has shifted into a preoccupation with the sonic, and the act of listening. So far, this is what I’ve gleened/come up with:
I use the word sonic to refer to the empirical and objective–that which is without the attention of cognition. There are sonic events, which become sounds after they are perceived. And, there are sonic environments in which we move, live, and perform. Hearing is the cognitive performance through which we add significance–in a strictly cultural, that is inter- or intra-personal manner–to sonic events, thus transforming them into sound. Hearing is always a reduction, so that sound in consciousness is sensually inferior to the sonic event int he sonic environment. I’ve coem this conclusion in ;arge part through the influence of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, particularly a passage in which he says something to the effect of “The creation of an object in consciousness is always at the cost of the destruction of that object.” I like his view on phenomenology, particularly the idea that we–we being humans–exist as a fold between cognition and the empirical; the world is an “infinite horizon of sensation” (also MMP’s language) and when we interface with that horizon we assemble our rendition of the world, and become agents within it.
I’ve strayed formt he point a bit, but the point was never articulated, or priveleged, so I’ve arrived perfectly. So, here I arrive at the event that the title premised, and here that event will crystalize until some server space somewhere crashes. From Jean Luc-Nancy’s Listening translated by Charlotte Mandell:

“Music is the art of hope for resonance: a sense that does not make sense except because of its resounding in itself.”

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Brief excerpt from the midst of a paper:

December 16, 2006 at 15:40 | Posted in communicative media, Documentation of things, Grad school update, new york, Process oriented explanations, the body, Things related to critical theory, Things related to John Cage | Leave a comment

Our conception of the sonic is a phenomenological feedback event, while our perception, as an event, is equally a perception of our own materiality and the materiality of the sonic. The conception of the auditized sonic always leads to its interface with usefulness, while the perception of the sonic always leads to either quantification or qualification. Perception is cartography of the self (both collective and singular, physical and metaphysical), and the space around the self. Perception is not a document of what exists; it is an event. Perception is the construction of what exists in terms of potentialities of usefulness; the perceived is of usefulness, and the unperceived is not. It could be said that perception leads to conception, but such a statement would not be true, only mythic.

Brief thoughts on Animals, People, and Communication:

November 21, 2006 at 22:22 | Posted in Things related to critical theory | 2 Comments

So, in order for this brief essay to make any sense we must first agree on one thing: the function of communication is to confer that which is not understood. If you can get with that, then please read on, if not read on open mindedly, or don’t read on.

So, based on this premise all communication is always already understood to be evidence of a lack. That is, communication only occurs because of a lack of understanding. If understanding could be understood as an absolute state then its occupation would indicate a state in which no communication takes place. The attempt to communicate is the trace of a perfomance in which lack inhibits the completion of the performance’s understanding. This understanding can be either terminal, or constitutive.

Constitutive understanding is incremental, it is a necessary potentiality. Constitutive understanding takes place perpetually over the course of a performance–its occasion is an indication of a movement towards terminal understanding. Constitutive undertsanding means that the performance can proceed/is procedding. It can be understood as a brick, whereas the terminal understanding would be a building, or some other structure.

Terminal understanding is the understanding generated by the transmission of performance from the performer to the observer. Terminal understanding is both qualified by, and the declaration of the performance’s conclusion. A terminal understanding is performative of the performance’s completion.

So, with understanding quantified let us move onto its qualification. Understanding’s qualification can be understood as a cohabitation of space. This space is defined by a shared conception of its parameters, and the performative potentialities occasioned by its inhabiting. The notion of understanding is a referent to the potentialities of a set of performances. We cannot invoke understanding or communication monadically, they are always already constitutive of the potentialities of performance. Now, on to animals and people.

Commonly held conceptions posit that humans possess a method of communication that is more sophisticated than that of animals. True as this may seem empirically, how is this notion complicated by a non-monadic epistemology of communication? That is, if communication cannot be read as an isolated structure (it is a portion of the tripartite of communication, understanding, and performance) how can its quantification be said to provide any kind of empirical evidence? Is it possible that animals do not communicate in methods as complex as those of humans because animals are already in a state of understanding that exceeds ours? If they are, how does this aspect of the tripartite–that is in excess to our own–complicate our attempts to quantify ‘communication’ in order to render animal communication in a state that is less than our own? How do we know that animal’s don’t possess a greater level of understanding, which then facilitates less of a need for communication?

Metaphorical existentialism, or Existential metaphoricalism:

November 14, 2006 at 16:54 | Posted in Documentation of things, Grad school update, the body, Things related to critical theory, Things related to John Cage | 2 Comments

So, I’m applying to PhD programs–this is nothing new. I have two different prjects that I’m proposing, because I’m applying to two different programs. Both of my projects excite me, but both involve different kinds of work. The project that I am proposing for Performance Studies involves the way that bodies are formed and performed. The project for Musical programs involves phonography, its cultural feedback, and its interrelation with phenomenology.

My body project is the equivalent of moving a mountain.

My phonography project s the equivalent of travelling amidst the space outside of Earth.

These metaphors describe the ways that I interact with the work required for the projects.

Excerpt from recent bodily works:

November 12, 2006 at 06:09 | Posted in Documentation of things, Grad school update, the body, Things related to critical theory | Leave a comment

This is a small portion of the work that I’ve been doing on corporeal paradigm perception/conception. The formatting will be a bit off, and the footnotes are lost, but it is nonetheless:

In other words, the more resistive (that is, on the outside) X is imagined to be, the more unavoidably it is to lose its specificity (that is, become appropriated) in the larger framework of the systematic production of differences, while the circumstances that make this framework possible (that is, that enable it to unfold and progress as permanently self-regulating interiority) remain unchallenged.
—Chow (68).

If we follow from Chow’s logic then methods of corporal treatment that allow for difference to be mapped are broken; our discoursic attempts at mapping corporeal diversity only conflate difference as the eponymous meter of the reverberations of the voice of a normative centrality against which difference is qualified. The more we try to qualify difference (difference from hegemonic socio-cultural normativity) by contrasting it against normativity the more difference loses its meaning as a value independent of normativity and becomes a peripheral disjuncture constituted only by the lack of those traits that compose normativity; if difference cannot be defined as the lack of normativity, nor its opposite then how can it be defined? Through Chow’s hermeneutic we can see that any attempts to render difference solely through a referentiality that relies on difference produced by way of distance from normative centrality, only serves to reinforce that centrality; difference produced through contrast against centrality becomes the recurring affirmation of centrality, rather than the affirmation of difference as disruptive to an idea of centrality. So what do we do then, how can this short-circuit in difference-mapping be transformed from one that debilitates difference into one that effaces its fecundity? In order to produce efficacious dialog we need to have a way of talking about difference amongst human beings that 1.) Allows for difference to remain independently stable (unreliant upon a qualification of contrast), and 2.) Unifies human beings under some kind of rubric that doesn’t produce ultimate universality (there is difference amongst human beings, but we are still all human beings).
In her text The Scandal of the Speaking Body Shoshana Felman addresses a structurality that can serve as an inroad for the kind of bipartite structurality that will allow for efficacious corporeal dialog. In her analysis of J.L. Austin’s theories of performative language she assembles the centrality of his discourse around three terms: the constative, the performative, and the radical negative. While these terms are elucidated through the discourse of language—specifically the (potential) speech-act—their valence extends beyond language and into all aspects of performance, including corporeal performance. In the most basic sense the constative is that which is signified: the performance’s interpretation; the performative is the signifier: the actual performance itself; and the radical negative is a performative that depicts the acute limits of a structure’s methods of constative mapping: the expansion of the specific performance’s range of potential constatives. When the radical negative takes place it ruptures the structure that it emerges from; in response to Chow’s critique of the discourse of difference the radical negative invokes a performance of both difference and normative centrality in such a way that the binary structure of difference and normative centrality cannot map its constativity, and thus calls that the structure be reconstituted. Here Felman explains the occasion of the radical negative with regards to its rupture of the structure that Chow critiques; Felman offers an insight into the radical negative as potential solution for a portrayal of difference that does not refer to normative centrality:
The “abnormal” here does not take the “normal” as a positive term of reference; on the contrary, it is the “normal” that, in order to be understood, necessarily refers to the “abnormal” that breaches it from within, displaces, corrodes, and unmasks it: the “normal” is henceforth no longer anything but “the blinding veil of comfort and of obviousness, false evidence, that has to be “penetrated,” torn apart by the radical force of the negative.

Now if the Austinian negative does not aim simply to treat the negative as a function of the positive, neither does it aim—it aims still less—simply to reduce the positive to the negative. Even though the term “positive” is in the last analysis undone, the defeat of the positive does not involve any nihilistic complacency, in particular does not include any teleology of “negation for itself.” Paradoxically, radical negativity or the defeat of the positive does not in Austin, exclude positivism,”
—Felman (102).

For Felman then, the radical negative is exactly what Chow calls for; the nearly inconceivable instance in which difference is mapped in such a way that it destabilizes any notion of centrality, yet does not leave everything universalized into a featureless landscape in its wake; the negative that cannot be expressed in terms of the positive, and which functions in such a way that the positive cannot be expressed in terms of the negative. How then, does the radical negative translate into corporeality?
We must start first by examining the parameters of Felman’s claim. The radical negative is constituted by two factors: 1.) An irreducible, and non-referential negative; and 2.) An irreducible and non-referential positive. By negative Felman is referring to a performative that can be read as constatively negative within a structure; this is fundamentally the rendering of that which is not normative centrality through reductive measures. The constatively negative is achieved by rebuking the positive qualifications of a structure, but wind up only reifying those positive qualifications through their perceived absence. Likewise the constatively positive is rendered through its lack of those qualifications that would constitute its absence. An easy way to map this system is to think of human dietary behaviors. What is a vegetarian? A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat. In order to construct vegetarianism we must subtract some aspect of the normative diet, thus the difference of being vegetarian is qualified by an embodiment of a lack of normative centrality. Likewise to embody the diet of normative centrality is to be not vegetarian, or not someone who doesn’t eat fish.
The radical negative is that which is able to positively affirm, and negatively deny both the positive and negative embodiments simultaneously; the radical negative is both normative centrality, and difference because its embodiment of these structures is not constituted by the lack of either. The radical negative is able to occupy both the positive and negative elements of a structure through a single performative—it ruptures the structure by conflating the elements of qualification that compose positive and negative. If the positive can be the negative, rather than solely being constituted by its lack, and if the negative can the be the positive rather than solely being constituted by its lack, then the conception of the structure that contains positive and negative must be reorganized in order to account for this aporia. If a structure is defined by its positive and negative elements, and if those elements can be shown to be one in the same, then the structure must be re-rendered in order that it may be discerned through some other measure(s).
So, how do we map Felman’s system of radical negativity onto corporeality in such a way that it is able to rupture the structure of corporeality’s binaries of embodied normative centrality, and embodied difference? In order to do so a paradigm of corporeality must be envisioned in such a way that it may account for both difference and normative centrality simultaneously, and in so doing must commit two simultaneous acts of affirmation, and two simultaneous acts of denial: the body is normal through normalcy, the body is normal through a lack of difference, the body is different through difference, and the body is different through the lack of normalcy.
Departing from Chow’s call for enabled discourse, and Felman’s elucidation of the potentialities of the radical negative we can draw closer to a conception of what this structure of corporeality, this method of embodiment might look like when we begin to consider what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick refers to as texture:
Technologies of travel, for example, as well as of vision emphasize that, although texture has everything to do with scale, there is no one physical scale that intrinsically is the scale of texture. As your plane circles over an airport, texture is what a whole acre of tress can provide. But when you’re chopping wood, a single tree may constitute shape or structure within your visual field, whereas texture pertains to the level of the cross-grained fibers of the wood in relation to the sleek bite of the axe.
–Sedgwick (16).
Sedgwick’s notion of texture proffers that there multiple simultaneous conceptions/perceptions taking place within a structure, and these conceptions/perceptions are dependant upon scale. This idea of scaler texture, and the idea of the radical negative then diffuse into one another rendering a fuller potentiality for the construction of corporeality. Sedgwick’s notion texture points to the scale of perception as the factor of conception; the object of perception/conception exists independent of its perception/conception. Furthermore the perception/conception of an object is only a partial rendering of its ultimate potentiality; while an object exists within perception/conception this existence is not predicated by either temporal or spatial singularity: the object’s potentiality for multiple scaler frames is the document of its polyvalence. This inherent polyvalence is the key factor in Felman’s construction of the radical negative; the radical negative is two simultaneous acts of affirmation, and two simultaneous acts of denial. It is Sedgwick’s rendering of texture that, not only allows us to move between multiple perceptions, but allows us to conceive of the simultaneous occurrences that are embodied in those perceptions. We can see the object at multiple scales because it can exist at multiple scales, the object’s existence at multiple scales renders it as agent of the radical negative—those simultaneous affirmations and denials.
In order to incorporate these two modalities I will insert a teleology that subsumes the individual body into a holistic notion of human super-organism that dismantles corporeal sovereignty . This notion of the super-organism then facilitates the re-mapping of the individual into a state of individuation that allows for difference to be mapped without relying on a state of contrast to a normative centrality—for the two are not rendered as a mutually exclusive binary, but interdependent modalities of a singular structure. When we apply Sedgwick’s texture to the non-binary oriented corporeal structure we can substitute the human body for the trees; the individuated body always exists, but the scale of perception determines whether or not it may be perceived. As well, its perception does not deflate its inclusion within the super-organism, rather the super-organism is rendered imperceptible as the scale of perception/conception is shifted so as to be able to perceive/conceive the individuated body; the texture of the trees at the level of the axe-swinger does not change the texture of the trees at the level of the airplane—their texture remains and only their mode of perception/conception is altered.
By arriving at the body through these scaler modalities, instead of difference and centrality being portrayed as polar opposites, they are treated as indications of scaler perception/conception. The construction of the individuated body within the super-organism is concurrent with the unification of Sedgwick and Felman’s theories, and thus provides the means to fulfill Chow’s call for an alternate paradigm of difference. Because the individuated body exists within the every-individuated-body-encompassing super-organism it is able to fulfill the four postures of Felman’s radical negative in response to Chow: the individuated body is embodied difference through difference because each individuated body is different from every other individuated body, it is embodied difference through sameness because each individuated body is part of the unifying bodily super-organism, it is embodied centrality through sameness because each individuated body is part of the singular every-individuated-body-encompassing super-organism, and it is embodied centrality through difference because the super-organism consists of the myriad individuated bodies. There is no individuated body without super-organism, and there is no super-organism without individuated bodies, the two are co-constitutive.

Two Photos from Saturday…

October 30, 2006 at 04:07 | Posted in Documentation of things, Grad school update, new york, Things related to critical theory, Things related to John Cage | Leave a comment

I am doing a project in my musical ethnography course that looks towards the human event of hearing in hopes of uncovering some insights into the trace of a phenomenological interface with unmediated sound. By taking various instances of aurality and combining them into a single signifying matrix I hope to render some sort of artifact that can provide a mimetic conceptualization of unmediated sound; it’s paradoxical, but it’s fun. Friday morning Chris Tabron and I went out to do some field recordings. Here are some photos from then.

Performative of what though?

October 25, 2006 at 04:28 | Posted in Grad school update, new york, Things related to critical theory, Things related to John Cage | Leave a comment

I continue to work on/develop/think about body theories. School has been a bit slow the last week or two. My musical ethnography class hit a bit of a lull as our equpiment order has been sitting in limbo, and my Affect Terror Biopolitics class has been difficult for me to navigate. I feel like the discussion in class often focuses solely on the shortcomings of the texts that we read, and that conversation rarely revolves around points of dispersion, or integration. I don’t know why this is such a difficult thing for me to get over because I seem to spend so much time lately talking shit about my peers, but nonetheless I don’t think too fondly of my own digressions either.

It’s starting to get cold here in New York. For the first time in eight years I haven’t been sleeping well–it’s strange. I rarely sleep through the night, and if I do I don’t wake up feeling rested.

I took some splendid field recordings at the Southside Seaport last Friday night with Chris Tabron. We wound up with some great sounds. Of specific fascination to me were recordings of a footbridge (about forty feet in length) going from a dock to a boat. The bridge had wheels at its dockside base, and beneath the wheels was a large metal plate. As the boat shifted in the port’s water the footbridge moved back and forth slightly on the metal plate producing a massive squeaking sound; unique. I also got some great sounds by placing stereo contact mics on one of the steel support beams for the FDR overpass.

I met with Richard Shcechner today to talk about my bodily theories and he brought up some interesting points about genetics that I hadn’t thought of. I also met with Jason Stanyek today in order to discuss some concerns about my project for musical ethnography. I had originally planned to do an audio documentray on skateboarding, but scrapped that idea when I hurt my foot. My new project involves field recordings from all over New York edited together in a way that attempts a mimetic performance of New York’s unmediated sonic body. This project mimics my Body project as it is predicated on the notion that the individuated body exists only in its occupation of multiple parts of a larger whole. Individuated aurality takes place as individuated bodies accumulate a method for navigating collective aurality by focusing on certain sounds, frequencies, rhythms, et cetera, and then codifying these facets into a map that is continually transposed onto the immediate aural geography. My concern was that the project may not be focused enough and I may wind up with nothing but a mess on my hands. Jason suggested that instead of simply going out and recording, that I speak to some people about their notion of sonic New York, record the conversations, record their versions of sonic New York, and then edit the whole thing together. Such amazing advice. The dilemma of my aesthetic process is that in order to conceptualize a methodology I identify and occupy the polar opposite of anything that can be empathized with. In most cases my efforts work, but in this case the human identity provides a crucial aspect in the produciton of aurality, and thus must be integrated rather than expelled. Jason’s response was enlightening because he saw my concerns when I couldn’t.

I got a new job at Arium tea lounge. The job is great. I love being around tea, and people drinking tea.

Remember me?

October 13, 2006 at 02:44 | Posted in Documentation of things, Grad school update, new york, No Politics, Things related to critical theory | Leave a comment

Time is not even a recognizable process as I seem to acquired such a multitude of tasks that they exceed the perceivable engagements of my socio-somatic existence; somewhere amidst the activities that engulf me my life transpires. Within the bedlem I seem to have effectively lost track of most of the known methods for orienting myself in quotidian affairs so that I feel a bit unstable. It’s somewhat comical because that was my ultimate intention in coming to graduate school, to put myself into a situation that would challenge me thoroughly while simultaneously removing the majority of places,persons, and practices that constitute my safety net; mission accomplished. I am not stable amidst this restructuring, but I seem to be sufficiently oriented, so I can’t be far from stability.
Now, I have not–for some time–thought of myself as religious until recent weeks. In my studies I have had my apathy confronted repeatedly, and I have had to truly consider where it comes from and why it exists. I have arrived at the conclusion–not one that I crafted–that religion is any device that allows a human being to disengage the chaos of the conemplation of unresolvable existential crises in life. I am a religious person. My religion is not so much a thing with a name as a plasticine method informed by what can easily be refered to as taoism. I am not a taoist, and I am not apathetic, it just sems that way. I willingly accept–and in ways craft–my inability to assume an overt agenda, or the disposition that I should be the supreme governonr of my body and its engaged systems. Thus, in my current academic setting I am finding my ‘religion’ pitted against a system that posits its rupture so I must either re-constitute my religion or re-form it. While my initial response is a sliver of panic the ultimate outcome of this challenge is that I have reached a point wherein the methods that I use to interact with Earth life are insufficient, which is necessairly the predicate of change, specifically change that reveals a vaster finitude. The thing about tstructures is that they only exists for as long as we remain within the realm that constitutes the structure, thereby any measure of ‘growth’ necessarily calls for deconstrution/reification in order for the structure to continue in its applicability. Alas, while I piddle about this life-matirx migraine that I have created I am engaged in the very thing I need most. Perhaps my smile is in my navigation.

Performance on Thursday night:

September 27, 2006 at 04:07 | Posted in Documentation of things, new york, Performances/Exhibitions, Things related to critical theory, Things related to John Cage | Leave a comment

What you will read below–after this paragraph–is the logistical
information for a
performance that I will be taking part in Thursday night. I will be
performing a new work titled, (I don’t know how to set italics in
gmail) Years Later Starfish Meeting Room: How to Meet One’s Self. This
is what my performance will be: a singular solo that is simultaneously
private and public. I will provide my latest composition–(the italics
issue again) Not My Brilliance–for individuted private listening, and
I will present a pre-parametered improvisation for an audience of
unregulated proportions. The interface of the two performances will
provide a visual event. There are three other performers presenting on
the same night. I hope to see you there.

thur september 28, 2006
8 – 11pm

free drinks from the FREE BAR
free shopping at the FREE BOUTIQUE

The Event Center
257 Nostrand at Lafayette

G train to Bedford/Nostrand
Nostrand/Lafayette exit

these people:
Felicia Ballos
Biba Bell
Laurie Berg and Amanda Stevenson
Jonah Boaker
Megan Byrne
Errin Delperdang
eagleager
Nancy Garcia
Chase Granoff
David Hurwith
koosil-ja
Isabel Lewis
Melanie Maar
Hedia Maron
Zachary Moldof
Rebecca for Serrell
Larissa Velez
Treva Wurmfield
and some others……..

the second set will be comprised of the representatives of the above people.

admission: contribution to the FREE BOUTIQUE/FREE BAR
such as: dvds, trophies, paintings, books, clothes, lipstick,
absinthe, water, soda pop, wine, whiskey

Art that sacrifices the artist’s life:

September 21, 2006 at 05:14 | Posted in new york, Things related to critical theory | Leave a comment

I would just like to point out that Ray Johnson’s suicide was performance art.

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