FOR (UN)SOUND OCCUPATION
(click on each day for questions and readings – the “main questions” cover the entire series)
Has the sonic world you inhabit ever felt oppressive or invasive? (Bearing in mind that ears are open 24/7). Were the effects of this state physical or psychological, or both? In cases where such contexts are encountered on a daily basis, what strategies can help deflect or disrupt such a sound world?
How can you avoid hearing only what you want (or are programmed) to hear? What kind of training can break the conditioning which limits hearing? How do you break out of your own sonic past and invent a future?
How might you use sound in order to stimulate a sense of collectivity? (Where both the physical and mental are intertwined.) How might collective intelligence be mobilized through sound in a capitalist system which separates and individualizes?
Have you ever been overwhelmed by an acoustic environment (over all the other senses)? Did you pick apart the experience to figure out why?
Have you ever been in a situation where the notion of frequency (pitch) seemed allied with a political position? What about volume in the context of a political protest? (Sounds of dispersal vs. magnetically attractive sounds?)
How do you create a rupture within a capitalist system which easily assimilates (tolerates) difference? (Like John Carpenter’s The Thing, capitalism seems capable of absorbing and metabolizing anything it comes into contact with, even its own glitches). Is there still a radical outside to capitalism which can be accessed?
1. Tuesday: Occupy the Background! (Ab)uses of Schizophonic Magick.
What occurs in the background? Can it ever be consciously accessed? How can you learn to listen peripherally? What could you do with that new ability?
Pinpoint a moment from the recent past in which you became momentarily conscious of the insinuating effects of sound. For instance, when you became attuned to the background of a given acoustic situation.
Can you recall a moment when you suddenly became aware of a previously invisible/inaudible framework conditioning choices you thought were made freely? Did priming have anything to do with it?
Have you noticed (in your lifetime) new behaviors or effects brought on by an increasingly all-over-the-place electronic sound world? (Think of mobile devices, networked sound…) Are these effects perceptual, psychological, bodily? (R. Murray Schafer coined the term schizophonia, referring to sound split from its source electronically in space and time.)
Is the requirement to be more flexible in every aspect of daily life producing new types of perceptual experiences? Have some modes of listening become obsolete?
How does the game of attention-grabbing function today, in a world of dense sensory stimulation? What are some of the new ways in which signals cut through noise?
Can distraction—considered a negative condition—have positive aspects? What new ways of being/living are made possible through distraction?
Describe an experience of background music which affected you physically and/or psychologically. Did it involve a form of synching (or entrainment)? Did this music insinuate itself emotionally?
What types of cognitive and affective manipulation are specific to sound?
How does sound manage to insinuate itself into consciousness and unconsciousness?
Is there a relationship between sound, superstition, the occult and the conspiratorial? (Note: Existentialist philosopher Kierkegaard writes The Concept of Anxiety in the same year the first telegraph message is sent by Morse: 1844).
Have you ever been afflicted by an earworm, an involuntary, obsessive, musical fragment you can’t get rid of? Can you recall the event that brought it on? Did other memories associated with this fragment come up at any point? Could you get rid of it? How?
Have you ever caught yourself continuing in your mind a song fragment you just heard? How long was the fragment? How long did the song continue in your mind?
Can you think of areas of your life which escape from the technologies which surround us? (Georges Perec describes “background noise”: “experience grasped at the level of the setting in which your body moves, the gestures it makes, all the everydayness connected with your clothes, with food, with travelling, with your daily routine, with the exploration of your space.”
What is noise today? Where is noise today? Can an overstimulating world of interruptions be interrupted? By what?
Ultra-Red – The Background is a Front
William S. Burroughs – The Invisible Generation
Robert Sumrell – Blue Monday: Stimulus Progression
Steve Goodman – 1971: The Earworm Earworm footnotes
Tiqqun – The Cybernetic Hypothesis
2. Wednesday: Sense and the Semblance of Spreading Lies
Does music make you feel anything? Think again. Does it really make you feel a feeling, or is there something else going on? When you says, “Music makes me feel like…”, what is the significance of “like” here?
We can all recognize how music couples with a sense of agency in the way it’s often used, speculatively, to sketch out ways of feeling and modes of conduct that we may aspire to or imagine that we can have. How can this speculative process be radicalized so as to bring out the political efficacy that inheres in the choreography of feeling?
Aleister Crowley wrote that magic(k) is ”the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” While this sounds great, if “will” is not something we already have, or is something whose forms are predetermined such that, strictly speaking, it is not an expression of our own desires, then will is something to be compose, and magick is an meta-art/science of inventing a will that will cause change to occur. How can you invent a will using sound and music?
What is “dark activism”?
Grant Morrison – Pop Magic!
Irit Rogoff & Florian Schneider – Productive Anticipation
Paul Mann – Stupid Undersound
Brian Massumi – Animateness Afloat / Aliveness Engines
David Shields & Matthew Vollmer – Fakes (intro)
3. Thursday: Sound and the (Digital) Control Society
Bernard Stiegler – Memory
Brian Massumi – The Autonomy of Affect
4. Friday: Listening for the Political Unconscious
1. You are listening to a friend. She says something. You hear something else, something unintended. How might this mis-hearing be mobilized in a radical way?
2. You are listening to the aggressive sounds of daily-life in the city (a traffic jam, an abusive outburst by an angry consumer, the schizoid mutterings of someone living on the street). How might this soundscape be mobilized in a radical way?
3. Walter Benjamin famously claimed that there is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism. How might this be understood in terms of sound?
4. Fredric Jameson famously turned Benjamin’s claim around and asked whether all documents of barbarism are at the same time documents of utopia. Or to put this another way: do all effectively ideological and dystopian expressions hold within them a necessarily radical dimension? And if so, how might this be understood in terms of sound?
5. What might the future sound like?
Fredric Jameson – The Dialectic of Utopia and Ideology
Bruce Fink – Listening and Hearing
Matt Malsky – Being Heard: Listening In–Sound & Our Dystopian Present