The Horror in Voice and the Voice in Horror Overview

As posted below, I have outlined 4 tentative categories of the voice in horror.

1 - Split Subject Voice
2 - Dislocated/Relocated Voice
3 - Spectral Acousmatic Voice
4 - A-linguistic corporeal sounds of transformation

The first 3 categories all pivot around a particular metaphysic. That a voice is a presence of someone or thing etc is signified by a voice. For example Norman Bates mother in Psycho (1960) - this is an excellent example of a Split Subject Voice. For the first three quarters of the film Hitchcock understands that a voice will be attributed to a presence, Norman's mother, so two voices afford a metaphysical sleight of hand. We need not see the mothers moving lips or gesticulating hands (of course this is impossible) but a smattering of visual prompts (shadows against a lit window, the wonderful stair scene where we see the back of her head only) are enough to reinforce the mothers voice enough - so much so that for the first time viewer the mother is a character as much as Norman or Marion. When re-watching this film it is easy to dismiss these aspects, but there is one particularly subtle scene that pretty much proves the point of voice as presence. In the police department, after the viewer/Marion et al have been told that Normans mother is dead and that he is suffering from mental health problems, we watch a policeman ask for a blanket for 'him' - Norman Bates. The policeman takes the blanket down the corridor to a door the camera cannot see inside (the camera remains parallel with the corridor walls), as the policeman hands the blanket over to an out of shot Norman Bates his mother's voice responds 'thank-you'. At this moment it is always difficult not to believe that it is his mother behind the door, even after repeated viewing, the voice of the Norman Bates' mother is enough to fulfil her role and presence within the viewer. This scene is the whole film in many ways, after the first viewing we all know that the mother is a corpse, incapable of speaking, but the voice is enough to render a character. The only difference is that up until this point (the blanket scene) the mothers voice is referred to as the mothers voice, it is called her voice and not his voice - but regardless the voice has a presence of itself that overpowers any other reference to it. Up until the blanket scene Hitchcock's direction is aligned with rendering the two voices as two people, but even when this changes and we are informed that the two voices are both from Norman we still hear two people. Straight after the blanket scene we see Norman alone, lips still, with his mother's voice speaking - this shot is an utterly subjective shot. The two voices are revealed as coming from the same source, from a split subject, whose head we are inside but viewing. This is a horrifying scene, it is the revealing of the reality of the split subject voice, but there is one telling admission. As the mothers voice is speaking the image of her mummified face, particularly her smile, fades into/onto/through Norman Bates' face - the power of the voices presence is so persuasive that a voice we know not to be from a corpse but from Norman has to be cinematically reconciled with it's previous position (that of the mother, alive or dead). Brian De Palma' s Sisters (1973) operates along exactly the same vocal metaphysics, but revels in the dynamics potential for horror to a much lesser degree.

The 2nd and 3rd categories both follow this Voice as presence dynamic. A ventriloquists dummy can be inspired, vitalised and given life by a voice (even though we know the voice is not from the dummy) or an unseen force can use a character as a vessel for it's own life (this is possession). There are many examples of this 2nd category (the Dislocated/Relocated Voice) such as Alberto Cavalcanti's "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" segment in Dead of Night (1945), Attenborough's Magic (1978) and Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973). The 3rd category, the Spectral Acousmatic Voice, is in many ways an inversion of the 2nd category. In the 2nd category a voice's presence is imbued into a thing or person, however, in the 3rd category the voice is left floating in the aether. It lingers in the fog, or the dark corners of a suitably gothic house in order to haunt an over curious protagonist or sceptical investigator (a great example of this would be The Woman In Black (1989)). The voice has enough presence to haunt an item, a person, or the air - in the first 3 categories voice is a character in itself, it has all the presence it needs for cinema as a voice and nothing more. The metaphysics of the voice are triangulated by these first 3 categories.

I will post something about the forth category soon. for now my list of films for reference is:

Suspiria (1977)
The Shining (1980)
Session 9 (2001)
Blow Out (1981)
Candyman (1992)
Dead of Night (1945)
Dead Silence (2007)
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
Devil Commands, The (1941)
Don't Go In The House (1980)
Exorcist, The (1973)
Fly, The (1958)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Invisible Man Returns, The (1940)
Knowing (2009)
Magic (1978)
Mas Negro Que La Noche (1975)
My Sweet Killer (1999)
Pillow Of Death (1945)
Psycho (1960)
Puppet Masters, The (1994)
Testament of Dr Mabuse (1932)
The Stone Tape (1972)
The Woman In Black (1989)
Twice-Told Tales (1963)
Sisters (1973)
Uninvited, The (1944)
The Changeling (1980)
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Insidious (2010)
White Noise (2005)
The Others (2001)
The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933)
The Grudge (2004)
The Shout (1978)

Some TV Shows for reference:

Hammer House of Horror: Ep. 11 - Visitor From The Grave
Hammer House Of Horror: Ep. 12 - The Two Faces Of Evil
The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Ep. 22 - Long Distance Call
The Twilight Zone: Season 3, Ep. 98 - The Dummy

Split Subject Voice - voices from the unconscious, schizophrenic voices, split personalities

My last category is The Split Subject Voice, usually in the first part of the film 1 voice is the main character and another is positioned as a close relation either a haunting etherial presence or an actual bodily person just out of shot. By the end of the film it is revealed that this voice is actually the consequence of a the main characters subjectivity - it is the ventriloquist and the dummy with the dummy off screen in many ways. Of the films I've posted so far I know that some fall easily within a category whilst other my move from one category to another as the film progresses and the horror unfolds. Here are a few examples:

Psycho (1963)


Sisters (1973)

Dislocated/Relocated Voices: Possion, Ventriloquism

Another category. Dislocated/Relocated Voices will no doubt involve a lot of possession movies, evil puppet/doll movies and ventriloquist movies. As per some comments in Steven Connor's wonderful book Dumbstruck the whole basis of evoking the uncanny, eerie or horrifying comes from seeing a body whose voice is not matched to the body which speaks it, it is possessed or under the spell of an unseen presence.

The Exorcist (1973)


Magic (1978)


Dead of Night (1945)

The Spectral Acousmatic Voice

This is, for the time being, my second category of voice in horror/the horror in voice.

The spectral acousmatic voice is a voice that is nowhere. It has no perceivable source of this world, but it forms a haunting presence. I expect this will be quite a large category as it is used as voice is commonly used a stand in for entities that require presence but not body - ghosts, the dead, spirits etc.

The Woman In Black (1989)

A wonderful film -  acousmatic screams, voices and laughter are in their traditional horror roles as hauntings and spirits. The phenomenological doubt of audition and memory is a leverage for horror too. The fog distorts sounds, did you hear a scream or did you hear something like a scream?

Candyman (1992)


Candyman is slightly odd in that it could be argued that the source has a location, but then Candyman is not necessarily a physical person - more a haunting hallucination, a spectral demon perhaps. Nonetheless the voice of Candyman is totally outside the frame, it is a deep narration voice - and deeply unsettling. It is either an internalised horror of the characters fears or a sonorous presence from another world (the afterlife?) - in this sense I would argue both instances are acousmatic. The horror in this scene dissipates quite remarkably when Anthony Todd's visible, moving mouth is tied and synched up to his omnipresent call, just before the nightmare ends.

a-linguistic corporeal sounds of transformation

I'll be posting a bunch of horror films here (mostly as a way to store and keep track of them all) that contain examples of the voice in horror. I'll be posting stuff here for two reasons 1- It will follow on nicely from the few previous voice posts and my last Deleuze Cinema post. 2 - The examples are better off going here rather than on the Vocalities blog because it is quite an acute scope of research that will result in a lot of videos and it would be better to keep posts there for general discussion on voice and the texts from the seminars, I don't want to just turn Vocalities into a horror film dumping ground!

This is my first category: a-linguistic corporeal sounds of transformation. 

See a list of examples where the voices utterly guttural, bodily presence is given primacy and foregrounded for horrific effect. Oddly enough as a means of conveying transformation, either as an aspect of the pain of transformation or to signify (for the viewer/victim) that the body is not what it seems - the realisation of a doppleganger. I'll add more examples as I come across them.

The Affection-Image: Face and close-up. (presentation notes)

Here are my notes from presenting chapter 6, The Affection-Image: Face and close-up, from Deleuze's Cinema 1. This is part of Jon Lindblom's 'Deleuze Cinema 1' Reading Group.

Deleuze outlines, in chapter 6, the affection-image, how a close-up of the face is constituted as affect, power and potentiality.

“The affection image is the close-up, and the close-up is the face.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 89)

But it is important to note what constitutes face. Deleuze identifies the face as something that has sacrificed movement (to some degree) in order - or sensory apparatus. With typically Deleuzian sensitivities towards biology the face is opened out as a film between movement and sensation, stasis and micro-movements. The simultaneity of both of these things creates the affect of face. In many ways I feel there is an etymological question here, oftentimes we think of face as a façade, a surface, a flat wall. But if we re-think face as portal we approach the conception of face that I feel Deleuze is exploring. Portal derives from porch and steps at the front of a building, as much as façade relates to the front of a building. So, for face we must contemplate the worlds in front and behind the face: we are looking in as much as being looked at. It is this coding that goes some way to the process that creates the affection-image.

“When a part of the body has had to sacrifice most of its mototricity in order to become the support for organs of reception, the principal feature of these will now only be tendencies to movement or micromovements which are capable of entering into intensive series, for a single organ or from one organ to the other. The moving body has lost its movement of extension, and movement has become movement of expression. It is this combination of reflecting, immobile unity and of intensive expressive movements which constitutes the affect.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 90)

“The face is this organ carrying plate of nerves which has sacrificed most of it’s global mobility and which gatherer or expresses in a free way all kids of tiny local movement which the rest of the body usually keeps hidden. Each time we discover these two poles in something - reflecting surface an intensive micro-movements we can say that this thing has been treated as a face – its has been facified, and in turn it stares at us and looks at us (…) … there is no close-up of the face, the face is in itself close-up, the close-up is by itself face and both are affect, affection-image.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 90)

Sticking with the ‘facified’ portal analogy we can think about the two types of close up that Deleuze mentions; in short he distinguishes between an intensive face and an extensive face:

“There are two sorts of questions which we can put to the face, depending on the circumstances: what are you thinking about? Or, what is bothering you, what is the matter, what do you sense or feel? Sometimes the face thinks about something, is fixed onto an object” (Deleuze, 2005, pp.91)

At this point Deleuze recalls the English word ‘wonder’

“Sometimes the face thinks about something, is fixed to an object and this is the sense of admiration or astonishment that the English word wonder has preserved. In so far as it thinks about something, the face has value above all the parts to itself. Sometimes on the contrary, it experiences or feels something, and has value above all through its surrounding outline, its reflecting unity which raise all the parts to itself. Sometimes, on the contrary, it experiences or feels something and has value through the intensive series that its parts successively traverse as far as paroxysm, each part taking on a kind of momentary independence.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp.91)

Deleuze goes on to distinguish these two types of close up in Griffith and Eisenstein. I will not discuss these, but relate the two types of close up to the examples we are familiar with from the film lists, in particular that of Bergman’s Persona and Aronofsky’s use of the snorricam in Pi and Requiem for a Dream. To reiterate the two types, albeit in a very simplistic fashion, I feel they can be thought of as cold and hot, or poker face and paroxysm. There is a sublime, impenetrable coolness to the close ups at the beginning of Persona, a visage, a face. At the same time we see this, or I feel we can see this in Aronofsky’s use of the snorricam. When watching the mathematician (Max) wander through the streets his character is given a stoic isolation, he is statuesqued, concretized. Yet oddly, this same concept operates, to harrowing effect in Requiem for a Dream. As Marion, flees from her lecherous shrink we can feel the tension of having to bottle up such emotion (we may presume the emotion that is not in affect). This lack of affect adds to the intensity, witnessing a struggle against emotive affect magnifies the films power, because we must view this scene in relation to the previous struggles of the character, and so understanding that emotion is behind the façade is paradoxically as affecting as a literally affective close up whereby the emotion pours forth through the face on screen. I feel this difference, although difficult to define strictly (for emotion can be affected it seems through each) leads to the two poles of the affect.

“We have seen the two poles of the affect – power and quality – and how the face necessarily passes from one to the other depending on the particular case. What compromises the integrity of the close up in this respect is the idea that it presents a partial object, detached from a set or torn away from a set of which it would form part.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp.97-98)

So to re-consider the snorricam, it doesn’t take the face away from the greater network of sets…. “the close up doesn’t tear away its object from a set of which it would form part, of which it would be a part, but on the contrary, it abstracts it from all spatio-temporal co-ordinates” (Deleuze, 2005, pp.98)

I want to ask the question, a somewhat loaded question, of the very close close up (e.g. Bergman) and the snorricam footage. Which method abstracts the face from all spacio-temporal co-ordinates? I feel it is the former method of close up more so, but I cannot ignore that abstraction through lack of movement that the snorricam affords. The isolation of the face, through sheer background movement, is a result of the snorricam technique. It feels like the rest of the world/film set/environment is retracted to such a degree that the face in itself is an abstraction of the existing sets. The face is isolated whilst the detached world spins independently behind the character.

“But, in all these cases, the close up retains the same power to tear the image away from the spatio-temporal co-ordinates in order to call forth the pure affect as the expressed” (Deleuze, 2005, pp.99)

However, I cannot help but feel conceptually troubled by a small but significant detail in the Requiem for a Dream corridor scene. As Marion walks down the corridor we see the shrinks apartment door close behind her. I question if this is in fact the chink in the snorricams capacity to fully abstract a face to the same sublime degrees as that of the super close up we see in Persona. The world gets in, the director has the opportunity to let the world in – an opportunity that is not possible in Bergman’s very close close-up.

A quote from Deleuze does not resolve this question but opens up further possibilities:

“The affect is the entity, that is Power or Quality. It is something expressed: the affect does not exist independently of something which expresses it, although it is completely distinct from it. What expresses it is a face, or a facial equivalent (a faceified object) or, as we will see later, even a proposition. We call the set of the expressed and its expression, of the affect and the face, ‘icon’. There are therefore icons of feature and icons of outline, or rather every icon has these two poles: it is the sign of the bipolar composition of the affection image. The affection image is power or quality considered for themselves, as expressed.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp.99)

To understand the affect-image, and to understand how a close-up (regardless of particular cinematic techniques) can be considered an affect image we may look briefly at Deleuze’s deployment of Pierce’s notion of Firstness:

“Pierce does not conceal the fact that firstness is difficult to define, because it is felt rather than conceived (…) it concerns what is new in experience, what is fresh, fleeting and nethertheless eternal. (…) these are qualities or powers considered for themselves, without reference to anything else, independently of any question of actualization.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 100)

“Firstness is thus the category of the possible: it gives a proper consistency to the possible, it expresses the possible without actualizing it, whilst making it a complete mode. Now, this is exactly what the affection image is: it is quality or power, it is potentiality considered for itself as expressed.”

Indeed, I am tempted to suggest that the affection-image is not an image at all, not a face, body or shot – but rather a moment of profound sympathy – something that occurred the first time I watched Requiem for a Dream- but not during the research phase of this presentation. I can think of the affection image as pure, potential, powerful affect alone regardless of cinematic composition:

“The affect is independent of all determinate space-time; but it is nonetheless created in a history which produces it as expressed and the expression of a space or a time.”

Is the affection-image to be located in the moment of sympathy, in the realization of trauma in the Requiem for a Dream corridor scene and not in any specific facial or even visual material?

“In short, affects, quality powers, can be grasped in two ways: either as actualisaed in a state of things or as expressed by a face, a face-equivalent or a proposition. (…) Every set of images is made up of firstness, secondness and many other things. But affection-images, in the strict sense, only refer to firstness.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 101)

On page 101 Deleuze outlines the three roles of the face, individual, socializing and relational. He then proposes that the face loses all three of these in the close-up before citing Bergman as an example of this. I feel that the snorricam technique almost loses all three of these. There is a certain level of abstraction, but as mentioned in regard to the Requiem for a Dream corridor scene, this abstraction is not quite complete (in the same sense as Bergman’s). When we see Max walking through the crowd we know he is isolated, purely because we see the others he is isolated from. The snorricam does confront the pure-nudity of the face – but it does not do so whilst excluding the individual, socializing and relational facets of the close-up.

“There is no close-up of the face. The close up is the face, but the faceprecisely in so far as it has destroyed its triple function – a nudity of the face is much greater than that of the body, an inhumanity much greater than that of animals.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 102)

There is beautiful passage on Bergman’s nihilism of the face.

“the single and ravaged face unites a part of one to a part of the other. At this point it no longer reflects no feels anything, but merely experiences a mute fear. It absorbs two beings, and absorbs them into the void. And in the void it is itself the photogramme which burns, with Fear as its only affect. The facial close-up is both theface and its effacement. Bergman has pushed the nihilism of the face the furthest, that is its relationship in fear to the void or the absence, the fear of the face confronted with its nothingness.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 102)


The face confronting it’s effacement. Again, I feel we can see how the snorricam shares similarities with Berman’s close-ups but at the same time does not break from the three qualities of the individual, socializing and relational. If Bergman pushes the affection-image to it’s limit past its self, on to its nihilistic limit, then the answer is (the resolution to prevent mute fear, and effacement of the face to this is movement) action and distance:

“The affection-image and the action-image will be saved somehow or other, the one by the other.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 103)

I cannot help but feel that movement, energy and a fixed distance from the closeup affords the snorricam with an essence of affect whilst suspending the ultimate Bergmanian outcome of nihilistic effacement. By seeing a face and a body moving constantly, through an environment, a set, a stage etc -the viewer is receiving a giddying cocktail of movement-image and affection-image.

Deleuze’s summary of these two images working together feels ambiguous, but if we think of faces as shots of the face (rather than different peoples faces) my argument, that the snorricam gives the close-up movement and life and suspends it from cold nihilism (at least more-so than a typical close close-up) feels a touch more aligned with the text:

“The affects would need to form singular, ambiguous combinations which were always recreated, in such a way that the related faces are turned away from each other just enough not to be dissolved and effaced. And movement in it’s turn would need to go beyond the state of things, to trace lines of flight, just enough to open up in space a dimension of another order favourable to these compositions of affects. This is the affection-image: it has as its limit the simple affect of fear and the effacement of faces in nothingness. But as it’s substance it has the compound affect of desire and astonishment – which gives it life – and the turning aside of faces in the open, in the flesh.” (Deleuze, 2005, pp. 104)

-G-a-p-s-1-0-1- : Creative Chasms of Bi-Pedal Spinal-Catastrophism

-G-a-p-s-1-0-1- Anthropoid communication systems have, for millennia, been tortured and mutilated under the remit of galactic forces. Such cataclysmic gravities have operated along political, evolutionary, phylogenic, biological, psychological and psycho-social vectors. Every utterance we make is an impeded stutter, a malfunction, a glitch. Every time we shriek or howl, every time we express reason, interject or propose, every time we vocalize an order, an instruction, or snap back a refusal, a counter argument, a resistance we are doing so via a system so blackened by history, so scarred by politix and evolution it is not even natural. We are the croaking possessed; emitting tics, clicks, glitches, whirrs and morbidly rattling breaths of affect. We were mutilated till we spoke:

“Sick apes spitting blood bubbling throats torn with the talk sickness. Human faces tentative flicking in an out of focus. We waded into the warm mud-water, hair and ape flesh off in screaming strips. Stood naked human bodies covered with phosphorescent green jelly. Soft tentative flesh cut with ape wounds. Fingers and tongues rubbing off the jelly-cover. Body melting pleasure-sounds in the warm mud. Till the sun went and a blue wind of silence touched human faces and hair. When we came out we had names”[1]

But even despite this sublime tragedy of progress, hidden forces still haunt the territories between our languishing origin and mechanized destination; deformed spectres of pure potentiality stalk the arena of tortured cries. For despite our physical perversions and twisted contortions into the realm of logos and language we cannot shake off the past. We bent our spines, cracked our thorax, smothered our howls and gagged our screams- but we still cannot transform all the phlegm, bile, blood, saliva and vapor into zeros and ones, order and disorder, positive and negatives. In our coded parlance, of chittering teeth, lisping protocols and phoneme disciplines we may still vomit through our accepted apparatus of inter-‘human’ communication; after formatting there is a strange ancestral remnant. We may find a rogue sonic, a grain at odds with the strata of logos. Rising up from the order of digitalized phonix we find an ethereal qubit. Accelerate to re-discover your soul. The more we bind ourselves to the rotting cadaver of logos, the more we breath in digits, and voice ourselves through our fingers, the more we blacken ourselves and become one, a la nupta cadavera the more we may find potentialities and possibilities of ourselves. The possibilities (as well as the long history behind our current dilemma) to come from accelerating towards such a (albeit counterintuitive and unhuman) mode of being and communication are outlined by Professor Barker:

“Due to erect posture the head has been twisted around, shattering the vertebra-perceptual linearity and setting the phylogenetic preconditions for the face. This right-angled pneumatic-oral arrangement produces the vocal-apparatus as a crash site, in which the thoracic impulses collide with the roof of the mouth. The pipedal head becomes a virtual speech impediment, a sub-cranial pneumatic pile-up, discharged as linguo-gestural development and cephalization take-off. Burroughs suggests the protohuman ape was dragged through its body to expire on its tongue. It’s a twin-axial system, howls and clicks, reciprocally articulated as a vowel-consonant phonetic palette, rigidly intersegmented to repress staccato-hiss continuous variation and its attendant becomings animal. That’s why stammerings, stutterings, vocal tics, extralingual phonetics, and electrodigital voice synthesis are so laden with biopolitical intensity – they threaten to bypass the anthropostructural head-smash that establishes our identity with logos, escaping in the direction of numbers” [2]

Barker’s understanding of the potential to numerically re-discover our pre-logos essence within the possibilities in the gaps, cracks, ruptures and the hemorrhages of formatting is a form of accelerationist nihilist- positivism. But there is a history of repression, mutilation and encoding that is so entangled with our, to put it generally, ‘current’ psyche - our auto-elect(ro) socio-politcal format forces; that to contemplate any emancipatory automalum we must first examine the socio-politcal scars of our voco-political encoding. In the process of formulaic flaying, amidst the carnage of screaming strips of code, in this ordeal of acquiring names so much happened. There are fruitful chasms between the events, there is a ghostly shadow of telling history between any 0 and 1. The violence of verbal automalumizing coding itself is as much an effect and affect of ourselves as any lost romantic ancestral kernel or possibly post cyborgization digital epiphany. Between the humid clamors of swamp atrocities, biopolitcal cranial-crushings and accelerationist-numerico potentiality there lurks a linguo-politcal history, a history that is not about being and unbeing, thought and unthough, zero and one, presence and unpresence – animal and language. This linguo-political evolution and our understanding of it must lie in the very trauma of how to be one is also to be zero: to create is to destroy. An alchemical concoction of cannibalistic metaphysical culinarism is more attuned with how one needs to think languages political and philosophical dynamics:

“Cut to pieces, slashed through the limbs, hacked into still unharmed members, amputated, scratched, furrowed by nails, incised with teeth, jagged with sharp edges of broken bones, cut unevenly along the lips, carving out the cheeks, shaving off all elevations of the body, trimming the feet and the hands by chopping off the toes and fingers, trisecting the nose to hair, bridge and the void, chunking out the face, clearing the face of idolatrous redundancies, pinking out the entire body, subtracting eyelids from the face, then nose, lips and the face from the head, provoking the head to be a body cavity, opening slits randomly or calculatingly, grooming by mauling, scooping out the chin, seizing the skin with remaining fingernails, turning the chest into a stash for flies, removing the abdomen, truncating the ears into bizarre shapes, perforating the gums with the teeth, rending the armpits, thinning out the neck, minimizing the flesh, reducing the body’s substance to its gist, rounding the limbs up to the nearest outline, increasing the daily chop sounds, today ten thousand cuts, tomorrow more or less; Angra-Maynu (Ahriman) continues to butcher his body as every day new meat and tissues flow into the wounds abnormally, as they shut the wounds closed and form scars – excessive scarring”[3]

Reza Negarestani’s vividly visceral account of the trauma of becoming, of making, of leper creativity can be grafted onto the trauma of creating/acquiring language, to speak as an act and also for the swamp apes painful ordeal of making a meal out of speaking. For each time one speaks there is a void between intent and logos, there is a cavernous ontological difference between hope and word. Every time I utter a word through the spinal catastrophy that is my anthopoid speech impediment I am, on top of producing such expressions through a mechanism comprised of myriad bio-evolutionary contortions and mutilations, also saying words that correspond via lack, via void, to my thoughts and intents. As I scream insults, whisper tender truths or exclaim emphatically- myself, my intent is maimed in the process, in making my vocal mark I leave a part of myself out on the track. To vocalize is to conduct a process of audible poly-furcational automalum, an ontological disintegration. Upon a singular word, we can contemplate how this tragedy of voice operates: as Nicola Masciandaro once commented – “The vocal image of death? – Saying ones name aloud”.

The sublime implicitness of automalum, scarring and mutilation are not just the preserve of the ontological implications of vocalization; self-destruction permeates the very physical act of speaking. When giving a speech, presenting a paper or participating in a public discussion, our throats, tongues and mouths become dry despite experience, confidence or familiarity. Any speaker can succumb to dehydration via the gruel of vocal labor. Whilst presenting a paper at Goldsmiths University, Graham Harman asked for water and told of how one of his colleagues had been advised by her doctor to stop lecturing because the work was so dehydrating. Even as we speak, as we pour our life (our Adamic Breath imbued with sonority and wisdom) and soul out into the ether we are losing a part of ourselves, hurting ourselves. Derrida in particular as written extensively about the negative in writing, the mark as absence, writing as network of hieroglyphic voids, a parade of a-presence, shadows. But vocality has not attracted such morbid directions of enquiry; this is for two reasons. Firstly, the voice is entwined and bound in an irreducible composite of forces; breath and physical presence is a tired mascot for life – as such, voice will always become lifelike upon audition. Inter-anthropoid communiqué operations have no other options that can marry sentiments of the soul to both language and corporeality. Skin, sensation, smell and taste are the poles of utter corporeality but their difference to voice is that only the latter can become simultaneously a purely corporeal mode of interaction and a Socratean mode of wisdom conveyance. Secondly there is a paradoxical topology at work- for in order for the listener to hear the speaker’s vaporous, sonorous and ontological[4] loss they do at least need to stand in the shadow of the speaker. The speaker will be present with an innate ‘thereness’ that appeals to our occularcentric paradigm. It is not our first impulse to ponder the teachers deathly croak of lethargy as a glimmer of loss when, standing before me, bathed in light that delights my retinae, my occularcentric understanding of ‘thereness’ is bombarded with ‘phenomena’ to the contrary. To take both of these reasons, to perhaps understand the voice outside of these trappings we must firstly re-think the entrenched sanctity of: 1) Breath in voice as an avatar for life and presence- instead hearing this as a loss, we must contemplate the corporeal trauma of emitting (sonically) Adamic vapor. 2) We must deconstruct the occularcentric paradigm that clouds our audition of voice, but not strictly through technological mediums as these harbor their own host of ontological ramifications for considering voice.

In thinking the voice, even if we relinquish ourselves from the aforementioned iron maidens of occularcentricism, we will still be left with a void. This void is one of uncertainty, possibility and potentiality. We may pursue the Barkerian, accelarationist vocal enquiry of discovering greater and more aur-some data protocols, ghostly qubits squatting in the gaps between gaps, glitches, tics, croaks and stammers- the potential to create, to hear anew, to re-think can be pursued through data and how we talk, squawk and yelp between the words we utter, voice sifting through language. We may think through the sheer, hoarse trauma of voice, remove the language and scrutinize the painful mechanisms of its conveyance. We may re-investigate the evolutionary bio-politics of the voice an attempt to plot the descent into the hell of the speaking. But these exercises, whilst necessary for any nuanced appreciation of the voice, must not be seen a routes to solutions, the task is infinite. For there, becomes, at each turn, another dimension of possibility, if we identify the gaps center we are left with further gaps stretching out to the horizon. In the voice there are endless gaps, and what is at stake is the question of how we negotiate, graph and live through these gaps. We may call the sublime voice a melancholy voice, in that it is imbued with a paradoxical and irreducible extimacy of the greatest of realms. Voice is both deathly and living, logos and corporeality, presence and absence – but none, both, neither and either. It is a creative expression of potentiality and possibility, a “lifelessly living beauty”[5]

Bibliography

Theodor Adorno, 2006. Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (Radical Thinkers). Edition. Verso

Professor Barker, 1992. Plutonics, Vol. 10, No 12.

William Burroughs, 1974. Soft Machine. Edition. BANTAM DOUBLEDAY @ DELL.

Reza Negarestani, 2008. Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (Anomaly). Edition. re.press.

Nick Land, 2011. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007. 1st Edition. Urbanomic / Sequence Press.

Notes

[1] Burroughs, ‘Cross the Wounded Galaxies’
[2] Professor Barker, ‘Palate Tectonics’, Plutonics, Vol 10, No 12, Fall 1992
[3] Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia, 2008, pp. 189
[4] Contemporary technological implications of the voice will be addressed in other essays, for now I shall concern myself with the real act of speaking, not records, telephones or phonographs
[5] Adorno, 2006, pp. 121

Mladen Dolar's "A Voice and Nothing More"


I've been thinking about Mladen Dolars book A Voice and Nothing More a lot recently, especially with regard to what can be taken from his Lacanian conclusion; that there will always be a part of voice that is an irreducible extimacy. In Many ways this felt like too convenient and easy conclusion but I cannot imagine a route past this point. The following short text is, I suppose, an effort to outline how I intend to move beyond Dolar's expert analysis by pursuing a different question entirely whilst building on his theoretical cartographies.

Steven Shaviro's Review of the book is fantastic, and touches on the specifics of the philosophical and psychoanalytical contents much more than I do here, he also manages to do so without so many occularcentric metaphors and similes...

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Mladen Dolar’s enviably eloquent and beautiful account of the history of the voice (A Voice and Nothing More, 2006) did not re-define the voice. Rather he added much needed texture and hue, or rather timbre and sonority, to our perception of the history of the voice. His wonderfully accounted excursions across history, myth, literature, religion, music, psychoanalysis, philosophy and metaphysics led us to a position where we have a poly-schismatic quasi-comprehension of voice; we understand the affects of Voice, we hear these echos reverberating around our world. Yet we are left with a voice without a center, we still have a fracture that we cannot quite locate, we still have a blind spot, we have a void- a gap. Dolar’s conclusion of voice as a “zone of overlapping, the crossing, the extimate[1] between interiority and exteriority, and his concomitant socio-politcal and metaphysical tracings of this theme onto cultural history, identifying the extimatic dynamics between Zoe and Bios, Language and Corporeality, Music and Politics; has been an invaluable starting point for my project. However, the fact remains that the voice is still a penumbra betwixt the edge of the dichotomies that Dolar established in charting the history of the voice. Not dissimilar to active noise control, A Voice and Nothing More orchestrated cultural, metaphysical and political poles of noise and anti noise to such an expertly honed degree that our object was cancelled out. The voice after Dolar is not even an apparition or an echo, it is simply not there. We are left with the various poles we used to triangulate its location and confirm its presence, the harder we stare and squint at this penumbral whisper the more we behold the complexities of each side that form such an intriguing mirage. Dolar’s exercises are so complete and thorough that we are afforded a series of theoretical parallax views of this void, we understand how this void has been exploited for political purposes, how religion has grappled to deal with such an uncertainty, how forces of repression have operated around this void, and how various other corner stones of philosophical concern (such as psychological subject formation) have pivoted around it (the void, the gap). The task hand is not to continue the pursuit of voice like Perseus pursued Medusa[2], rather, the task at hand is to understand what our failed pursuits tell us about our current methods, approaches, beliefs and knowledge. Dolar attempted to shine a light on voice by outlining its relationships with such themes as Zoe and Bios, Language and Corporeality, Music and Politics, he did not find voice, but uncovered an invisible prism, the object voice, through which the energies of such themes can be dispersed and separated. We now have the opportunity to study the spectra of these themes via the object voice.




Bibliography



Mladen Dolar, 2006. A Voice and Nothing More (Short Circuits). Edition. The MIT Press.




[1] Dolar, 2006, pp. 81
[2] Ovid, 2009, pp. 98

Trill Shit: Cacophonies Part 6


From Plato to Dre these divisions have been synthesized and persisted to exist, in so many hip hop and rap tracks (especially that of 90-00 Dre dominated Gansta Rap) the female vocal has been relegated to the backing track and designated the musico-corporeal position of Dionysian signifier rather than be granted any position of ‘meaning’ or the produced prevalence of it’s stoic, masculine counterpart. Dr Dre has long been the master of reinforcing this hip hop manifestation of platonic and synthetic engendering. Take for example the strict division audible in Eminem’s Drug Ballard. On the one ear we have the faux-sensuous, quasi-orgasmic simmering vocal shimmerings of a honeyed honey’s humming, the experience is sheer breathy corporeality, after the first 20 seconds of the track we are afforded a sonic intimacy with the singers (Dina Rae) lungs, laryx and lips. On the other ear we are not given the same corporaural; instead we told a story, a story about drugs and his (Eminem’s) experience of drugs. We do not contemplate his vocal apparatus, we do not imagine his thin, pursing and viciously rapping lips or the texture of his neck and warmth of his breath, there is no essence or corporeality (even when he is rapping about his body) instead we are transported (aligning with Mallarmean poetics) to his subjective experience of drug use by the semantic power of (his) words. Between these two voices, one phone, one logos – and between this metaphysical chasm… is the beat.

The absurd pantomime of ‘Bad Intentions’, by Dr Dre feat Knockturnal, is another example of such divisions. As before, other than the beat the instruments are so aligned with Dionysian temptations, corpaural moans and Marsyan/Pan pipes one could almost presume that the absurdly macho Dre read a book about how to be the super-logos-Man on record (sup Dre ;-)). At the core of this conformist and platonic ode to pudenda is the pan pipe sample. Pan is interchangeable with Marsyas, their myths entwined and coagulated, both Pan and Marsyas were flautists who beckoned forth the force of nature. The flute (or pan pipe) became a symbol of the corruption of natural instincts:

“Bacchic frenzy and all similar emotions are most suitably expressed by the flute… (Aristotle, 2001, Politics VIII, 1342b 5-6)” (Dolar, 2006, pp. 46)

“…and there was a forth, the dithyramb, as it was called, dealing, if I am not mistaken, with the birth of Dionysus. (…) Possessed by a frantic and unhallowed lust for pleasure, they contaminated laments with hymns and paeans with dithyrambs, actually imitated the strains of the flute on the harp, and created a universal confusion of forms.” (Plato, Laws, 700a-701c)

In metaphysical terms Dre’s choice of sample on Bad Intentions is the most mythically apt and analogous sample he could have programmed to juxtapose the lyrics (in the traditionally Dre productions practice of logos/phone metaphysical dichotomizings). Everything that is Dionysian, ‘sinful’, lustful or feminine is summed up in the taunting pipes of Marsyas and Pan (let’s not forget, due to Pan’s ubiquity in Victorian and Edwardian neopaganism his appearance is the basis of our modern day Satan). Melted into this heady panpipe sample we find feminine corpaural moans, ohs and ahhhs; cringingly clichéd, hammy nudges and winks add to Dre’s preposterous composition, production and lyrics; the platonic, traditionally masculine view of what should be the feminine and corporeal is caricatured against the a-corpus, pro-logos boasts of Dre and Knockturnal. Dre and Knockturnal stand separate, telling stories, bragging and exclaiming from a position isolated from the music and corporeal elements:

“No talkin, fuck how your day go
You want dick (yeeeaah!), will bitch say so”

When the female voice, the content of the tracks music and samples is addressed directly it is only a response to an unheard question, from a woman hoping to talk. The opportunity to enter into any form of dialogue, to exchange logos, to communicate through semantic language is spurned by Dre, logos is for the men. The men tell the stories and offer wisdom and insight whilst the others tend to everything that is corporeal, musical, and apart from logos.

“let us dispense with the flute-girl who just made her entrance; let her play for herself or, if she prefers for the women in the house. Let us instead spend our evening in conversation. (Plato, 1978, Symposium 176e)”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Dre and Knockturnal are continuously swamped in large coats and velour track suits, unlike the sleek, Rick Owens clad silhouettes of ASAP Rocky and Robb Bank$. Dre’s and Knockturnals Disneyesque vision of their priapic ivory tower positionings as wise speaker, story teller and engaging insight giver is as deluded as Plato’s assertions.

For every rap there is a beat, for every line there is a voice, for every poem there is the animating minds eye of the reader making music. At every step we contemplate rap (arguably the most musicalized of semantic voices) we encounter the beat, we encounter rhythm, something so corporeally infective, with such physical manifestations that it can be argued that the most cerebral and internal aspect of poetry is also that which is most externalized and corporealized. An a capella rap is the rap most overtly enjoyable as the vitality of rhythm and semantics conjoin. From the dark, repressed backgrounded realms of musicality and rhythm and from the brightly, ever foregrounded territories of semantic/logos/speaker dominance we can appreciate a penumbra of vocal semantics as rhythm, of words as beats. The voice as extimatic dyad, Mobius Voice operating most autonomously as both logos and phone, not one, nor the other can be glimpsed in a capella rap tracks. Voice is not chastised by it’s traditional position in musical contexts (outside of music), but becomes music; yet simultaneously Voice is not ‘mere’ sonic but ultimate story conveyer, of ultimate semantic position, of speaker at the front, in sonic spotlight. It is both and neither. This lack of a division is peculiar to comprehend after such theorizing upon the Rap Voice. It is strange to relinquish our conditioned readings of millennia of synthetic metaphysical divides and engenderings. But is this peculiarity, the incomprehensible, un-knowable, unheard of chasm between logos and phone that is manifested in Voice (especially in the a capella rap) not also the magic of voice, song, music, rapping, speaking, uttering, singing, shouting and wailing? Perhaps the voice would remain more powerful, more enthralling if we maintain the guise of such divisions? Or are these divisions our gods and bangs? Elabourate exclamations of a word we do not know, of a song we cannot sing?

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(1) See Negarestani’s Corpse Bride, pp. 129-130. Collapse Journal, Vol IV: Concept Horror, Ed. Robin Mackay, 2008.
(2) A particularly overt example of RZA’s Godlike treatment of the rap vocal can be heard at around 2:20 into Bob N’L, on Birth of a Prince (2003), however this technique is present on many RZA productions, also see Ol Dirty Bastard’s Raw Hide on Return to tha 36 Chambers (Old Dirty)
(3) Although we differ on the timbral merits of Method Mans larynx.
(4)For etymologists.
(5) RZA’s producer alter ego is Bobby Digital, and is it not coincidence that one of the most legendary producers of gangster rap chose the loaded intellectually superior title of Dr Dre?
(6) Rick Owens designs are so sensitively corporeal and ergonomic that they are very much aligned with the feminine aspect of imposed synthetic metaphysical divisions. Heidi Slimane on the other hand, is fiercely Masculine, his designs are sharp, a-ergonomic and aggressive.
(7) My term but see Dolar’s definitions of extimacy of the Voice: Dolar 2006, pp. 81

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Adriana Cavarero, 2005. For More than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression. 1 Edition. Stanford University Press.

Mladen Dolar, 2006. A Voice and Nothing More (Short Circuits). Edition. The MIT Press.

Ovid, 2009. Metamorphoses (Oxford World's Classics). Reissue Edition. Oxford University Press, USA.

Rick Owens, 2011. Rick Owens. Edition. Rizzoli.

Plato, 2000. Symposium And Phaedrus. Edition. Everyman's Library

Quentin Meillassoux, 2012. The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarme's Coup De Des. Edition. Urbanomic/Sequence Press.

Collapse Journal, Vol IV: Concept Horror, Ed. Robin Mackay, 2008
http://urbanomic.com/dlprocess.php?file_location=Publications/Collapse-4/PDFs/C4_Reza_Negarestani.pdf

The Wire Issue 342, August 2012

Trill Shit: Cacophonies Part 5

With regards to semantic capacities the poet rapper has the opportunity to say something, however, the producer does not have this semantic possibility. Alternatively, in the sonic context, the rapper instrument has voice but is not speaking, instead pursuing the phonic extension into the sonic realm, but this realm is the kingdom of the producer, who will always have greater sonic possibilities than the limited sonic ranges of the rap as instrument. When the flautist Marsyas challenged Apollo to a musical duel his simple practice of blowing his voice through a reed instrument was not enough to impress the Muses, Apollo’s digital dexterity and informed complex compositional choices won the music contest:

“The satyr who had lost to Leto’s son
The contest when he played Minerva’s pipe,
And paid the penalty. ‘No! no!’ he screamed
Apollo stripped his skin; the whole of him
Was one huge wound, blood streaming everywhere,
Sinews laid bare, veins naked, quivering
And pulsing. You could count his twitching guts,
And the tissues as the light shone through his ribs.”
(Ovid, 2009, pp. 133)

Marsyas’ punishment was as gruesome and macabre as anything threatened by Method Man or Ghostface on 36 Chambers. With regards to possibilities in the realm of musico-sonic capability the apollonian producer will always have the advantage, the producer will always flay a rappers being, destroying the lyricists presence and semantic weight in order to furnish his masterpiece with fragmentary vocal sonics. As Robb Bank$ and ASAP Rocky’s vocals are increasingly phonically phormulated as sonicized instruments rather than semanticized voices/raps we may sympathize with their penchant for Rick Owens brand clothing.

"Raf Simmons, Rick Owens - usually what I'm dressed in" – (ASAP Rocky)

"Saggin' and my drawers showin'
You like Rick Ross? Well bitch, I like Rick Owens
Say it cause you ain't noticed
How cashmere my dressed clothes is" – (Robb Bank$)

After all, as their traditionally masculine and platonic position of the reasoning voice of semantic wisdom is ‘relegated’ to that of sonorous instrumental vocal component it is understandable that they would feel a strong metaphysical urge to clothe themselves in the most luxurious fashion. But their penchant for Rick Owens contains further theoretical anchors that, once dredged to the surface, will elucidate contemporary raps metaphysical dilemma in the context of Marsyan flaying and the emasculation of de-semanticizing the vocal poetry for (pimping) it’s sonic . We may suppose that: 1) Luxury Designers may hold an appeal to those who have wealth, this is not a particularly unusual trait for rappers attire preferences, however, Rick Owens designs do not display wealth, the labels niche is carved from an aesthetic that does not display wealth or luxury; the luxury is introverted, endophilic, and self-centered:

“I try to make clothes the way Lou Reed does music - minimal chord changes, and direct. It is sweet but kind of creepy. It's about giving everything I make a worn, softened feeling. It's about an elegance being tinged with a bit of the barbaric, the sloppiness of something dragging and the luxury of not caring. At Revillon, I felt it isn't about displaying one's wealth, but rather giving the woman a selfish pleasure. It is about using sable as the lining under a very humble jacket, the luxury is all hers." (Rick Owens)

“With both men and women, I’m kind of more into how a garment feels than how it looks. Personal luxury and a discreet tone is what I’m going after more than display of status – not caring who you impress is one of the biggest luxuries of all” (Owens, 2011, pp. 89)

Owen’s designs do not display luxury, but invisibly imbue luxuriousness upon the skin of the wearer. The metaphysical parallels to old, velvet lined instrument cases, manifestations of fashion as protection, donning second skins and so forth need not be expanded. 2) The layers. Owens’ designs have consistently concerned themselves with the corpo-aesthetic interplay of drape dynamix. Twisting seams, doubling layers, stretching hems have all been beautifully ‘glunge’ manifestations of an obsession with how different fabrics interact with one another, the body and gravity. Garments are washed, treated, cut, ripped, worn, sewn, washed, dyed and treated before leaving the factory; cottons shimmer and drape like silk, after months of artisanal torture cashmere is sacrificed to hang a-cross the wearers frame. Rappers sporting Rick Owens cashmere, donning comfy designer retro-dermis, may feel they are rewarding their skins with a Herculean adornment, but perhaps they are also swaddling themselves against the Marsyan fate that awaits them as their careers of battling apollonian producer mega-stars accelerate towards the inevitably painful metaphysical outcome? 3) The femininity. If we posit that music/corporeal/sonic lies in a realm designated feminine, that of Echo maintaining the Voice Sonic but not any semantic capacity of her own, of the Sirens tempting sailors with wails and warblings, but not words, and the countless other metaphysical engenderings voice has been subject to:

“Let the music follow the sense of the words. Keep it simple and ingenius. One must condemn pretentious music which is devoid of sense and effeminate” – Chinese emperor Chun (c. 2200BC) (Dolar, 2006, P.43).

“let us dispense with the flute-girl who just made her entrance; let her play for herself or, if she prefers for the women in the house. Let us instead spend our evening in conversation. (Plato, 1978, Symposium 176e)” (Dolar, 2006, pp. 46)

We can appreciate the coincidence of the new generation of rappers succumbing to their sonicorporeal position of voice (of themselves as instruments and not, platonically, metaphysically aligned speakers of isolated masculine semantic reasoning) and their fondness for one of the most conspicuously androgynous designers of modern fashion(6). Rather than wax lyrical about the beauty of such androgynous silhouettes and aesthetic compositions I will simply presuppose the readers appreciation that in menswear history a denial of the body, and an insistence on the wisdom-concealing-shell paradigm is the established norm. Alcibiades also references the idea in a mundane outer and an inside of infinite wisdom: “I think he’s (Socrates) very much like one of those Silenus-figures sculptors have on their shelves. They’re made with flutes or pipes. You can open them up, and when you do you find little figures of the gods inside.”. The notion of wisdom and semantic power as a masculine, inner kernel, separate from corporeality and music is not new. For the stoic story telling, poet rapper we can liken his stance to the old Grecian, his words reveal his inner wisdom whilst the sonic and corporeal is left for others. The embracing of such a corporeally sensitive designer such as Rick Owens (who in his earlier years experimented with drag) by rappers signifies their repositioning away from the supposedly ‘masculine’ mantle of a-music word play and arrival at the role of corporeal voice and musical component. I hope to have triangulated ASAP Rocky’s and Robb Bank$ aesthetically manifested metaphysical difference to the Platonic emphasis of logos/the concealed semantic via their choice in fashion and sonic. Especially in the Clams Casino produced tracks of ASAP Rocky and Robb Bank$ There is a fundamental departure of the man and woman, logos and phone, semantic and sonic, story and music, poetry and pussy division from previous rap generations such as Dr Dre.

Trill Shit: Cacophonies Part 4

Clams Casino’s equalization of the rap against its musical/sonic environs, his instrumentalization of the rap, his strategy of leveling the rap to just another voice amidst the swirling cacophony is another step of a continued progression in rap; of rap-music’s shift away from the crudely dichotomized 'rap / track' mode of previous (Dre-Doctrine) generations to a more wholly amalgamated and organically coagulated form of music. It is not that the lyrical content doesn’t matter, but rather that delivery, musicality, rhythm and flow are the primacies of The Rap. Semantic value is subject to the conveyance of musicality, rhythm and flow. I would go as far as to say any form of speaking (not singing) is, hence the rap, the most musical of synthetically logoscentric utterances (oration, presenting, interviewing, conversation) - as opposed to opera, singing, humming, whistling – is inevitably the first of the ‘semantic voices’ to slip around the Mobius strip of Voice and find itself as music and rhythm whereas once it was word.

This is what distinguishes The Rap from mere poetry. Poetry is rhythm and music conveyed through the semantic, it is music semanticized, set to symbols and ignited within post semantic cerebral comprehension of the appreciative reader. Music is often corporeal, emotive and instinctive, it can be meaningful, it can be coded and logosified- but this is not a prerequisite. Music is not subject to meaning, an aria keeps its soul despite language, a poem requires some form of semantic conveyance. To appreciate this further we can contemplate Quentin Meillassoux’s exploration of Mallarmé’s (arguably aphonic) poetics, in particular the “essential aspect of Mallarméan poetics, namely the rivalry between poetry and music.” (Meillasoux, 2012, pp. 63). Mallarmé’s staunchly logocentric position on music and poetry’s ability to conjure meaning may help us render (if the reader will excuse my occularcentric vocabulary) the dilemma of the voice:

“The poet considered that the instrumental form of song was a deficient expression of the latter. Of itself, instrumental music can only produce In the mind of the listener a vague meaning – a line of emotion whose exact signification is fugitive. When associated with lyrics, the uncertain effusions of music can therefore never succeed, according to the poet, in truly marrying the precision of words. Opera, in particular, fails because it merges speech and song: This art produces only a totality of juxtaposition, in which the parts do not engender each other reciprocally but are deployed according to the parallel lines of libretto and score. (…) Only poetry – because it engenders a song with the aid of speech alone – is in a position truly to be able to produce a profound unity between thought and music. It is thus a matter of reclaiming Music from ‘strings, brass and wood’ so as to restore it to Verse. There is not even any need for poetry to be read in declamatory fashion for its (entirely mental) melody to produce its full effects: poetry is ‘silence’s musician’.” (Meillassoux, 2012, pp. 63-64)

With this bold statement upon the intrinsic musicality of word the dilemma(s) of The Rap can be understood. Rap is never not word, it can never jettison its meaning, as much as it can never emancipate itself from music, rhythm and the contingencies of delivery. This peculiarity is evident for any hip hop fan who sits down after the record has finished to study the alien hieroglyphics in the CD sleeve.

The slip we hear of the rap lyric into mere musical/production accoutrement signals, like an NYPD Rumbler siren, the possibility of that the poetic facet of the art is lacking. The rap needs to either word up or quit fronting, it needs to be the priapic spot-lit poet or else fall into the orchestra pit and become instrument. I suspect that for rappers of today, with such talented producers available and a monologue of clichés in their pads, the metaphysical choice of becoming instrument is their inevitable fate. “Fuck Flexin’in’in’in”.

So as rappers eschew lyrical content for the musical directness of an instrumentized voice we may recall once more Marsyas. Cavarero observes of how Marsyas “learned that the wind instruments are a prolongation of the mouth and that they are too similar to the voice. (…) they require breath and thus impede the flautist from speaking. In other words, the flute lets itself, dangerously, represent the phone in the double sense of the term: voice and sound. Whoever plays it renounces speech and evokes a world in which the acoustic sphere and expressions of corporeality predominate. .”(Cavarero, 2005, pp. 69). Marsyas’ sounding voice turned sounding instrument is not dissimilar to Robb Bank$’ or ASAP Rocky’s rap-turned-musical-component; semantic speech, logos, saying something, is renounced in favour of musical-sonic immediacy, their Voice is somewhat traded for the instrument of produced rap. If we recall the musical duel between Marsyas and Apollo was can contemplate further metaphysical verisimilitudes. Marsyas renounced semantic content for the song of the flute, the glorification of his own breath and the musicalization of his lungs - this act can be aligned with the rapper as instrument, the rapper who renounces poetry for the sonic beautiful, there is a sonorous voice and little more. Apollo, by contrast, played the Lyre, a string instrument that relies heavily on dexterous digital accomplishments and learned knowledge of modal arrangements. Apollo can be aligned with the producer, the arranger, the composer of infinitely complex possibilities. The practice is a digitalized craft of knowledge, arrangement, composition and execution, on Lyre or Logic(5).