Friedrich Kittler, GramophoneFilm Typewriter, translated by Geoff Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), Chapter 1: Gramophone. (endnotes and pictures to be inserted later)
"Hullo!", Edison screamed into the telephone mouthpiece. The vibrating diaphragm set in motion an attached point that wrote onto a moving strip of paraffin paper. In July 1877, eighty-one years before Turing's moving paper strip, the recording was still analog. Upon replaying the strip and its vibrations which, in turn, set in motion the diaphragm, a barely audible "Hullo!" could be heard.
Edison understood. A month later he coined a new term for his telephone addition: phonograph. On the basis of this experiment, the mechanic Kruesi was given the assignment to build an apparatus that would etch acoustic vibrations onto a rotating cylinder covered with tin foil. While he or Kruesi was turning the handle, Edison once again screamed into the mouthpiece --this time the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb. Then they moved the needle back, let the cylinder run a second time--and the first phonograph replayed the screams. The exhausted genius, in whose phrase genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, slumped back. Mechanical sound recording had been invented. "Speech has become, as it were, immortal."
It was December 6, 1877. Eight months earlier, Charles Gros, a Parisian writer, bohemian, inventor, and absinthe drinker had deposited a sealed envelope with the Academy of Sciences. It contained an essay on the Procedure for the recording and reproduction of phenomena of acoustic perception (Procédé d'enregistrement et de reproduction des phénomènes perçus par l'ouie). With great technological elegance this text formulated all the principles of the phonograph, but due to a lack of funds Cros had not yet been able to bring about its "practical realisation." "To reproduce" the traces of "the sounds and noises", which the "to and fro" of an acoustically "vibrating diaphragm" is leaving on a rotating disk--that was also the program of Charles Cros.
But once he had been preceded by Edison, who was aware of rumours of the invention, things sounded differently. Inscription is the title of the poem with which Cros erected a belated monument to honor his inventions, which included an automatic telephone, color photography and, above all, the phonograph:
Comme les traits dans les camées
J'ai voulu que les voix aimées
Soient un bien qu'on garde à jamais,
Et puissent répeter le rêve
Musical de l'heure trop brève;
Le temps veut fuir, je le soumets.
Like the faces in cameos
I wanted beloved voices
To be a fortune which one keeps forever,
And which can repeat the musical
Dream of the too short hour;
Time would flee, I subdue it. 
The program of the poet Cros, in his capacity as inventor of the phonograph, was to store beloved voices and all-too brief musical reveries. The wondrously resistant power of writing: it ensures that the poem has no words for the truth about competing technologies. Certainly, phonographs can store articulate voices and musical intervals, but they are capable of more and different things. Cros, the poet, forgets the noises mentioned in his precise prose text. An invention which subverts both literature and music (because it reproduces the unimaginable real they are both based on), must have struck even its inventor as something unheard of.
Hence, it was not coincidental that Edison, not Cros, actually built the phonograph. His "Hullo!" was no beloved voice and Mary Had a Little Lamb no musical revery. And he did not only scream into the bell-mouth because phonographs have no amplifiers, but also because Edison (following an youthful adventure involving some conductor's fists) was half deaf. A physical impairment was at the beginning of mechanical sound recording--just as the first typewriters had been made by the blind for the blind and Charles Cros had taught at a school for the deaf and mute.
[INSERT illustration p. 39 with caption: The first talking machine built by Kruesi]
While (according to Derrida) it is characteristic of so-called man and his consciousness to hear himself speak and see himself write, media dissolve such feedback loops. They await inventors like Edison whom chance has equipped with a similar dissolution. Handicaps isolate and thematize sensory data streams. The phonograph does not hear the way ears do that have been trained to immediately filter voices, words and sounds out of noise; it registers acoustic events as such. Articulateness becomes a second-order exception in a spectrum of noise. In the first phonograph letter of postal history, Edison wrote that "the articulation" of his baby "was loud enough, just a bit indistinct"--"not bad for a first experiment."
Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, that monomaniacal anticipation of modern media technologies, had already transgressed the traditional boundaries of words and music to do justice to the unarticulated. In Tristan, Brangaine was allowed to utter a scream whose notation cut straight through the score. Not to mention Parsifal's Kundry, who suffered from a hysterical speech impairment such as those which were soon to occupy the psychoanalyst Freud: she "gives a loud wail of misery, that sinks gradually into low accents of fear," "utters a dreadful cry" and is reduced to "hoarse and broken," though nonetheless fully composed, garbling. This labored inception of language has nothing to do with operas and dramas that take it for granted that their figures can speak. Composers of 1880, however, are allied with engineers. The undermining of articulation becomes the order of the day.
In Wagner's case this applies to both text and music. The Rhinegold prelude, with its infinite swelling of a single chord, dissolves the E flat major triad in the first horn melody as if it were not a matter of musical harmony but of demonstrating the physical overtone series. All the harmonics of E flat appear one after the other, as if in a Fourier analysis; only the seventh is missing, because it cannot be played by European instruments. Of course, each of the horn sounds is an unavoidable overtone mixture of the kind only the sinus tones of contemporary synthesizers can avoid. Nevertheless, Wagner's musico-physiological dream at the outset of the tetralogy sounds like a historical transition from intervals to frequencies, from a logic to a physics of sound. By the time Schönberg, in 1910, produced the last analysis of harmony in the history of music, chords had turned into pure acoustics: "For Schönberg as well as for science, the physical basis in which he is trying to ground all phenomena is the overtone series."
[INSERT picture of gramophone p. 41)
Overtones are frequencies, that is, vibrations per second; and the grooves of Edison's phonograph recorded nothing but vibrations. Intervals and chords, on the other hand, were ratios, that is, fractions made up of integers. The length of a string (especially on a monochord) was subdivided, and the fractions, to which Pythagoras gave the proud name logoi, resulted in octaves, quints, fourths, and so on. Such was the logic upon which everything was founded that, in Old Europe, went by the name of music: first, there was a notation system which enabled the transcription of clear sounds separated from the world's noise, and second, a harmony of the spheres which established that the ratios between planetary orbits (later human souls) equalled those between sounds.
The nineteenth century's concept of frequency breaks with all this.[14b] The measure of length is replaced by time as an independent variable. It is a physical time removed from the metres and rhythms of music. It quantifies movements that are too fast for the human eye, ranging from 20 to 16,000 vibrations per second. The real takes the place of the symbolic. Certainly, references can also be established to link musical intervals and acoustic frequencies, but they only testify to the alienation between two discourses. In frequency curves the simple proportions of Pythagorean music turn into irrational, that is, logarithmic functions. Conversely, overtone series--which in frequency curves are simply integral multiples of vibrations and the determining elements of each sound--soon explode the diatonic music system. That is the extent of the gulf separating Old European alphabetism from mathematical-physical notation.
Which is why the first frequency notations were developed outside of music. First noise itself had to become an object of scientific research, and discourses "a privileged category of noises." A competition sponsored by the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1780 made voiced sounds, and vowels in particular, an object of research, and inaugurated not only speech physiology, but also all the experiments involving mechanical language reproduction. Inventors like Kempelen, Maelzel, or Mical built the first automata which by way of stimulation and filtering of certain frequency bands could simulate the very sounds which, at the same time, Romanticism was celebrating as the language of the soul: their dolls said "Mama" and "Papa" or "Oh", like Hoffmann's beloved automaton Olympia. Even Edison's 1878 article on phonography intended such toy mouths voicing the parents' names as Christmas presents. Removed from all romanticism a practical knowledge of vowel frequencies emerged.
[INSERT illustration of artificial mouths on p. 43]
Continuing these experiments, Willis made a decisive discovery in 1829. He connected elastic tongues to a cogwheel whose cogs set them vibrating. According to the speed of its rotation, high or low sounds were produced which sounded like the different vowels, thus proving their frequency. For the first time pitch no longer depended on the length of a string; it became a variable dependent on speed and, therefore, time. Willis had invented the prototype of all square curve generators ranging from the bold verse-rhythm experiments of the turn of the century to Kontakte, Stockhausen's first electronic composition.
Synthetic production of frequencies is followed by their analysis. Fourier had already provided the mathematical theory, but that theory had yet to be implemented technologically. In 1830, Wilhelm Weber in Göttingen had a tuning fork record its own vibrations. He attached a pig's bristle to one of the tongues which etched its frequency curves into sooty glass. Such were the humble or animal origins of our gramophone needles.
From Weber's writing tuning fork Edouard Léon Scott, a Parisian printer and therefore not coincidentally an inhabitant of the Gutenberg Galaxy, developed his phon-autograph, patented in 1857. A bell-mouth amplified incoming sounds and transmitted them onto a membrane which, in turn, used a coarse bristle to transcribe them onto a soot-covered cylinder. In this way autographs or handwritings of a data stream came into being which prior to that had not ceased not to write itself. (Instead, there was handwriting.) Scott's phon-autograph, however, made visible what, up to this point, had only been audible and much too fast for ill-equipped human eyes: hundreds of vibrations per second. A triumph of the concept of frequency: all the whispered or screamed noises people emitted from their larynxes with or without dialects, appeared on paper. Phonetics and speech physiology became a reality.
They were especially real in the case of Henry Sweet, whose perfect English made him the prototype of all experimental phonetics as well as the hero of a play. Recorded by Professor F.C. Donders of Utrecht,[ 20] Sweet was also dramatized by George Bernhard Shaw, who turned him into a modern Pygmalion out to conquer all mouths that, however beautiful, were marred by dialect. To record and discipline the dreadful dialect of the flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, "Higgins' laboratory" boasts "a phonograph, a laryngoscope, [and] a row of tiny organ pipes with a bellows." In the world of the modern Pygmalion mirrors and statues are unnecessary; sound storage makes it possible "to inspect one's own speech or discourse as in a mirror, thus enabling us to adopt a critical stance toward our products."[22 ]To the great delight of Shaw, who saw his medium or his readability technologically guaranteed to all English speakers, machines easily solve a problem which literature had not been able to tackle on its own, or only through the mediation of pedagogy: they drill people in general and flower girls in particular to adopt a pronunciation purified by written language.
It comes as no surprise that Eliza Doolittle, notwithstanding all of her love, abandons her Pygmalion Sweet aka Higgins at the end of the play in order to learn "book-keeping and typewriting" at "shorthand schools and polytechnic classes". Women who have been subjected to phonographs and typewriters are souls no longer. They can only end in musicals. Renaming it My Fair Lady, Rogers and Hammerstein will throw Shaw's Pygmalion drama among Broadway tourists and record labels. "On The Street Where You Live" is sound.
In any case, Edison, ancestor of the record industry, only needed to combine, as is so often the case with inventions. A Willis-type machine gave him the idea for the phonograph, a Scott-type machine pushed him toward its realization. Synthetic production of frequencies combined with their analyis resulted in the new medium.
Edison's phonograph was a by-product of the attempt to optimize telephony and telegraphy by saving expensive copper cables. First, Menlo Park developed a telegraph that indented a paraffin paper strip with Morse signs, thus allowing them to be replayed faster than they had been transmitted by human hands. The effect was exactly the same as in Willis's case: pitch became a variable dependent on speed. Second, Menlo Park developed a telephone receiver with a needle attached to the diaphragm. By touching it, the needle enabled the hearing-impaired Edison to check the amplitude of the telephone signal. Legend has it that one day the needle drew blood--and Edison "recognized how the force of a membrane moved by a magnetic system could be put to work." "In effect, he had found a way to transfer the functions of his ear to his sense of touch."
A telegraph as an artificial mouth, a telephone as an artificial ear--the stage was set for the phonograph. Functions of the central nervous system had been technologically implemented. When, after a 72-hour shift early in the morning of 16 July 1888, Edison had finally completed a talking machine ready for serial production, he posed for the hastily summoned photographer in the pose of his great idol. The French Emperor, after all, is said to have observed that the
[INSERT illustration of Edison p. 47]
progress of national welfare (or military technology) can be measured by transportation costs. And no means of transportation are more economical than those which convey information rather than goods and people. Artificial mouths and ears as technological implementations of the central nervous system cut down on mailmen and concert halls. What Ong calls our secondary orality has the elegance of brain functions. Technological sound storage provides a first model for data streams which, at the same time, are becoming an object of neurophysiological research. Helmholtz completing vowel theory is allied with Edison completing measuring instruments. Which is why sound storage, initially a mechanically primitive affair on the level of Weber's pork bristle, could not be invented until the soul fell prey to science. "O my head, my head, my head," groans the phonograph in the prose poem Alfred Jarry dedicated to it. "All white underneath the silk sky:--They have taken my head, my head--and put me into a tea tin!"
Which is why Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, the symbolist poet and author of the first of many Edison novels, is mistaken when he has the great inventor ponder his delay in Tomorrow's Eve.
What is most surprising in history, almost unimaginable, is that among all the great inventors across the centuries, not one thought of the Phonograph! And yet most of them invented machines a thousand times more complicated. The Phonograph is so simple that its construction owes nothing to materials of scientific composition. Abraham might have built it, and made a recording of his calling from on high. A steel stylus, a leaf of silver foil or something like it, a cylinder of copper, and one could fill a storehouse with all the voices of Heaven and Earth.
This certainly applies to materials and their processing, but misses the historical apriori of sound recording. There are also immaterials of scientific origin, which are not so cheap to come by and have to be supplied by a science of the soul. They cannot be delivered by any of the post-Abraham candidates whom Villiers de l'Isle-Adam suspects of being able to invent the phonograph: neither Aristotle, Euclid nor Archimedes could have underwritten the statement that "the soul is a notebook of phonographic recordings" (but rather, if at all, a tabula rasa for written signs, which in turn signify acts of the soul). Only when the soul has become the nervous system, and the nervous system (according to the Sigmund Exner, the great Viennese neurophysiologist) so many facilitations (Bahnungen), can Delboeuf's statement no longer be scandalous. In 1880, the philosopher Guyau devoted a commentary to it. And this first theory of the phonograph attests like no other to the interactions between science and technology. Precisely those theories, which were the historic apriori of the phonograph, can now, thanks to its invention, optimize their analogous models of the brain.
JEAN MARIE GUYAU MEMORY AND PHONOGRAPH <1880>
Reasoning by analogy is of considerable importance to science; indeed, in as far as it is the principle of induction it may well form the basis of all physical and psychophysical sciences. Discoveries frequently start with metaphors. The light of thinking could hardly fall in a new direction and illuminate dark corners were it not reflected by spaces already illuminated. Only that which reminds of us something else makes an impression, although and precisely because it differs from it. To understand is to remember, at least in part.
Many similes and metaphors have been used in the attempt to understand mental abilities or functions. Here, in the as yet imperfect state of science, metaphors are absolutely necessary: before we know we have to start by imagining something. Thus, the human brain has been compared to all kinds of objects. According to Spencer it shows a certain analogy to those mechanical pianos which can reproduce an infinite number of melodies. Taine makes of the brain a kind of print shop which incessantly produces and stores innumerable clichés. Yet all these similes appear somewhat sketchy. One normally deals with the brain at rest; its images are perceived to be fixed; stereotyped; and that is imprecise. There is nothing finished in the brain, no real images; instead, we see only virtual, potential images waiting for a sign to be transformed into actuality. How this transformation into reality is really achieved is a matter of speculation. The greatest mystery of brain mechanics has to do with dynamics--not with statics. We are in need of a comparative term that will allow us to see not only how an object receives and stores an imprint, but also how this imprint at a given time is reactivated and produces new vibrations within the object. With this in mind, the most refined instrument (both receiver and motor in one) with which the human brain may be compared is perhaps Edison's recently invented phonograph. For some time now I have been wanting to draw attention to this comparison, ever since I came across a casual observation in Delboeuf's last article on memory which confirmed my intentions: "The soul is a notebook of phonographic recordings."
Upon speaking into a phonograph the vibrations of one's voice are transferred to a point which engraves lines onto a metal plate that correspond to the uttered sounds--uneven furrows, more or less deep, depending on the nature of the sounds. It is quite probable that, in analogous ways, invisible lines are incessantly carved into the brain cells which provide a channel for nerve streams. If after some time the stream encounters a channel it has already passed through, it will once again proceed along the same path. The cells vibrate in the same way they vibrated the first time; psychologically, these similar vibrations correspond to an emotion or a thought analogous to the forgotten emotion or thought.
This is precisely the phenomenon which occurs when the phonograph's small copper disk, held against the point which runs through the grooves it has etched, starts to reproduce the vibrations: to our ears, these vibrations turn back into a voice, into words, sounds and melodies.
If the phonographic disk had self-consciousness, it could while replaying a song point out that it remembers this particular song; and what, to us, appears as the effect of a rather simple mechanism would, quite probably, strike the disk as a miraculous ability: memory.
Let us add that it could distinguish new songs from those already played as well as new impressions from simple memories. Indeed, a certain effort is necessary for first impressions to etch themselves into metal or brain; they encounter more resistance and, correspondingly, have to exert more force; and when they reappear, they vibrate all the stronger. But when the point traces already existing grooves instead of making new ones, it will do so with greater ease and glide along without applying any pressure. Memory or reveries have been thought of in terms of inclination; indeed, to pursue a memory: to smoothly glide down a slope, to wait for a certain number of complete memories which appear one after the other, all in a row and without shock. There is, therefore, a significant difference between impressions in the real sense and memory. Impressions tend to belong to either of two classes: they either possess greater intensity, a unique sharpness of outline and fixity of line; or they are weaker, more blurred and imprecise, but nevertheless arranged in a certain order which imposes itself on us .To recognize an image means to assign it to the second class. One feels in a less forceful way and is aware of this emotion. A memory consists of the awareness, first, the diminished intensity of an impression, second, its increased ease, and third, the connections which it entertains with other impressions. Just as a trained eye can see the difference between a copy and the original, we learn to distinguish memories from impressions and are thus able to recognize a memory even before it has been located in time and space. We project this or that impression back into the past without knowing which part of the past it belongs to. This is because a memory retains a unique and distinguishing character, much like a sensation coming from the stomach differs from an acoustic or visual impression. In a similar manner, the phonograph is incapable of reproducing the human voice in all its strength and warmth. The voice of the apparatus will remain shrill and cold; it has something imperfect and abstract about it which sets it apart. If the phonograph could hear itself, it would learn to recognize the difference between the voice which came from the outside and forced itself onto it and the voice which it itself is broadcasting and which is a simple echo of the first, following an already grooved way.
A further analogy between the phonograph and our brain exists in that the speed of the vibrations which have been impressed on the apparatus can noticeably change the character of the reproduced sounds or recalled images. Depending on whether you increase or decrease the rotation of the phonographic disk, a melody will be transposed from one octave to another. If you turn the handle faster, a song will rise from the deepest and most indistinct notes to the highest and most piercing. Does not a similar effect occur in the brain when we focus our attention on an initially blurred image, increasing its clarity step by step, thereby moving it, as it were, up the scale? And could this phenomenon not be explained by the increased or decreased speed and strength of the vibrations of our cells? We have within us a kind of scale of images along which the images we conjure up and dismiss incessantly rise and fall. At times they vibrate in the depths of our being like a blurred "pedal", at times their fullness of sound radiates above all others. As they dominate or recede, they appear to be closer or farther away from us, and sometimes the length of time which separates them from the present moment seems to be waning or waxing. I know of impressions I received ten years ago which, under the influence of an association of ideas or simply due to my attention or some change of emotion, suddenly seem to date from yesterday. In the same way singers create the impression of distance by lowering their voice; and they merely need to raise it again to suggest the impression of approaching.
These analogies could be multiplied. The principal difference between the brain and the phonograph is that the metal disk of Edison's still rather primitive machine remains deaf to itself; there is no transition from movement to consciousness. It is precisely this wondrous transition which keeps occurring in the brain. It remains an eternal mystery which, however, is less astonishing than it appears. If the phonograph were able to hear itself, that, in the final analysis, would be far less mystifying than the idea of our hearing it. But indeed we do: its vibrations really turn into impressions and thoughts. We therefore have to concede the always possible transformation of movement into thought--one which appears more likely when it is a matter of internal brain movement rather than one coming from the outside. From this point of view it would be neither very imprecise nor very disconcerting to define the brain as an infinitely perfected phonograph--a conscious phonograph.
It doesn't get any clearer than that.The psychophysical sciences, to which the philosopher Guyau has absconded, are embracing the phonograph as the only suitable model for visualizing the brain or memory. All questions concerning thought as thought have been abandoned because it is now a matter of implementation and hardware. For this reason memory, around 1800 a wholly "subordinate inner power," becomes the most powerful. And since that serves to oust Hegel's spirit, the recently invented phonograph, though as yet not ready for serial production, is superior to all other media. Unlike Gutenberg's printing press or Ehrlich's automatic pianos in the brain metaphors of Taine and Spencer, it is able to combine the two actions indispensable to any universal machine, discrete or not: writing and reading, storing and scanning, recording and replaying. Even if Edison for practical reasons later separated recording from replaying units, it is in principle one and the same point which engraves and later traces the phonographic groove.
Which is why all concepts of trace, up to and including Derrida's grammatological ur-writing, are based on Edison's simple idea. The trace preceding all writing, the trace of pure difference still open to reading and writing, is simply a gramophone needle. Paving a way and retracing a path coincide. Guyau understood that the phonograph implements memory and thereby makes it unconscious.
[INSERT Trademark "Wrinting Angel" on p. 55)
It is only because a philosopher, even if he has abandoned philosophy for psychophysics, cannot rid himself of his professional delusions that Guyau, at the end of his essay, attempts to crown or surpass the unconscious mnemonic capabilities of the phonograph by contrasting them with our conscious human abilities. But consciousness, that quality which Guyau ascribes to the brain in order to celebrate it as an infinitely perfected phonograph, would result in an infinitely inferior one. Rather than hearing the random acoustic events forcing their way into the bell-mouth in all their real-time entropy, Guyau's conscious phonograph would attempt to understand and thus corrupt them. Once again, alleged identities or meaning or even functions of consciousness would come into play. Phonographs do not think, therefore they are possible.
Guyau's own, possibly unconscious example had alluded to the imputation of consciousness and inner life: if a phonograph really possessed the consciousness attributed to it and were able to point out that it remembers a song, it would consider this a miraculous ability. But impartial and external observers would continue to see it as the result of a fairly simple mechanism. By turning his experimental gaze, which had observed the brain simply as a technical apparatus, into introspection, Guyau falls short of his own standards. It was, after all, an external gaze which had suggested the beautiful comparison between attention and playback speed. If the focusing of blurred mental images by way of attention amounts to nothing more or less than changing the time axis of acoustic events by increasing playback speed or indulging in time axis manipulation (TAM), then there is no reason to celebrate attention or memory as miraculous abilities. Neither gramophone needles nor brain neurons need any self-consciousness to retrace a groove faster than it was engraved. In both cases it boils down to programming. For that reason alone the diligent hand of the phonograph user, who in Edison's time had difficulties sticking to the correct time while turning the handle, could be replaced by clockworks and electronic motors with adjustable speed. The sales catalogues of American record companies warned their customers of the friend who "comes to you and claims that your machine is too slow or too fast. Don't listen to him! He doesn't know what he is talking about."
But standardization is always upper management's escape from technological possibilities. In case of serious matters such as test procedures or mass entertainment, TAM remains triumphant. The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company, founded two months after Edison's primitive prototype of December 1877, made its first business with time axis manipulation: with his own hand the inventor turned the handle faster than he had during the recording in order to treat New York to the sensational pleasure of frequency-modulated musical pieces. Even the modest cornet of a certain Levy acquired brilliance and temperament. Had he been among the delighted New Yorkers, Guyau would have found empirical proof that frequency modulation is indeed the technological correlative of attention.
Of course Europe's written music had already been able to move tones upwards or downwards, as the term scale itself implies. But transposition doesn't equal TAM. If the phonographic playback speed differs from its recording speed, there is a shift not only of clear sounds but of whole noise spectra. What is manipulated is the real instead of the symbolic. Acoustic long-term events such as metre and word length are affected as well. This is precisely what Hornbostel, albeit without recognizing what distinguished it from transposition, praised as the "special advantage" of the phonograph: "It can be played at faster and slower speeds, allowing us to listen to musical pieces, whose original speed was too fast, at a more settled pace, and accordingly transposed, in order to analyse them."
The phonograph is thus incapable of achieving real-time frequency shifts. For this we need rock bands with harmonizers that--with considerable electronic effort--are able to reverse the inevitable speed changes, at least to deceivable human ears. Only then are people able to return simultaneously and in real time from their breaking voices, and women can be men and men can be women again. .
The time-axis reversal made possible by the phonograph allows ears to listen to the unheard-of: the steep transient phenomenon of instrumental sounds or spoken syllables moves to the end while the much slower fade-out time moves to the front. The Beatles are said to have used this trick on Revolution 9 to whisper the secret of their global success to the tape freaks among their fans: that Paul McCartney had been dead for a long time, replaced on covers, stage and songs by a multi-media double. As the Columbia Phonograph Company recognized in 1890, the phonograph can be used as machine for composing music simply by allowing consumers to play their favourite songs backwards: "A musician could get one popular melody every day by experimenting in that way."
TAM as poetry--but one which transgresses its customary boundaries. The phonograph cannot deny its telegraphic origin. Technological media turn magic into a daily routine. Voices that start to migrate through frequency spectra and time axes do not simply continue old literary word game techniques such as palindromes or anagrams. This letter-bending had become possible only once the primary code, the alphabet itself, had taken effect. Time axis manipulation, however, affects the raw material of poetry where manipulation had hitherto been impossible. Hegel had called "the sound" "a disappearing of being in the act of being," subsequently celebrating it as a "saturated expression of the manifestation of inwardness."[37 ] That which was impossible to store could not be manipulated. Ridding itself of its materiality or clothes, it disappeared and presented inwardness as a seal of authenticity.
But once storage and manipulation coincide in principle, Guyau's thesis linking phonography and memory may be insufficient. Storage facilities, which according to his own insight are capable of altering the character of the replayed sounds (thanks to time manipulation), shatter the very concept of memory. Reproduction is demoted once the past in all its sensuous detail is transmitted by technical devices. Certainly, HiFi means High Fidelity and is supposed to convince consumers that record companies remain loyal to musical deities. But it is a term of appeasement. More precise than the poetic imagination of around 1800, whose alphabetism or creativity confronted an exclusively reproductive memory, technology literally makes the unheard-of possible. An old Pink Floyd song spells it out:
When that old fat sun in the sky `s falling
Summer ev'ning birds are calling
Summer Sunday and a year
The sound of music in my ear
New mown grass smells
By the river holding hands.
And if you see, don't make a sound
Pick your feet up off the ground
And if you hear as the wall night falls
The silver and of a tongue so strange
Sing to me sing to me. 
The literally unheard-of is the site where information technology and brain physiology coincide. To make no sound, to pick your feet up off the ground, and to listen to the sound of a voice when the night is falling--we all do it when we put on a record that commands such magic.
And what transpires then is indeed a strange and unheard-of silver noise. Nobody knows who is singing--the voice called Gilmour which sings the song, the voice referred to by the song, or maybe the voice of the listener who makes no sound and is nonetheless supposed to sing once all the conditions of magic have been met. An unimaginable closeness of sound technology and self-awareness, simulacrum of a feedback relaying sender and receiver. A song sings to a listening ear telling it to sing. As if the music were originating in the brain itself, rather than emanating from stereo speakers or head phones.
That is the whole difference between arts and media. Songs, arias and operas do not rely on neurophysiology. Voices hardly implode in our ears, not even under the technical conditions of a concert hall when singers are visible and therefore discernible. Their voices are trained to overcome distances and spaces. "Sound of music in my ear" can exist only once mouthpieces and microphones are capable of recording any whisper. As if there were no distance between recorded voice and listening ears, as if voices traveled along the transmitting bones of acoustic self-perception directly from the mouth into the ear's labyrinth, hallucinations become real.
And even the distant bells the song listens to are not merely signifiers or referents of some speech. Literature had been able to provide that. Countless verses used words to conjure up acoustic events as lyrical as they were indescribable. Rock lyrics can add the bells themselves in order to fill attentive brains with something that, as long as it had been confined to words, had remained a mere promise.
In 1898, the Columbia Phonograph Company Orchestra offered the song Down on the Swanee River as one of its 80 cylinders. Advertisements promised Negro songs and dances as well as the song's location and subject: pulling in the gang plank, the sounds of the steam engine and, eighty years before Pink Floyd, the chiming of a steamboat bell--all for 50 cents. Songs become part of their acoustic environment. And poetry fulfills what psychoanalysis--originating not coincidentally at the same time--saw as the essence of desire: hallucinatory wish fulfilment.
Freud's Project for a Scientific Psychology of 1895 saw "[the state of] being hallucinated in a backward flow of Q to N and also to T". In other words: impermeable brain neurons occupied by memory traces rid themselves of their charge or quantity by transferring them onto permeable neurons designed for sensory perception. As a result, data already stored appears as fresh input and the psychic apparatus becomes its own simulacrum. Backflow or feedback come as close to perfect hallucinatory wish fulfilment as does Freud's Project for a Scientific Psychology to technological media. "The intention is to furnish a psychology that shall be a natural science: that is, to represent psychical processes as quantitatively determinate states of specifiable material particles, thus making those processes perspicuous and free from contradiction." That is psychophysics at its best. All of Freud's elaborations on neurons and their cathexes and on facilitations and their resistance are based on the "views on localization held by [the] cerebral anatomy" of his time. That the psychic apparatus (already technified by its name) can transmit and store data, while remaining both permeable and impermeable, would remain an insoluble paradox were its analogy modelled upon writing. (At best, Freud's famous "Wondrous Writing-Pad," commented upon by Derrida, might be able to carry out both functions.) Following Broca and Wernicke's subdivision of discourse into numerous subroutines, a brain physiology which locates speaking, hearing, writing and reading in various parts of the brain (because it exclusively focuses on the states of specifiable material particles) had to model itself on the phonograph--an insight anticipated by Guyau. It comes as no surprise, then, that Sigmund Exner, whose research formed the basis for Freud's notion of facilitation in the Project, also "provided the basis for the construction of a scientific phonographic museum" at the University of Vienna.
"When it comes to molecules and cranial pathways, we"--that is, the brain researchers and art physiologists of the turn of the century--"automatically think of a process similar to that of Edison's phonograph." These are the words of Georg Hirth, author of the first German treatise on art physiology. Twenty years later, they are written into art itself. In 1919, Rilke completes a prose "essay" which, using the modest means of bricolage or literature, translates all the discoveries of brain physiology into modern poetry.
RAINER MARIA RILKE PRIMAL SOUND <1919>
It must have been when I was a boy at school that the phonograph was invented. At any rate it was at that time a chief object of public wonder; this was probably the reason why our science master, a man given to busying himself with all kinds of handiwork, encouraged us to try our skill in making one of these instruments from the material that lay nearest to hand. Nothing more was needed than a piece of pliable cardboard bent to the shape of a funnel, on the narrower orifice of which was stuck a piece of impermeable paper of the kind used to bottle fruit. This provided a vibrating membrane, in the middle of which we stuck a bristle from a coarse clothes brush at right angels to its surface. With these few things one part of the mysterious machine was made, receiver and reproducer were complete. It now only remained to construct the receiving cylinder, which could be moved close to the needle marking the sounds by means of a small rotating handle. I do not remember what we made it of; there was some kind of cylinder which we covered with a thin coating of candle-wax to the best of our ability. Our impatience, brought to a pitch by the excitement of sticking and fitting the parts, as we jostled one another over it, was such that the wax had scarcely cooled and hardened before we put our work to the test.
How now this was done can easily be imagined. When someone spoke or sang into the funnel, the needle in the parchment transferred the sound-waves to the receptive surface of the roll slowly turning beneath it, and then, when the moving needle was made to retrace its path (which had been fixed in the meantime with a coat of varnish), the sound which had been ours came back to us tremblingly, haltingly from the paper funnel, uncertain, infinitely soft and hesitating and fading out altogether in places. Each time the effect was complete. Our class was not exactly one of the quietest, and there can have been few moments in its history when it had been able as a body to achieve such a degree of silence. The phenomenon, on every reception of it, remained astonishing, indeed positively staggering. We were confronting, as it were, a new and infinitely delicate point in the texture of reality, from which something far greater than ourselves, yet indescribably immature, seemed to be appealing to us as if seeking help. At the time and all through the intervening years I believed that that independent sound, taken from us and preserved outside of us, would be unforgettable. That it turned out otherwise is the cause of my writing the present account. As will be seen, what impressed itself on my memory most deeply was not the sound from the funnel but the markings traced on the cylinder; these made a most definite impression.
I first became aware of this some fourteen of fifteen years after my school-days were past. It was during my first stay in Paris. At that time I was attending the anatomy lectures in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with considerable enthusiasm. It was not so much the manifold interlacing of the muscles and sinews nor the complete inner agreement of the inner organs with another that appealed to me, but rather the bare skeleton, the restrained energy and elasticity of which I had already noticed when studying the drawings of Leonardo. However much I puzzled over the structure of the whole, it was more than I could deal with; my attention always reverted to the study of the skull, which seemed to me to constitute the utmost achievement, as it were, of which this chalky element was capable; it was as if it had been persuaded to make just in this part a special effort to render a decisive service by providing a most solid protection for the most daring feature of all, for something which, though itself narrowly confined, had a field of activity which was boundless. The fascination which this particular structure had for me reached such a pitch finally, that I procured a skull in order to spend many hours of the night with it; and, as always happens with me and things, it was not only the moments of deliberate attention which made this ambiguous object really mine: I owe my familiarity with it, beyond doubt, in part to that passing glance, with which we involuntarily examine and perceive our daily environment, when there exists any relationship at all between it and us. It was a passing glance of this kind which I suddenly checked in its course, making it exact and attentive. By candlelight--which is often so peculiarly alive and challenging--the coronal suture had become strikingly visible, and I knew at once what it reminded me of: one of those unforgotten grooves, which had been scratched in a little wax cylinder by the point of a bristle!
And now I do not know: is it due to a rhythmic peculiarity of my imagination, that ever since, often after the lapse of years, I repeatedly feel the impulse to make that spontaneously perceived similarity the starting point for a whole series of unheard of experiments? I frankly confess that I have always treated this desire, whenever it made itself felt, with the most unrelenting mistrust--if proof be needed, let it be found in the fact that only now, after more than a decade and a half, have I resolved to make a cautious statement concerning it. Furthermore, there is nothing I can cite in favour of my idea beyond its obstinate recurrence, a recurrence which has taken me by surprise in all sorts of places, divorced from any connection with what I might be doing.
What is it that repeatedly presents itself to my mind? It is this:
The coronal suture of the skull (this would first have to be investigated) has--let us assume --a certain similarity to the closely wavy line which the needle of a phonograph engraves on the receiving, rotating cylinder of the apparatus. What if one changed the needle and directed it on its return journey along a tracing which was not derived from the graphic translation of sound, but existed of itself naturally--well, to put it plainly, along the coronal suture, for example. What would happen? A sound would necessarily result, a series of sounds, music...
Feelings--which? Incredulity, timidity, fear, awe--which of all feelings here possible prevents me from suggesting a name for the primal sound which would then make its appearance in the world...
Leaving that side for the moment: what variety of lines then, occurring anywhere, could one not put under the needle and try out? Is there any contour that one could not, in a sense, complete in this way and then experience it, as it makes itself felt, thus transformed, in another field of sense.
At one period, when I began to interest myself in Arabic poems, which seem to owe their existence to the simultaneous and equal contributions from all five senses, it struck me for the first time, that the modern European poet makes use of these five contributors singly and in very varying degree, only one of them--sight overladen with the world--seeming to dominate him constantly; how slight, by contrast, is the contribution he receives from inattentive hearing, not to speak of the indifference of other senses, which are active only on the periphery of consciousness and with many interruptions within the limited sphere of their practical activity. And yet the perfect poem can only materialize on condition that this world, acted upon by all five levers simultaneously, is seen, under a definite aspect, on the supernatural plane, which is, in fact, the plane of the poem.
A lady, to whom this was mentioned in conversation, exclaimed that this wonderful and simultaneous capacity and achievement of all the senses was surely nothing but the presence of mind and grace of love--incidentally she thereby bore her own witness to the sublime reality of the poem. But the lover is in such splendid danger just because he must depend on the co-ordination of his senses, for he knows that they must meet in that unique and risky centre, in which, renouncing all extension, they come together and have no permanence.
As I write this, I have before me the diagram which I have always used as a ready help whenever ideas of this kind have demanded attention. If the world's whole field of experience, including those spheres which are beyond our knowledge, be represented in a complete circle, it will be immediately evident that, when the black sectors, denoting that which we are incapable of experiencing, are measured gainst the lesser, light sections, corresponding to that which is illuminated by the senses, the former are very much greater.
Now the position of the lover is this, that he feels himself unexpectedly placed in the centre of the circle, that is to say, at the point where the known and the incomprehensible, coming forcibly together at one single point, become complete and simply a possession, losing thereby, it is true, all individual character. This position would not serve for the poet, for individual variety must be constantly present for him, he is compelled to use the sense sectors to their full extent, as it must also be in his aim to extend each of them as far as possible, so that his lively delight, girt for the attempt, may be able to pass through the five gardens in one leap.
As the lover's danger consists in the non-spatial character of his standpoint, so the poet's lies in his awareness of the abysses which divide the one order of sense experience from the other: in truth they are sufficiently wide and engulfing to sweep away from before us the greater part of the world --- who knows how many worlds?
The question arises here, as to whether the extent of these sectors on the plane assumed by us can be enlarged to any vital degree by the work of research. The achievements of the microscope, of the telescope, and of so many devices which increase the range of the senses upwards and downwards, do they not lie in another sphere altogether, since most of the increase thus achieved cannot be interpreted by the senses, cannot be "experienced" in any real sense? It is, perhaps, not premature to suppose that the artist, who develops the five-fingered hand of his senses (if one may put it so) to ever more active and more spiritual capacity, contributes more decisively than anyone else to an extension of the several sense fields, only the achievement which gives proof of this does not permit of his entering his personal extension of territory in the general map before us, since it is only possible, in the last resort, by a miracle.
But if we are looking for a way by which to establish the connection so urgently needed between the different provinces now so strangely separated from one another, what could be more promising than the experiment suggested earlier in this record? If the writer ends by recommending it once again, he may be given a certain amount of credit for withstanding the temptation to give free reign to his fancy in imagining the results of the assumptions which he has suggested.
Soglio. On the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 1919.
Rilke dedicated the most impassionate of reports to phonography. Regardless of the fact that he wrote it on Assumption Day, "he was a poet and hated the approximate." Therefore the strange precision with which his text enumerates all the parts of an apparatus which Rilke's physics teacher, not coincidentally employed at an imperial military school, constructed around 1890. As if to confirm the fictional Edison of Tomorrow's Eve, who had no supply problems whatsoever when designing the phonograph, a combination of cardboard, paper, the bristles of a clothes brush and candle wax suffice to open a "new and infinitely delicate point in the texture of reality." Oblivious of the knowledge of the physics teacher and the school drill, students hear their own voice. Not their words and answers as programmed feedback by the education system, but the real voice against a backdrop of pure silence or attention.
And yet the "unforgettable" (in the word's double meaning) phonographic sound recording is not at the centre of Rilke's profane illumination. In the founding age of media, the author is captivated more by the technological revolutions of reading than of writing. The "markings traced on the cylinder" are physiological traces whose strangeness transcends all human voices.
Certainly, the writer is no brain physiologist. His amateur status at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts enables him to become acquainted with the vicissitudes of the skeletal structure, but not with the facilitations on which Exner or Freud based their new sciences. But when it comes to mounted and exhibited skeletons, Rilke is fascinated by that "utmost achievement" known as the skull, because "it was as if it had been persuaded to make just in this part a special effort to render a decisive service by providing a most solid protection for the most daring feature of all." During his Parisian nights, Rilkes reduces the skull sitting in front of him to a cerebral container. Describing it as "this particular structure" with a "boundless field of activity," he merely repeats the physiological insight that, for our central nervous system, "our own body is the outside world."[47 ]Nobody less than Flechsig, Schreber's famous psychiatrist, had proven that the cerebral cortex contains a "sphere of physical perception" which neurologically reproduces all parts of the body, distorted according to their importance. Rilke's belief in later years that it was the task of poetry to transfer all given data into an "inner world space" is based on such insights. (Even though literary scholars, still believing in the omnipotence of philosophers, choose to relate Rilke's inner world space to Husserl.)
Primal Sound leaves no doubt whatsoever which developments of the time are of main importance to literature in 1900. Instead of lapsing into the usual melancholic associations of Shakespeare's Hamlet or Keller's Green Henry, the sight of a human skull in candle light induces phonographic grooves in the writer's mind.
A trace or path or groove appears where the frontal and parietal bones of the "suckling infant"--to use Rilke's anatomically correct term--have grown together. As if the facilitations of Freud and Exner had been projected out of the brain onto its enclosure, the naked eye is now able to read the coronal suture as a writing of the real. A technologically up-to-date author follows in the wake of brain physiologists, who since the days of Guyau and Hirth automatically think of Edison's phonograph when dealing with nerve pathways. Moreover, he draws conclusions more radical than all scientific boldness. Before Rilke nobody had ever suggested to decode a trace which nobody had encoded and which encoded nothing.
[INSERT side illustration p. 71 with caption: Coronal suture from stp to stp]
Ever since the invention of the phonograph, there is writing without a subject. It is no longer necessary to assign an author to every trace, not even God. The Project for a Scientific Psychology centred on facilitations inscribed by acts of perception, but there is no reason not to set the gramophone needle to random anatomic features. A transgression in the literal sense of the word which shakes the very words used to phrase it. Acoustics arises from physiology, technology from nature. In Rilke's time, skulls were measured in search of all possible features: intelligence and idiocy, masculinity and femininity, genius and racial characteristics. But their media transposition into the acoustic remained a challenge which forced dots and question marks onto the hand that wrote it.
What the coronal suture yields upon replay is a primal sound without a name, a music without notation, a sound even more strange than any incantation of the dead for which the skull could have been used. Deprived of its shellac, the duped needle produces sounds which "are not the result of a graphic transposition of a note" but an absolute transfer, that is, a metaphor. Thus a writer celebrates the very opposite of his own medium--the white noise no writing can store. Because their data travel along physical channels, technological media operate against a background of noise which determines the signal-noise-ratio, as does blurring in the case of film or the sound of the needle in the case of the gramophone. That is (according to Arnheim) the price they pay for delivering reproductions which are at the same time effects of the reproduced. Noise is emitted by the channels media have to cross.
In 1924, five years after Rilke's Primal Sound, Rudolph Lothar writes his Technical-aesthetic essay on The Talking Machine. Based on the not very informed premise that "philosophers and psychologists have hitherto written about the arts" and "neglected" phonography, Lothar draws up a new aesthetic. Its key propositions centre exclusively on the relationship between noise and signals.
The talking machine occupies a special position in aesthetics and music. It demands a twofold capacity for illusion, an illusion working in two directions. On the one hand it demands that we ignore and overlook its mechanical features. As we know, every record comes with interference. As connoisseurs we are not allowed to hear this interference; just as in a theatre we are obliged to ignore both the line that sets off the stage and the frame surrounding the scene. We have to forget we are witnessing actors in costumes and make-up who are not really experiencing what they are performing. They are merely playing parts. We, however, pretend to take their appearance for reality. Only if we forget that we are inside a theatre can we really enjoy dramatic art. This "as if" is generated by our capacity for illusion. Only when we forget that the voice of the singer is coming from a wooden box, when we no longer hear any interference, when we can suspend it the way we are able to suspend a stage--only then will the talking machine come into its artistic own.
But on the other hand, the machine demands that we give bodies to the sounds emanating from it. For example, while playing an aria sung by a famous singer we see the stage he stands on, we see him dressed in an appropriate costume. The more it is linked to our memories, the stronger the record's effect will be. Nothing excites memory more strongly than the human voice, maybe because nothing is forgotten as quickly as a voice. Our memory of it, however, does not die--its timbre and character sink into our subconscious where they await their revival. What has been said about the voice naturally also applies to instruments. We see Nikisch conduct the C-minor symphony, we see Kreisler with the violin at his chin, we see trumpets flashing in the sun when listening to military marches. But the capacity for illusion which enables us to ignore boxes and interference and furnishes tones with a visible background requires musical sensitivity. This is the most important point of phonographic aesthetics: the talking machine can only grant artistic satisfaction to musical people. For only musicians possess the capacity for illusion necessary for every enjoyment of art.
Maybe Rilke, who loved the gong with its resounding mixture of frequencies above all other instruments, was no musical person. His aesthetic--Primal Sound is Rilke's only text about art and the beautiful in general--subverts the two illusions to which Lothar wants to commit readers or gramophone listeners. From the fact that "every record comes with interferences" he draws opposite conclusions. Replaying the skull's coronary suture yields nothing but noise. And there is no need to add some hallucinated body when listening to signs which are not the result of the graphic translation of a note, but rather random anatomical lines. Bodies themselves generate noise. And the impossible real transpires.
Of course, the entertainment industry is all on Lothar's side. But there have been and there still are experiments which pursue Rilke's primal sound with technologically more sophisticated means. In the wake of Mondrian and the Bruitists, who wanted to introduce noise into literature and music, Moholy-Nagy already suggested in 1923 "to turn the gramophone from an instrument of reproduction into a productive one, generating acoustic phenomena without any previous acoustic existence by scratching the necessary marks onto the record."[54 ]An obvious analogy to Rilke's suggestion to elicit sounds from the skull that were not the result of a prior graphic transformation. A triumph for the concept of frequency--unlike the "narrowness" of a"scale" that is "possibly a thousand years old" and which we therefore no longer have to adhere to, Moholy-Nagy's etchings allow for the unlimited transposition from medium to medium. Any graphism--including those, not coincidentally, dominating Mondrian's paintings--results in a sound. Which is why the experimenter asks for the "study of graphic signs of the most diverse (simultaneous and isolated) acoustic phenomena", and the "use of projection machines" or "film."
Engineers and the avantgarde think alike. At the same time as Moholy-Nagy's etching, the first plans were made for sound film, one of the first industrially connected media systems. "The invention of Messrs. Vogt, Dr. Engel and Masolle, the speaking Tri-Ergon-film," is based on a "highly complicated process" of medial transformations which could only be financed with the help of million-dollar investments from the C. Lorenz AG. The inventors say of it: "Acoustic waves emanating from the scene are converted into electricity, electricity is turned into light, light into the silver colouring of the positive and negative, the coloring of the film back into light, which is then converted back into electricity before, the seventh and final transformation turns electricity into the mechanical operation of a weak membrane giving off sounds ."[58 ]
[NSERT illustration p. 75 with caption: gramophone record (Photo: Moholy Nagy)]
Frequencies remain frequencies regardless of their respective carrier medium. The symbolic correlation of sound intervals and planetary orbits, which since Scipio's Dream made up the harmony of the spheres, is replaced by correspondences in the real. In order to synchronize, store and reproduce acoustic events and image sequences, sound films can let them wander seven times from one carrier to the next. In his own words, Moholy-Nagy's record etchings are capable of generating a "new mechanical harmony": "The individual graphic signs are examined and their proportions are formulated as a law. (Here we may point out a consideration which is at present still utopian: based on strict proportional laws graphic signs can be transposed into music.)"
[INSERT illustration p. 76 with caption: Fourier synthesis of a rectangular wave]
This idea had lost its utopian character long before it was written down. Fourier's solution of all continuous functions (including musical notes) into sums of pure sine harmonics was achieved before Helmholtz and Edison. Walsh's equally mathematical proof that square-wave vibrations may also serve as summands of the Fourier analysis was roughly contemporaneous with Moholy-Nagy. As a result, in 1964 Robert A. Moog with his electronic talents and the "American vice of modular repetition" was able to equip all the sound studios and rock bands of this world with synthesizers. A subtractive sound analysis, that is, one controlled by frequency filters, transfers the proportional relationships of graphic depictions (rectangles, saw tooth curves, triangles, trapezoids and maybe even sine curves) into the music envisioned by Mondrian and Moholy-Nagy.
[ILLUSTRATION ND TEXT p. 77:]
Block schematic of an analog vocoder. The synthesis component is in the lower signal path, the analysis component in the upper signal path. The latter's low- and high-pass filters limit the input, e.g. of "speech", while its band-pass filters break down the audible range into several component frequency channels. Following their coordination as envelope curves, the analysis output --- using a switching matrix with arbitrarily chosen correspondences between the signal paths --- controls the voltage-controlled amplifiers (VCAs), whose band-pass filters have also broken down the "input" or carrier into several component frequency channels. The sum signal at the exit (of the vocoder) appears as an instrumental sound encoded by a voice (vox).
Rilke's urgent demand to put under the needle and try out a "variety of lines, occurring anywhere", to "complete [it] in this way and then experience it, as it makes itself felt, thus transformed, in another field of sense": it is realized every night in the combination of amplifier and oscillographic display.
But there is more to it. Between 1942 and 1945, while working for Bell laboratories and the British Secret Service, respectively, Shannon and Turing developed the vocoder, a wunderwaffe which was to make the transatlantic telephone conversations between Churchill and Roosevelt safe from interception by Canaris and the German Abwehr, and which, like so many electronic achievements of the Second World War, is now indispensable to popular music. It lives up to its name: it encodes any given data stream A with the envelope curves of another sound sequence B, for example the voice of a singer, after a switching matrix has by way of free permutation changed the frequency of the envelope curves. In the case of Laurie Anderson's electronic violin, the third-octave band between 440 and 550 hertz follows in absolute synchronicity the volume which her voice happens to have in the third-octave band between 1760 and 2200 hertz, while a third third-octave band of her songs controls a fourth of her violin, and so on and so forth. Primal sounds do not correspond to anatomical features and sounds do not follow Mondrian's graphics; rather, the paradoxical result is that one and the same controls one and the same: one acoustics controls the other.
In order to test his vocoder, by the way, Turing first played a record of Winston Churchill's belligerent voice, whose discreet or cut-up sampled values he then mixed with a noise generator using modular addition. Whereupon British officers heard the voice of their prime minister and commander-in-chief contaminate the speakers as just so much white noise (not to say, primal sound). Appropriately, Turing's vocoder was named after Delila, who in the Book of Judges tricked another warrior, the Danaite Samson, out of the secret of his strength. Turing's skill as a tinkerer, however, revealed the secret of modern political discourse to be something far worse than weakness: "a perfectly even and uninformative hiss" which offered no regularities and, therefore, nothing intelligible to the ears of British officers or those of German eavesdroppers. And yet, sent through the vocoder a second time, Churchill's original voice emerged from the receiving end.
That is what has become of the "abysses" which, according to Rilke's ingenious formula, "divide the one order of sense experience from the other." In today's media networks algorithmically formalized data streams can traverse them all. Media facilitate all possible manipulations: acoustic signals control the optical signals of light consoles, electronic language controls the acoustic output of computer music, and in the case of the vocoder one set of acoustic signals controls another. Finally, New York disc jockeys turn the esoteric graphisms of Moholy-Nagy into the everyday experience of Scratch Music.
But Rilke's astute diagnosis only applies to the founding age when the three ur-media phonograph, film, and typewriter first differentiated acoustics, optics and writing. Nevertheless, as if anticipating today's media systems, he searched "for a way by which to establish the connection so urgently needed between the different provinces now so strangely separated from one another." Which is why he fell back on "Arabic poems, which seem to owe their existence to the simultaneous and equal contributions from all five senses," and which let eyes trained in the art of calligraphy enjoy the very materiality of letters. This explains the, historically, extremely accurate criticism of literary epochs such as the Age of Goethe, in which "sight" alone seems to dominate authors and readers, because correct reading involves a hallucinatory process turning words into a real and visible world. This explains as well the proposition for an equally lyrical and scientific coronal suture phonography, which would increase the "contribution" of "inattentive hearing" from authors of the Age of Goethe.
But before Rilke writes down his proposal on the Day of Assumption in the alpine solitude of the Bergell, he relates it to a woman. Synchronicity of the asynchronic: on the one hand a writer whose "extension" or combination of sensory media goes beyond "the work of research"; on the other a woman who mistakes coronal suture phonography for "love," and love--as involuntary evidence for "the sublime reality of the poem"--with poems. Only as long as the unchallenged and unrivalled medium book was able to simulate the storage of all possible data streams did love remain literature and literature love; the ascension of female readers.
But a writer whose school teaches physics instead of philosophy objects. The combination of sensory data streams achieved by love is devoid of "permanence." It can not stored by any medium. Moreover, it loses "all individual character". That is to say, no real can pass through the filter of love. Which is why love does "not serve" for the poet: "individual variety must be constantly present for him, he is compelled to use the sense sectors to their full extent," or, simply, to become a media technician among media technicians.
Marinetti's Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature of 1912 proclaimed that crowds of massed molecules and whirling electrons are more exciting than the smiles or tears of a woman (di una donna).[64 ]In other words: literature defects from erotics to stochastics, from red lips to white noise. Marinetti's molecular swarms and whirling electrons are merely instances of that Brownian motion human eyes can only perceive in the shape of dancing sun particles, but which in the real are the noise on all channels. According to Rilke, the "abysses" dividing the orders of sense experience are "sufficiently wide and engulfing to sweep away from before us the greater part of the world--who knows how many worlds?" Which is why love is no longer sufficient for authors who, like himself, transcribe all the details of sensory perception into an inner world space known as brain or literature, and, subsequently, phonographically trace the facilitations of this unique container as primal sound itself.
Phonography, notation, and a new eroticism--this is precisely the constellation described by Maurice Renard in a short story of 1907, ten years prior to Rilke's essay. What Rilke saw in the coronal suture, Renard's fictitious composer Nerval encounters in a roaring sea shell, which, like Rilke's skull, is a physiological supplement for Edison's apparatus. Thirty years later Paul Valéry used almost the same title to celebrate shells as architectural works of an artistic nature, but Renard focuses on the central nervous system, on the labyrinth of shells, auricles, and sound. Since machines have taken over the functions the central nervous system, nobody can say whether the roaring comes from the blood or from the sirens, from the ears or from the sea goddess Amphitrite.
MAURICE RENARD THE MAN AND THE SHELL <1907>
"And her shape is of such mysterious nastiness that you brace yourself to listen..."
Henri de Régnier, Contes à soi-même
"Put the shell back where it belongs, doctor, and do not hold it to your ear for the pleasure of mistaking the roaring of your blood with that of the sea. Put it back. The very man we just buried, our beloved great musician, would still be alive had he not committed the childish mistake of listening to what the mouth of a shell has to say... Yes indeed, Nerval: your very own patient...You talk of congestion? Maybe. But I am sceptical. Here are my reasons. Keep them to yourself.
Last Wednesday night, on the day before the accident, I dined at Nerval's. His close friends have been meeting there every Wednesday for twenty years. There were five in the beginning. But this time, and for the first time, there were only two of us: a stroke, a contagious flu and a suicide left Nerval and me facing each other. Once you are sixty such a situation has nothing amusing about it. You keep asking yourself who will be next. --- The meal was as gloomy as a funeral feast. The great man remained silent. I did everything possible to cheer him up. Maybe he was mourning other deaths, the secrecy of which made it even more bitter...
Indeed, he was mourning others.
We went to his study. The piano had not been closed; on it there was the first page of a new composition.
`What are you working on, Nerval?'
He raised his finger and spoke like a sad prophet announcing his god:
`Amphitrite! At last! For how many years have you been saving her up?'
`Since the Rome prize. I waited and waited. The longer a work is allowed to mature the better it is; and I wanted to infuse it with the dream and experience of a whole life... I believe it is time...'
`A symphonic poem, isn't it?... Are you satisfied?'
Nerval shook his head.
`No. At a pinch, this may work... my thoughts are not distorted beyond recognition...'
He interpreted the prelude with great virtuosity: a Train of Neptune. You will relish it, doctor; it is a miracle!
`You see,' Nerval said to me while striking strange, outrageous and brutal chords, `up to this fanfare of tritons it works...'
"Marvellous," I answered, `there is...'
`But,' Nerval continued, `that is all there is to it. The choir which follows... a failure. Yes, I can feel my powerlessness to write it... It is too beautiful. We no longer know... It would have to be composed the way Phidias created his sculptures, it would have to be a Parthenon, as simple as... We no longer know... Ha!' he suddenly screamed, `to have arrived there, I...'
`Listen,' I said to him, `you are among the most famous, so...
`So, if this is how I end up, what do others know? But at least their mediocrity is a blessing, which is itself mediocre and satisfied with little. Famous! What is fame when engulfed in sadness!...'
`The peaks are always clouded!...'
`Enough,' Nerval resumed, `a cease-fire for flattery! This is truly a sad hour, so let us, if you wish, dedicate it to real sorrows. We owe it to the departed.'
Following these rather mysterious words he took a phonograph from underneath a blanket. I understood.
You can well imagine, doctor, that this phonograph did not play the `Potpourri from The Doll, performed by the Republican Guard under Parès'. The very improved, sonorous and clear machine only had a few cylinders. It merely spoke...
Yes, you guessed it: on Wednesday the dead spoke to us...
How terrible it is to hear this copper throat and its sounds from beyond the grave! It is more than a photographic, or I had better say cinematographic something; it is the voice itself, the living voice, still alive among carrion, skeletons, nothingness...
The composer was slumped in his chair next to the fireside. He listened with painfully knit brows to the tender things our departed comrades said from the depths of the altar and the grave.
`Well, science does have its advantages, Nerval! As a source of miracles and passions it is approaching art.`
`Certainly. The more powerful the telescopes the larger the number of stars is going to be. Of course science has its good sides. But for us it is still too young. Only our heirs will benefit from it. With the help of each new invention they will be able to observe anew the face of our century and listen to the sounds made by our generation. But who is able to project the Athens of Euripides onto a screen or make heard the voice of Sappho?'
He livened up and played with a large shell he had absent-mindedly taken off the chimney mantelpiece.
I appreciated the object which was to revive his spirits and because I anticipated that the elaboration of the scientific, if not paradoxical theme would amuse him, I resumed:
`Beware of despair. Nature frequently delights in anticipating science which, in turn, often merely imitates it. Take photography, for instance! The world can see the traces of an antediluvian creature in a museum--I believe it is the Brontosaurus--and the soil retains the marks of the rain which was falling when the beast walked by. What a prehistoric snapshot!'
Nerval was holding the shell to his ear.
`Beautiful, the roaring of this stethoscope', he said,'it reminds me of the beach where I found it--an island off Salerno... it is old and crumbling.'
I used the opportunity.
`Dear friend, who knows? The pupils of the dying are said to retain the last image they received... what if this ear-shaped snail stored the sounds it heard at some critical moment --- the agony of mollusks, maybe? And what if the rosy lips of its shell were to pass it on like a graphophone? All in all, you may be listening to the surf of oceans centuries old...'
But Nerval had risen. With a commanding gesture he bid me be quiet. His dizzy eyes opened as if over an abyss. He held the double-horned grotto to his temple as if eavesdropping on the threshold of a mystery. A hypnotic ecstasy rendered him motionless.
After I repeatedly insisted he reluctantly handed me the shell.
At first I was only able to make out a gurgling of foam, then the hardly audible turmoil of the open sea. I sensed--how I can not say -- that the sea was very blue and very ancient. And then, suddenly, women were singing and passing by... inhuman women whose hymn was wild and lustful like the scream of a crazed goddess... Yes doctor, that's how it was: a scream and yet a hymn.--These were the insidious songs Circe warned us not to listen to, or only when tied to the mast of a galley with rowers whose ears are filled with wax... But was that really enough to protect oneself from the danger?...
I continued to listen.
The sea creatures disappeared into the depths of the shell. And yet minute by minute the same maddening scene was repeated, periodically, as if by phonograph, incessantly and never diminished.
Nerval snatched the shell away from me and ran to the piano. For a long time he tried to write down the sexual screaming of the goddesses.
At two in the morning he gave up.
The room was strewn with blackened and torn sheets of music.
`You see, you see,' he said to me, `Not even when I dictated to can I transcribe the choir!...'
He slumped back into his chair and, despite my efforts, continued to listen to the poison of this Paean.
At four o'clock he started to tremble. I begged him to lie down. He shook his head and seemed to lean over the invisible maelstrom.
At half past five Nerval fell against the marble chimney--he was dead.
The shell broke into a thousand pieces.
Do you believe that there are poisons for the ear modelled on deadly perfumes or lethal potions? Ever since last Wednesday's acoustic presentation I have not been feeling well. It is my turn to go... Poor Nerval... Doctor, you claim he died of congestion... and what if he died because he heard the sirens singing?
Why are you laughing?"
There have been better questions to conclude fantastic tales. But in ways both smooth and comical Renard's fantasy finds its way into technical manuals. In 1902, in the first German monograph on Care and Usage of Modern Speaking Machines (Phonograph, Graphophone and Gramophone), Alfred Parzer-Mühlbacher promises that graphopones--a Columbia brand name also used by Renard--will be able to build "archives and collections" for all possible "memories":
Cherished loved ones, dear friends and famous individuals who have long since passed away will years later talk to us again with the same vividness and warmth, the wax cylinders transport us back in time to the happy days of youth --- we hear the speech of those who lived countless years before us, whom we never knew, and whose names were only handed down by history.
Renard's narrator clarifies such Practical Advice for Interested Customers by pointing out that the phonographic recording of dead friends surpasses their "cinematographic" immortalization: instead of black-and-white phantom doubles in the realm of the imaginary, bodies appear by virtue of their voices in a real that, once again, can only be measured in euphemisms: by carrion or skeletons. It becomes possible to conjure up friends as well as the dead "whose names were only handed down by history." Once technological media guarantee their similarity with the data stored by turning into the latter's mechanical product, the boundaries of the body, death and lust, leave the most indelible traces. According to Renard, eyes retain final visions as snap shots, according to the scientifico-psychological determinations of Benedict or Ribot, they retain these visions even in the shape of time-lapse photography. And if, when in strict analogy, the roaring shell only replays its agony, then even the deadest of gods and goddesses achieve acoustic presence. The shell Renard's fictitious composer listens to was not found on a natural beach; it replaces the telephone mouthpieces capable of bridging temporal distances and connecting him with an antiquity preceding all discourse. The sounds emanating from such a receiver are once again Rilke's primal sound, but as pure sexuality, as divine clameur sexuelle. The "rosy lips" and the "double-horned grotto" of its anatomy leave that in as little doubt as the death of the old man to whom they appear.
Thus Renard's short story introduces as long series of literary phantasms which rewrite eroticism itself under conditions of gramophony and telephony. As a result, apparitions are no longer made up of those endearing images of women whom, as Keller put it, the bitter world does not nourish; it is instead the temptation of a voice that has become a new partial object. In the same letter in which Kafka proposes to his fiancee and her parlograph manufacturer to replace old-fashioned love letters with technical relays of telephone and parlograph, he relates a dream:
Very late, dearest, and yet I shall go to bed without deserving it. Well, I won't sleep anyway, only dream. As I did yesterday, for example, when in my dream I ran toward a bridge or some balustrading, seized two telephone receivers that happened to be lying on the parapet, put them to my ears, and kept asking for nothing but news from "Pontus"; but nothing whatever came out of the telephone except a sad, mighty, wordless song and the roar of the sea. Although well aware that it was impossible for voices to penetrate these sounds, I didn't give in, and didn't go away.
News from "Pontus"--as Gerhard Neumann has shown, these were in pretechnical days news from Ovid's Black Sea exile, the quintessential model for literature as a love letter. Letters of this kind, necessarily received or written in their entirety by women, were replaced by the telephone and its noise which precedes all discourse and subsequently all whole individuals. In The Human Voice, Cocteau's one-act telephone play of 1930, a man and a woman at either end of the telephone line agree to burn their old love letters. The new eroticism is like that of the gramophone which, as Kafka remarked in the same letter, one "can't understand." "The telephone conversation occupies the middle ground between the rendez-vous and the love letter": the meaning of words is drowned by a physiological presence which no longer allows "human voices" to get through as well as by the superimposition of a myriad of simultaneous conversations, which in Kafka's Castle, for instance, reduces the "continual telephoning" to "humming and singing." Likewise, in Renard's short story the superimposition of all goddesses and sirens that ever existed may have resulted in white noise.
There can be no doubt that Kafka dreamed telephony in all its information technological precision: four days prior to his dream he read an essay by Philipp Reis on the first telephone experiments in an 1863 issue of the Gartenlaube. And as indicated by its title, The Music Telegraph was an apparatus built for the purpose of conveying the human voice (which it failed to do), but like Kafka's imagined telephone mouthpieces it was capable of transmitting music.
Ever since Freud, psychoanalysis has been keeping a list of partial objects which, first, can be separated from the body, and, second, excite desires prior to sexual differentiation: breast, mouth and faeces. Lacan added two further partial objects: voice and gaze. This is psychoanalysis in the media age, for only cinema can restore the disembodied gaze, and only the telephone was able to transmit a disembodied voice. Plays like Cocteau's Human Voice follow in their wake.
The only thing which remains unclear is whether media advertise partial objects or partial objects advertise the mail system. The more strategic the function of news channels, the more necessary, at least in interim peace times, the recruitment of users.
In 1980 Dieter Wellershoff published his novella The Siren, unfortunately without dedicating it to Renard. A professor from Cologne plans to use his sabbatical to finally complete his long-planned book on communication theory. But he never gets down to writing. An unknown woman, who once witnessed Prof. Elsheimer's telegenic partial objects on a TV screen, starts a series of phone calls which begin as a one-sided suicide hot-line and culminate in mutual telephonic masturbation. Written theories of communication stand no chance against the self-advertisement of technological media. Even the most taciturn of European "civil services" recruited and made "accessible to German women" "the profession of telephone operator," because from the very beginning its "telephone service" could not "do without" the "clear voices of women."
[INSERT illlustration p. 91: "When telephone and gramophone..." caricature from around 1900]
Therefore, Prof. Elsheimer's only means of escaping from the spell of the telephonic-sexual mouthpiece is to use one medium to beat another medium. During the last call from the unseen siren he puts on a Bach record and pumps up the volume. And lo and behold, drowned out by Old European notated music the siren magic ceases to exist. Only two technical media are communicating between Cologne and Hamburg. "Here," Kafka wrote from Prague to his beloved employee of a phonograph manufacturer, "by the way, is a rather nice idea; a Parlograph goes to the telephone in Berlin, while a gramophone does likewise in Prague, and these two carry on a little conversation with each other."
Wellerhoff's Sirene is an inverted replay of The Man and the Shell. Renard's fictional composer had not yet acquired the technological skill to employ, of all pieces, the Art of the Fugue as a jammer in the war of the sexes. On the contrary, he wanted to transfer onto musical sheets what was no longer fugue or art: "a goddess's lusy screamt" which coincided with the roaring of the sea.
It remained an impossible wish as long as it depended on the five lines of a musical sheet, but that changed in the founding age of modern media. In the beginning there was, as always, Wagner, who, by courtesy of an ice-cream poisoning in La Spezia, experienced an acoustic fever delirium of "swiflty running water" that suggested to him the Rhinegold prelude. Debussy's Sirènes for orchestra and female voices followed in 1895, the score of which no longer dictated words, syllables or vowels, but sums; as if it were possible to compose the noise of channels or, as Richard Dehmel put it a year later, the "hollow din" of the "telegraph wires." Between 1903 and 1905 Debussy completed the "symphonic poem" which in Renard's tale was named after a Greek sea goddess, but which Debussy simply called La Mer. Finally, in 1907 Wagner's monotonous, ice cream-induced e flat chord with all its overtone effects became Nerval's unwritten Amphitrite, that "poison for the ear."
Berliner's gramophone is to the history of music what Edison's phonograph is to the history of literature. At the price of being monopolized and mass-produced by big industry, records globalized musical noise. Edison's cylinders, in turn, turned the storage of speed into a daily enjoyment, even if in each case only very few copies could be made, turned the storage of speech into a daily enjoyment. As a result of which literature's letter-filled papers suffered the same crisis as musical sheets.
In 1916, three years before Rilke's Primal Sound, Salomo Friedlaender delineated the new constellation of eroticism, literature and phonography. More than any other writer of his time Friedlaender, better known under his pseudonym Mynona, a palindrome of anonym (anonymous), changed media history back into stories. In 1922 he published the novel Gray Magic that anticipates a technological future in which women are turned into celluloid (and men, incidentally, into typewriters). In 1916 he wrote a short story that conjures up the technological past in the shape of Germany's ur-author in order to predict the transformation of literature into sound.
SALOMO FRIEDLAENDER GOETHE SPEAKS INTO THE PHONOGRAPH <1916>
"What a pity," remarked Anna Pomke, a timid middle-class girl, "that the phonograph wasn't already invented in 1800!"
"Why?" asked Professor Abnossah Pschorr. "Dear Pomke, it is a pity that Eve didn't present it to Adam as part of her dowry for their common-law marriage; there is a lot to feel pity for, dear Pomke."
"Oh Professor, I would have loved to listen to Goethe's voice! He is said to have had such a beautiful organ, and everything he said was so meaningful. Oh, if he only he could have spoken into a phonograph! Oh! Oh!"
Long after Pomke had left, Abnossah, who had a weakness for her squeaky chubbiness, still heard her groans. Professor Pschorr, inventor of the telestylus, immersed himself in his customary inventive thoughts. Was it possible to retroactively trick that Goethe (Abnossah was ridiculously jealous) out of his voice? Whenever Goethe spoke, his voice produced vibrations as harmonious as, for example, the soft voice of your wife, dear reader. These vibrations encounter obstacles and are reflected, resulting in a to and fro which becomes weaker in the passage of time but which does not actually cease. So the vibrations produced by Goethe are still in existence, you only need the proper receiver to record them and a microphone to amplify their, by now, diminished effects to bring forth Goethe's voice. The difficult part was the construction of the receiver. How could it be adjusted to the specific vibrations of Goethe's voice without having the latter at one's disposal? What a fascinating idea! Abnossah determined that it was necessary to conduct a thorough study of Goethe's throat. He scrutinized busts and portraits, but they provided a very vague impression at best. He was on the verge of giving up when he suddenly remembered that Goethe was still around, if only in the shape of a corpse. He immediately sent a petition to Weimar asking for permission to briefly inspect Goethe's remains for the purpose of certain measurements. The petition was rejected. What now?
Furnished with a small suitcase filled with the most delicate measuring and burglary equipment, Abnossah Pschorr proceeded to dear old Weimar; incidentally, in the first-class waiting-room he happened to come across the locally known sister of the globally known brother in graceful conversation with some old Highness of Rudolfstadt. Abnossah heard her say: "Our Fritz always had a military posture, and yet he was gentle, with others he was of truly Christian tenderness--how he would have welcomed this war! And the beautiful, sacred book by Max Scheler!"
Abnossah was so shocked he fell flat on his back. He pulled himself up with difficulty and found lodgings in the "Elephant." In his room he carefully examined the instruments. Then he placed a chair in front of the mirror and tried on nothing less than a surprisingly portrait-like mask of the old Goethe. He tied it to his face and exclaimed:
"Verily, you know I am a genius,
I may well be Goethe himself!
Step aside, buffoon! Else I call Schiller and my prince Karl August for help, you oaf, you substitute!"
He rehearsed the phrase with a deep sonorous voice.
Late at night he proceeded to the royal tomb. Modern burglars, all of whom I desire as my readers, will smile at those other readers who believe that it is impossible to break into the well-guarded Weimar royal tomb. Please remember that as a burglar Professor Pschorr is ahead of even the most adept professional burglar. Pschorr is not only a most proficient engineer, he is also a psychophysiologist, a hypnotist, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst. In general, it is a pity that there are so few educated criminals: if all crimes were successful, they would finally belong to the natural order of things and incur the same punishment as any other natural event: Who takes lightning to task for melting Mr Meier's safe? Burglars such as Pschorr are superior to lightning because they are not diverted by rods.
In a single moment, Pschorr was able to give rise to horror and then immobilize those frozen in terror by using hypnosis. Imagine yourself guarding the royal tomb at midnight: suddenly the old Goethe appears and casts a spell on you that only leaves your head alive. Pschorr turned the whole guard into heads attached to trunks in suspended animation. He had about two hours before the cramp loosened, and he made good use of them. He descended into the tomb, switched on a flashlight and soon found Goethe's sarcophagus. After a short while he was acquainted with the corpse. Piety is for those who have no other worries. It should not be held against Pschorr that he subjected Goethe's cadaver to some practical treatment; in addition, he made some wax moulds and finally ensured that everything was restored to its previous state. Educated amateur criminals may be more radical than professionals, but the radicalness of their meticulous accomplishments furnishes their crimes with the aesthetic charm of a perfectly solved mathematical equation.
After leaving the tomb Pschorr added further elegance to his precision by deliberately freeing a guard from his spell and scolding him in the aforementioned manner. Then he tore the mask off his face and returned to the "Elephant" in the most leisurely fashion. He was satisfied, he had what he wanted. Early next morning he returned home.
A most active period of work began. As you know, a body can be reconstructed by using its skeleton; or at least Pschorr was able to do so. The exact reproduction of Goethe's air passage down to the vocal cords and lungs no longer posed any insurmountable difficulties. Timbre and strength of the sounds produced by these organs could be determined with utmost precision--you merely had to let a stream of air corresponding to the measurement of Goethe's lungs pass through. After a short while Goethe spoke the way he must have spoken during his lifetime.
But since it was not only a matter of recreating his voice, but also of having this voice repeat the words it uttered a hundred years ago, it was necessary to place Goethe's dummy in a room in which those words had frequently been spoken.
Abnossah invited Pomke. She came and laughed at him delightfully.
"Do you want to hear him speak?"
"That Goethe of yours."
"Of mine? Well I never! Professor!"
"So you do!"
Abnossah cranked the phonograph and a voice appeared:
"Friends, oh flee the darkened chamber..." etc.
Pomke was strangely moved.
"Yes," she said hastily," that is exactly how I imagined his organ. It is so enchanting!"
"Well now," cried Pschorr, "I do not want to deceive you, my dear. Yes, it is Goethe, his voice, his words. But it is not an actual replay of words he actually spoke. What you heard was the repetition of a possibility, not of a reality. I am, however, determined to fulfil your wish in its entirety and therefore propose a joint excursion to Weimar."
The locally known sister of the globally known brother was again sitting in the waiting-room whispering to an elderly lady: "There still remains a final work by my late brother, but it will not be published until the year 2000. The world is not yet mature enough. My brother inherited his ancestor's pious reverence. But our world is frivolous and would not see the difference between a satyr and this saint. The little people in Italy saw a saint in him."
Pomke would have keeled over if Pschorr had not caught her. He blushed oddly and she gave him a charming smile. They drove straight to the Goethehaus. Hofrat Professor Böffel did the honours. Pschorr presented his request. Böffel became suspicious. "You have brought along a dummy of Goethe's larynx, a mechanical apparatus? Is that what you are saying?"
"And I request permission to install it in Goethe's study."
"Of course. But for what reason? What do you want? What is this supposed to mean? The newspapers are full of something curious, nobody knows what to make of it. The guards claim to have seen the old Goethe, he even roared at one of them. The others were so dazed by the apparition they were in need of medical attention. The incident was reported to the Archduke himself."
Anna Pomke scrutinized Pschorr. Abnossah, however, was astonished. "But what has this got to do with my request? Granted, it is very strange--maybe some actor allowed himself a joke."
"Ah! You are right, that is an explanation worth exploring. I couldn't help but think... But how were you able to imitate Goethe's larynx, since you could not have possibly modelled it after nature?"
"That is what I would have preferred to do, but I was unfortunately not given the permission."
"I assume that it would not have been very helpful anyway."
"To the best of my knowledge Goethe is dead."
"I assure you, the skeleton, in particular the skull, would suffice to assemble a precise model; at least it would suffice for me."
"Your skill is well known, Professor. But what do you need the larynx for, if I may ask?"
"I want to reproduce the timbre of the Goethean organ as deceptively close to nature as possible."
"And you have the model?"
Abnossah snapped open a case. Böffel uttered an odd scream. Pomke smiled proudly.
"But you could not have modelled this larynx on the skeleton?" cried Böffel.
"Almost! It is based on certain life-size and life-like busts and pictures; I am very skilled in these matters"
"As we all know! But why do you want to set up this model in Goethe's former study?"
"He conceivably articulated certain interesting things there; and because the acoustic vibration of his words, though naturally in an extremely diminished state, are still to be found there--"
"You believe so?"
"It's not a question of belief, it's a fact."
"So what do you want to do?"
"I want to suck those vibrations through the larynx."
"What I just told you!"
"What an idea--I apologize, but you can hardly expect me to take this seriously."
"Which is why I have to insist all the more forcibly that you give me the opportunity to convince you of the seriousness of this matter. I am at a loss to understand your resistance, after all, this harmless machine won't cause any damage!"
"I'm sure it won't. I am not at all resisting you, but I am officially obliged to ask you a number of questions. I do hope you won't hold it against me?"
In the presence of Anna Pomke, Professor Böffel, a couple of curious assistants and servants, the following scene unfolded in Goethe's study:
Pschorr placed his model on a tripod ensuring that the mouth occupied the same position as Goethe's had when he was sitting. Then Pschorr pulled a kind of rubber air cushion out of his pocket and closed the nose and mouth of the model with one of its ends. He unfolded the cushion and spread it like a blanket over a small table he had pulled up to the tripod. On this, as it were, blanket he placed a most enchanting miniature phonograph complete with microphone that he had removed from his case. He now carefully wrapped the blanket around the phonograph, leaving a second opening, facing the mouth, in the shape of an end into which he screwed a pair of bellows. These, he explained, were not to blow air into but to suck it out of the mouth.
When I, as it were, let the nasopharyngeal cavity exhale as it does during speech, Pschorr lectured, this specifically Goethean larynx functions like a sieve that only lets through the acoustic vibrations of Goethe's voice, if there are any; and there are bound to be. The machine is equipped with an amplifier should they be weak.
The buzz of the recording phonograph could be heard inside the rubber cushion. And then an inescapable feeling of horror upon hearing an indistinct, hardly audible whispering. "Oh my God!" Pomke said, holding her delicate ear against the rubber skin. She started. A rasping murmur came from the inside: "As I have said, my dear Eckermann, this Newton was blind with his seeing eyes. How often, my friend, do we catch sight of this when faced with something that appears to be so obvious! Therefore it is in particular the eye and its perceptions which demand the fullest attention of our critical faculties. Without these we cannot arrive at any sensible conclusion. Yet the world mocks judgement, it mocks reason. What it, in truth, desires is uncritical sensation. Many a time have I painfully experienced this, yet I have not grown tired of contradicting the world and, in my own way, setting my words against Newton's."
Pomke heard this with jubilant horror. She trembled and said: "Divine! Divine! Professor, I owe to you the most beautiful moment of my life."
"Did you hear something?"
"Certainly. Quiet, but very distinct!"
Pschorr nodded contentedly. He worked the bellows for a little while und then said: "That should be enough for now."
He put all the instruments back into his case with the exception of the phonograph. All those present were eager and excited. Böffel asked: "Professor, do you honestly believe that you have actually captured words once spoken by Goethe? Real echoes from Goethe's own mouth?"
"I do not only believe so, I am certain of it. I will now replay the phonograph with the microphone and predict that you will have to agree with me."
The familiar hissing, hemming and squeezing. Then the sound of a remarkable voice which electrified everybody, including Abnossah. They listened to the words quoted above. Then it continued: "Oh ho! So, he, Newton, saw it! Did he indeed? The continuous colour spectrum? I, dear friend, I shall reiterate that he was deceived: that he was witness to an optical illusion and accepted it uncritically, glad to resume his counting and measuring and splitting of hairs. To hell with his monism, his continuity; it is precisely the contrast of colours which makes them appear in the first place! Eckermann! Eckermann! Hold your horses! White--neither does it yield any colour nor do other colours add up to white. Rather, in order to obtain grey white must be mechanically combined with black, and it has to be chemically united with grey to produce the varied grey of the other colours. You will never obtain white by neutralizing colours. It merely serves to restore the original contrast of black and white: and of course white is the only one that can be seen in all its brightness. But I, dear friend, I see darkness just as clearly, and if Newton only hit upon white, I, most esteemed comrade, also hit upon black. I should think that a former archer like yourself would greatly appreciate such a feat! That is the way it is, and so be it! From me our distant grand-children and great grand-children populating this absurd world will learn to laugh at Newton!"
Böffel had sat down while everybody was cheering. The servants trampled with delight, like students in the fiery lectures of that upright and demonic graybeard, the smashingly revolutionary, lordly Reucken. But Abnossah sternly said: "Gentlemen! You are interrupting Goethe! He isn't finished yet!"
Silence resumed and the voice continued: "No, Sir, no and again no! Of course you could have if you had so desired! It is the will, the will of these Newtonians, that is pernicious; and a faulty will is a corruptive faculty, an active inability that I abhor even though I catch sight of it everywhere and should be accustomed to it. You may consider it harmless, but the will is the true contriver of all things great and small; it is not the divine power but the will, the divine will, which thwarts man and proves his inadequacy. If you were able to desire in a god-like way, dear friend, the ability would be necessary and not just easy to come by, and a lot of what now dare not show its face for fear of meeting hostility or ridicule would become everyday experience.
Consider young Schopenhauer, a lad of supreme promise, full of the most magnificent desires, but afflicted by the rot of abundance, by his own insatiability. In the theory of colours he was blinded by the sun to the extent that he did not accept the night as another sun, but rather deemed it null and void; likewise, he was captivated by the lustre of life in its wholeness, in contrast to which human life struck him as worthless. Behold, Sir, that the purest, most divine will is in danger of failure if it is bent on persisting at all cost; if it is not prepared to wisely and gracefully take into account the exterior conditions as well as the limitations of its own means! Indeed: the will is indeed a magician! Is there anything it cannot do? But the human will is not a will, it is a bad will. Ha! haha! hee! hee!"
Goethe laughed mysteriously and continued in a whisper:
"Very well then, my dearest friend, I shall entrust, indeed reveal something to you. You will judge it a fairy-tale, but to me it has attained the utmost clarity. Your own will can vanquish fate, it can make fate its servant provided -- and now listen closely -- it does not presume that the tremendous and divinely tense creative intent and exertion within should also be clearly manifest without, especially in a most intense display of muscular strain. Behold earth as it is turned and driven! What mundane industry! What ceaseless motion! But mark my words, Eckermann! It is no more than mundane diligence, nothing but a fatally mechanical driving -- while the vibrating, magical will of the sun rests within itself and by virtue of this supreme self-sufficiency gives rise to the electromagnetism which humbles the whole army of planets, moons and comets into servile submission at its feet. Oh friend, to understand, to experience and be, in the most serenely spiritual sense of the word, that sublime culprit!--Enough, let us leave it at that. I was accustomed to discipline myself whenever I heard others, and sometimes even Schiller, rhapsodize freely, out of love for such a divine activity, in the face of which one should be silent, because all discourse would not only be useless and superfluous, but indeed harmful and obstructive by creating a ridiculously profane understanding, if not a the most decisive misunderstanding. Remember this, my friend, and keep it in your heart without attempting to unravel the mystery! Trust that, in time, it will unravel itself, and this evening go to the theatre with Little Wolf, who is eager to go, and do not treat Kotzebue too harshly, even though he disgusts us!"
"Oh God," Pomke said, while the others eagerly congratulated Abnossah, "oh God! If only I could listen forever! How much Eckermann withheld from us! "
After a long while a snoring emanated from the machine, then nothing! "Gentlemen!" Abnossah said, "as you can hear, Goethe is obviously asleep. It makes little sense to wait around; there is nothing to expect for a couple of hours, if not for an entire day. Staying around is useless. As you no doubt realize, the apparatus adheres closely to real time. In the most fortunate case we might hear something should Eckermann have returned to Goethe following the performance. I, for one, do not have the time to wait around for that to happen."
"How is it," the slightly skeptical Böffel asked, "that, of all speeches, we were able to listen to this one?"
"Pure chance," Pschorr responded. "The conditions, in particular the make-up of the machine and its positioning, happened to correspond to these and no other sound vibrations. I only took into account the fact that Goethe was sitting and the location of his chair."
"Oh please, please! Abnossah!" (Pomke, almost maenadic, was as if in a trance; for the first time she called him by his first name.) "Try it somewhere else! I can't hear enough of it--and even if it is only snoring!"
Abnossah put away the machine and locked the suitcase. He had become very pale: "My dear Anna--Madame," he corrected himself: "-- another time." (Jealousy of the old Goethe was eating him up inside.)
"How about Schiller's skull?" Böffel asked. "It would decide the dispute whether it is the real one."
"Indeed," Abnossah responded, "for if we heard Schiller, the Suebian, say in a broad Hessian accent `How about a glass of wine?' it wouldn't be Schiller's skull.--I am wondering whether the invention could be refined. Maybe I could manufacture a generic larynx that could be adjusted like an opera glass in order to be aligned with all kinds of possible vibrations. We could listen to antiquity and the Middle Ages and determine the correct pronunciation of old idioms. And respected fellow citizens who say indecent things out loud could be handed over to the police."
Abnossah offered Pomke his arm and they returned to the station. They cautiously entered the waiting room, but the locally known one had already left. "What if she let me have the larynx of her famous brother? But she won't do it, she'll claim the people aren't mature enough and that the literati lack the reverence of the people, and that nothing can be done. Beloved! Beloved! For (oh!) That! That is! That is what you are!"
But Pomke wasn't listening. She appeared to be dreaming.
"How he stresses the Rs!" she whispered apprehensively.
Abnossah angrily blew his nose; Anna started and asked him distractedly: "You were saying, dear Pschorr!? I am neglecting the master for his work! But the world subsides when I hear Goethe's own voice!"
They boarded the coach for their return journey. Pomke said nothing, Abnossah was brooding silently. After they had passed Halle, he threw the little suitcase with Goethe's larynx out of the window in front of an approaching train. "What have you done?" Pomke shrieked.
"Loved," Pschorr sighed, "and soon I will have lived--and destroyed my victorious rival, Goethe's larynx."
Pomke blushed furiously and, laughing, she vigorously threw herself into Abnossah's tightly embracing arms. At that moment the conductor entered and requested the tickets.
"God! Nossah!" murmured Pomke. "You have to get me a new larynx of Goethe, you have to--or else--"
"No or else! Après les noces, my dove!"
Prof. Dr. Abnossah Pschorr
Anna Pschorr, née Pomke
Currently at the "Elephant" in Weimar
This wedding announcement is truly a happy ending: it puts an end to classical-romantic poetry. In 1916 even "timid middle-class girls" like Anna Pomke come under the influence of professors like Pschorr, who as the "most skilled" of engineers of his day obviously teaches at the new Technological Institutes so vigorously promoted by Emperor Wilhelm II. The marriage to an engineer vanquishes the middle-class girl's infatuation with Goethe, which lyceums had been systematically drilling into them for over a century. Nothing less disappears than The Determination of Women for Higher Intellectual Development. Such was the title used by a certain Amalie Holst, who in 1802 demanded the establishment of girl schools responsible for turning women into mothers and readers of poets. Without the Anna Pomkes there would have been no German Classicism, and none of its principally male authors would have risen to fame.
Consequently, Pomke can only think of the old century when confronted with the technological innovations of the new one. As if to prove that the Soul or Woman of Classicism and Romanticism was an effect of automata, she laments the unstored disappearance of Goethe's voice with the very same sigh "Oh" (Ach) as the one uttered by the talking robot Olympia in Hoffmann's Sandman which, though it is the only word it can speak, suffices to underscore its soul. In Hegel's words: a female sigh or a "disappearance of being in the act of being" loves a male poetic capability or "disappearance of being in the act of being." And as if to prove that the voice is a partial object, Pomke praises Goethe's voice as "a beautiful organ." Which, in turn, not coincidentally makes the "psychiatrist" and "psychoanalyst" Prof. Pschorr "jealous," for all the power of classical authors over their female readers rested in the erection of that organ.
Not that middle-class girls were able to hear their master's voice. There were no phonographs "around 1800," and therefore none of the canine obedience for a real which became the trade mark of Berliner's gramophone company in 1902. Unlike Nipper, the dog that, upon hearing its dead master's voice, started sniffing at the bell-mouth of the phonograph, and whose vocal-physiological loyalty was captured in oil by the the painter Francis Barraud, the brother of the deceased, the loyalty of female classical-romantic readers was restricted to the imaginary--to their so-called imagination. They were forced to hallucinate Goethe's voice between the silent lines of his writing. It was not a coincidence that Friedrich Schlegel wrote to a women and lov+er that "one seems to hear what one is merely reading." In order to wholly become an author himself, women had to become readers and "appreciate the sacredness of words more than in the past."
[INSERT illustration p. 109: His Master's Voice)
"To the extent that graphism"--that is, in the shape of alphabetic writing--"is flattened onto the voice" (while in tribal cultures "it was inscribed flush with the body"), "body representation subordinates itself to word representation." But this "flattening induces a fictitious voice from on high that no longer expresses itself except in the linear flux," because at least since Gutenberg it announces the decrees of national bureaucracies.
Thus Anna Pomke's loving sigh confirms the theory of media and writing of the Anti-Oedipus.
Once the beautiful and fictitious, monstrous and unique organ of the poet-bureaucrat Goethe, which commanded an entire literary epoch, rose as an acoustic hallucination from the lines of its poems, things proceeds as desired. In 1819, Hoffmann's fairy tale Little Zaches noted what "extravagant poets...ask for": "First of all, they want the young lady to get into a state of somnambulistic rapture over everything they utter, to sigh deeply, roll her eyes, and occasionally to faint a trifle, or even to go blind for a moment at the peak of the most feminine femininity. Then the aforesaid young lady must sing the poet's songs to the melody that streams forth from her heart her heart" and, finally, in the Anti-Oedipus, reveal the secret of its media technology: that it is a fictitious elevated phallus born from the alphabet.
For timid middle-class girls, however, everything depended on literally going "blind" when faced with the materiality of printed letters; otherwise they could not provide them with a melody in the imaginary coming from their hearts (or pianos). In doing so, they surrendered unconditionally to the desires of classical-romantic poets. "Oh," Anna Pomke sighs from the bottom of her heart, "if only he could have spoken into a phonograph! Oh! Oh!"
A sigh which will hardly reach the ears of engineers. Pschorr can only discern a "groan" in her "oh," or vocal physiology instead of a heart. Around 1900, love's wholeness disintegrates into the partial objects of particular drives identified by Freud. Phonographs do not only store--like Kempelen's vowel machine or Hoffmann's Olympia--the one signified or trade mark of the soul. They are good for any kind of noise, from Edison's hearing-impaired screaming to Goethe's fine organ. With the demise of writing's storage monopoly comes to an end a love which was not only one of literature's many possible subjects, but also its very own media technology: since 1800 perfectly alphabetised female readers were able to endow letters with a beloved voice. But tracing primal sounds has, as Rilke put it, nothing to do with "the presence of mind and grace of love."
As a modern engineer who wants to spread his knowledge using everyday language, Prof. Pschorr minces no words: "Whenever Goethe spoke his voice produced vibrations as harmonious as the soft voice of your wife, dear reader." However, the fact that what Goethe had to say was "meaningful" enough to fill the 144 volumes of the Großherzogin-Sophien edition is irrelevant. Once again notions of frequency are victorious over works, heartfelt melodies, and signifieds. As if commenting on Pschorr, Rudolph Lothar writes at the outset of his Technica/l-aesthetic essay on The Speaking Machine:
Everything flows, Heraclitus says, and in light of our modern world view we may add: everything flows in waves. Whatever happens in the world, whatever we call life or history, whatever occurs as a natural phenomenon --- everything transpires in the shape of waves.
Rhythm is the most supreme and sacred law of the universe, the wave phenomenon is the primal and universal phenomenon.
Light, magnetism, electricity, temperature and finally sound are nothing but wave motions, undulations or vibrations [...]
The unit of measurement for all wave motions is the metre, the unit of time is the second. Frequencies are the vibrations registered within a metre per second. The frequencies of light, electricity and magnetism are taken to be identical, with approximately 700 trillion vibrations per second, their speed of propagation is 300 million metres per second.
The vibrations of sound exhibit significantly lower frequencies than those described above. The speed of propagation for sound is 332 metres per second. The deepest sound audible to human ears hovers around 8 vibrations, the highest about 40,000.
The new appreciation of waves, those very un-Goethean "primal and universal phenomena," can even result in a poetry which once more stresses the wave-like nature of all that occurs; as in the sonnet Radio Wave, which the factory carpenter Karl August Düppengießer of Stolberg submitted to Radio Cologne in 1928:
Wave, be aware of your many shapes,
and, all-embracing, weave
at the world's wheel, entrusted from above,
the new and wider spirit of the human race.
But engineers like Pschorr are ahead of "other people" and even of radio wave poets: their "spirits hail"--to quote the engineer-poet Max Eyth--"not from the world that was but from the one that will be." It is more efficient to use waves "to make things that were never made before" than to write sonnets about their many shapes. Pschorr makes use of laws of nature which, unlike the Panta rei of Heraclitus or of Goethe's "Permanence in Transition," are valid regardless of the reputation of so-called personalities, because they are based on measurements. The law of waves does not exclude the author of "Permanence in Transition." And because frequency spectrum and transmission speed of sound are so low, they are easy to measure. (To posthumously film Goethe would require recording technologies capable of recording in the teraherz range.)
With mathematical precision Pschorr recognizes the frequency of human voices to be a negative exponential function whose value even after centuries cannot be zero. In the phonographic realm of the dead spirits are always present--as sound signal amplitudes "in an extremely diminished state." "Speech has become, as it were, immortal," Scientific American pronounced immediately after Edison's invention under the headline A Wonderful Invention--Speech Capable of Infinite Repetitions from Automatic Records.
But although he invented a relatively sensitive powder microphone (as opposed to Hughes' carbon microphone), Edison was not able to access the dead. Because it was only equipped with a mechanical amplifier, his phonograph could do no more than record the last gasp of the dying--by using resonance in the recording bell-mouth. The low voltage exit of his microphone was increased somewhat by a relayed inductive circuit, but never approached the recording needle of the phonograph. Goethe's bass frequencies, vibrating in infinity between 100 and 400 hertz in his Weimar abode, remained unmeasurable. A catastrophic signal-noise ratio would have rendered all recordings worthless and, at best, provided primal sounds instead of Goethean diction.
Pschorr's optimism, therefore, rests on more advanced technologies. "A microphone to amplify" Goethe's "diminished voice" is based on the necessary but suppressed premise that infinite amplification factors could be applied. This became possible with Lieben's work of 1906 and deForest's of 1907. Lieben's controlled hot-cathode tube, in which the amplitude fluctuations of a speech signal influence the cathode current, and deForest's audion detector, which also added a third electrode to the circuit, were at the beginning of all radio technology. The electrification of the gramophone is due to them as well. Pschorr's miraculous microphone could only have worked with the help of tube-type technology. Short stories of 1916 require the most up-to-date technologies.
Pschorr has other problems. His concerns revolve around filtering, not amplification. Isolated from the word salad produced by visitors to the Goethehaus from Schiller to Kafka, his beloved is supposed to only receive her master's voice. Pschorr's solution is as simple as it is Rilkean: he, too, links media technology and physiology, that is, a phonograph and a skull. As the first precursor of the revolutionary media poets Brecht and Enzensberger, Pschorr assumes that transmitter and receiver are in principle reversible: just as "every transistor radio is, by the nature of its construction, at the same time a potential transmitter," and, conversely, any microphone a potential miniature speaker, even Goethe's larynx can be operated in normal and inverse fashion. Since speaking is no more than the physiological filtering of breath or noise, and the entry and exit of band pass filters are interchangeable, it will only admit those frequency mixtures which once escaped from it.
The one thing left to do for Prof. Pschorr to technologically implement this selectivity is to grasp the difference between arts and media. His early idea of fashioning a model of Goethe's larynx based on "pictures and busts" is doomed to failure, simply because art, be it painting or sculpture, only conveys "very vague impressions" of bodies.
Malte Laurids Brigge, the hero of Rilke's contemporaneous novel, is asked by his father's doctors to leave the room, while they (in accordance with the Master-of-the-Hunt's last request) perform a "perforation of the heart" on the corpse. But Brigge stays and watches the operation. His reason: "No, no, nothing in the world can one imagine beforehand, not the least thing. Everything is made up of so many unique particulars that cannot be foreseen. In imagination one passes them over and does not notice that they are lacking, hasty as one is. But the realities are slow and indescribably detailed."
From imagination to data processing, from the arts to the particulars of information technology and physiology--that is the historic shift of 1900 which Abnossah Pschorr must comprehend as well. He finds himself, not unlike Brigge at the death bed of his father and Rilke at the Parisian Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in the company of corpses. His profane illumination, after all, is that "Goethe was still around, if only in the shape of a corpse." Once more, the real replaces the symbolic--those allegedly "life-size and life-like busts and pictures" that only a Goethehaus director such as Hofrat Böffel could mistake for anatomical exhibits.
The reconstructed respiratory system of a corpse as band-pass filter, a microphone- and tube-type-enhanced phonograph as storage medium-- Pschorr is ready to go to work. He has engineered a crucial link between physiology and technology, the principal connection that served as the basis for Rilke's Primal Sound and all media conceptions at the turn of the century. It is only today's ubiquitous digitization which can afford to do without such "radicalness" that
in the case of Pschorr consisted in short-circuiting "cadavers" and machines. Once the stochastic of the real allows for encipherment, that is to say, for algorithms, Turing's laconic statement that there would be "little point in trying to make a `thinking machine' more human by dressing it up in artificial flesh,"[97 ]is validated.
In the founding days of media technology, however, everything centred on links between flesh and machine. In order to technologically implement (and thus render superfluous) the functions of the central nervous system, it first had to be reconstructed. Rilke's and Pschorr's projects are far removed from fiction.
To begin with, Scott's membrane phonautograph of 1857 was in all its parts a reconstructed ear. The membrane was derived from the ear drum and the stylus with the attached bristle from the ossicula.[98 ]
Second, "in 1839 the `great Rhenish physiologist' and Goethe's conversation partner Johannes Müller had removed the larynx from various corpses--the acquisition of which tended to be rather adventurous affairs--in order to study in concreto how specific vowel sounds were produced. When Müller blew into a larynx, it sounded `like a fairground whistle with a rubber membrane.' Thus the real answered from dismembered bodies." And thus, with his adventurous acquisition of parts of Goethe's corpse from the sanctuary of the royal tomb, Pschorr perfected experiments undertaken by Goethe's own conversation partner.
Third (and to remain close to Goethe and Pschorr), on 6 September 1839, the Frankfurt birth place of the German primal author witnessed a bold experiment. Philipp Reis had just finished his second lecture on telephone experiments when "Dr. Vogler, the saviour of the Goethehaus and founder of the Freie Deutsche Hochschulstift, presented the telephone to Emperor Joseph of Austria and King Maximilian of Bavaria, who were both in Frankfurt attending the royal council." As if the historic shift from literature to media technology had to be localized.
But as Reis himself wrote, his telephone produced "the vibrations of curves which were identical to those of a sound or a mixture of sounds," since "our ear can only perceive that which can be represented by similar curves; and this, in turn, is sufficient to make us conscious of any sound or mixture of sounds." However, in spite of all theoretical lucidity, Reis "had not been able to reproduce a human voice with sufficient clarity." Which is why, fourthly and finally. Alexander Graham Bell had to intervene.
A telephone ready for serial production capable of transmitting not just Reis's musical telegraphy or Kafka's sound of the sea, but speeches "in a clarity satisfactory to most everybody" did not exist until 1876. Two years earlier, the technician Bell, son of a phonetician, had consulted a physiologist and otologist. Clarence John Blake, MD., acquired two middle ears from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. And once Bell realized that "such a thin and delicate membrane" as the ear drum "could move bones that were, relatively to it, very massive indeed," the technological breakthrough was achieved. "At once the conception of a membrane speaking telephone became complete in my mind; for I saw that a similar instrument to that used as a transmitter could also be employed as a receiver."
It is precisely this interchangeability which decades later was to strike Pschorr, Brecht, Enzensberger e tutti quanti. Which is why Bell and Blake did not hesitate to undertake the last step: in the course of a single experimental procedure they coupled technology with physiology, steel with flesh, a phonautograph with corpse pieces. Wherever phones are ringing, a ghost resides in the receiver.
And there is no reason to spare the most illustrious name of German literature. Pschorr simply reverses the experiment of Blake and Bell a second time: the larynx as transmitting organ replaces the ear, the receiving organ. And while Pschorr turns the handle, Goethe's reconstructed corpse voices Goethe's verses. As if the "darkened chamber" from which all "friends" are to flee were a grave known as book.
So far, so good. Anatomical and technical reconstructions of language do not belong to fiction as long as they remain within Pschorr's exactly delineated boundaries: as the "repetition of a possibility, not of a reality." Immediately prior to Pschorr's reconstruction, Ferdinand de Saussure had based a new linguistics on the difference between langue and parole, language and speech, the possible combinations from a repository of signs and factual utterances. Once it was clear how many phonemes and what distinctive qualities made up Goethe's dialect, any conceivable sentence (and not only the Zahme Xenion chosen by Pschorr) could be generated. That is all there is to the concept of langue.
Once Saussure's Cours de linguistique générale turned into a general algorithm of speech analysis and production, microprocessors can extract the phonemic repository of speakers from their speeches without having to fear, as did the mediatechnological heroes of fore, the blood and poison of corpses. A Turing machine is no longer in need of artificial flesh. The analog signal is simply digitized, processed through a recursive digital filter, and its autocorrelation coefficients calculated and electronically stored. An analysis that continues Pschorr's band-pass filtering with more advanced means. A second step may involve all kinds of linguistic syntheses--once again the "repetition of a possibility" which computing logic has extracted from language. Instead of lungs and vocal chords we have two digital oscillators, a noise generator for unvoiced consonants and a controlled frequency generator for vowels or voiced sounds. Just as in human speech, a binary decision determines which of the two oscillators connects with the recursive filter. In turn, the autocorrelation coefficients derived from the speech analyses are by way of linear prediction directed towards the filters, an electronic simulation of the oral and nasopharyngeal cavity with all its echoes and running times. Now we only need a simple low-pass filter to translate the signal flow back into analog signals--and we are all as "strangely moved" or "deceived" by the arriving phoneme sequences as Anna Pomke.
But Pschorr wants more. In order to fulfill the desire of timid middle-class girls in its "entirety," he attempts an "actual replay of words actually spoken by Goethe." As if it were, half a century before Foucault, a matter of discourse analysis. As is known, The Archaeology of Knowledge is based on the Saussurian notion of language as "a finite body of rules that authorizes an infinite number of performances." "The field of discursive events, on the other hand, is a grouping that is always finite and limited at any moment to the linguistic sequences that have been formulated." Statements, then, "necessarily obey" a "materiality" which "defines possibilities of reinscription and transcription," as in Pschorr's real repetition.
But how exactly discourse repetition is to be achieved remains (at least in Pschorr's case) a professional secret. For once, Hofrat Böffel's sceptical inquiry, why "of all speeches we were able to listen to this one," is justified. After all, the air is full of sound waves caused by decades of Goethean speechifying. Citing Pschorr, another of Friedlaender's heroes claims that "all the waves of all bygone events are still oscillating in space." Pschorr's phonograph is confronted with a parallel data input which it would first have to convert into a serial arrangement, lest the sum of all Goethean discourses appear as so much white noise on the cylinder.
Stochastic signal analyses such as linear prediction or autocorrelation measurement may enable a technologically enhanced future to assign a time axis even to past events, provided that signal processors have been programmed with certain parameters concerning language, vocabulary, conversation topics etc. of the object under investigation. The chip production of Not-von-Neumann-machines has begun. But no machine in 1916 could have "adhered so closely" to real-time as to have captured Goethe' words in the exact sequence in which they were spoken in the course of one particular evening.
Which merely serves to show that all this electronic discourse proves the obvious: Friedlaender fabricated Goethe's phonographed speech. Mynona, the most nameless of authors, outdoes the most illustrious author by putting new words into his mouth. According to Goethe, literature was the "fragment of fragments" because "the least of what had happened and of what had been spoken was written down," and "of what had been written down, only the smallest fraction was preserved." According to Friedlaender, literature in the media age is potentially everything. His hero could supplement all the conversations Eckermann allegedly "withheld from us."
Especially a chapter from the Theory of Colours which (in spite of their common contempt for Newton) has more to do with Friedlaender than with Goethe. Friedlaender borrowed the Übermensch notion that "one's own will," united with the "magical sun-will," can "overpower fate" from his teacher Dr. Marcus who, in turn, borrowed it from Kant. "We are at the dawn of the magic of reason; it will make a machine of nature itself," proclaims Dr. Sucram, a palindrome of Marcus and hero of Friedlaender's cinema novel, while turning Goethe's theory of colour into Grey Magic, that is to say, the world into film.
At the same time that technology (to quote Sucram's antagonist, the film producer Morvitius) finally "moves from magic to machine," philosophy becomes delirious. Machines are supposed to turn back into magic. Pschorr and Sucram are inspired by a technified version of Kant's pure forms of intuition. "All that happens falls into accidental, unintentional receivers. It is stored, photographed and phonographed by nature itself." United with the spatial and temporal forms of intuition, "these accidental receivers only need to be turned into intentional ones in order to visualize--especially cinematographically, Morvitius--the entire past."
Loyally and deliriously, Friedlaender's philosophy follows in the wake of media technology. On 19 May 1900, Otto Wiener delivered his highly appropriate inaugural lecture on "The Extension of our Senses" by instruments. As with Friedlaender, his point of departure was the recognition that "in principle it would not be difficult to take stock of our entire knowledge by using self-recording machines and other automatic devices, thus creating a physical museum of automata." This museum would even be able to inform extra-terrestrial intelligence of "the level of our knowledge." In conclusion, however, Wiener declared that the "Kantian notions of the a priori nature of the perception of time and space are unnecessary." Media make Man, "that sublime culprit in the most serenely spiritual sense" of his philosophy, superfluous.
Which is why Friedlaender has Goethe's philosophical journey commence with "hissing, hemming and squeezing," only to end in "snoring." It may not be as random and mathematical as the "perfectly even and uninformative hiss" into which Turing's vocoder turned the radio speech of his commander in chief, but Goethe's "actually recorded" voice, too, belongs to the real. The fictional elevated phallus shrivels up. And once Pschorr has train wheels "defeat his victorious rival, Goethe's larynx," the engineer has finally beaten the author.
"The new phonograph," Edison told the staff of Scientific American in 1887, "is to be used for taking dictation, for taking testimony in court, for reporting speeches, for the reproduction of vocal music, for teaching languages," as well as "for correspondence, for civil and military orders" and "the distribution of the songs of great singers, sermons and speeches, the words of great men and women." Which is why since 1887 those great men and women can do without body snatchers like Pschorr.
To secure the world-wide distribution of these possibilities, Edison sent representatives into all the countries of the Old World. In England, the "willing victims" who "immortalized their voices in wax" included Prime Minister Gladstone, an Edison admirer of long standing, and the poets Tennyson and Browning. In Germany, Edison recruited Bismarck and Brahms, who by recording one of his Hungarian Rhapsodies removed it from the whimsy of future conductors. The young emperor Wilhelm II, however, did more than merely provide his voice. He inquired about all the machine's technical details, had it disassembled in his presence, then pushed aside Edison's representative and took it on himself to conduct the assembly and presentation in the presence of an astonished court. The military command--to freely paraphrase Edison--entered the age of technology.
And it was only after the heroic action of their emperor--who for reasons obviously related to naval strategy had studied radio telephony, founded the Telefunken company, and in what almost amounted to military prophecy prompted the construction of the AVUS as the first highway--that Germany's writers paid attention to the alphabetless trace. In 1897, the foreign office legation council and Wilhelmian state poet Ernst von Wildenbruch may have been the first to record a cylinder. Wildenbruch wrote a poem expressly for the occasion, "For the Phonographic Recording of His Voice." The history of its transmission says it all: it is not collected in the Collected Works. Professor Walter Bruch, who as chief engineer of AEG-Telefunken and inventor of the PAL television system had access to the archives of historical recordings, had to transcribe Wildenbruch's verses from the roll. They are quoted here in a format that will horrify poets, compositors, and literary scholars.
The human visage may be shaped, the eye be held fast in an image, only the bodiless voice, born in breath, fades and drifts away.
The fawning face can deceive the eye, the sound of the voice can never lie, thus it seems to me that the phonograph is the soul's true photograph,
which brings what is hidden to light and forces the past to speak. Hear, then, in the sound of this poem the soul of Ernst von Wildenbruch.
Even the copious writer Wildenbruch did not always rhyme so poorly. His phonographic verses sound as if they had been improvised in front of the bell-mouth without the benefit of any written draft. For the first time since time immemorial, when minstrels combined their formulaic or memorized words into entire epics, bards were in demand again. Which is why Wildenbruch was bereft of written language.
Poetry, the last philosopher and first media theoretician Nietzsche wrote, is like literature in general simply a mnemotechnology. In 1882, The Gay Science remarked under the heading On the Origin of Poetry:
In those ancient times in which poetry came into existence, the aim was utility, and actually a very great utility. When one lets rhythm permeate speech --- the rhythmic force that reorders all the atoms of the sentence, bids one choose one's words with care, and gives one's thoughts a new colour, making them darker, stranger, and more remote --- the utility in question was superstitious. Rhythm was meant to impress the gods more deeply with a human petition, for it was noticed that men remember a verse much better than ordinary speech. It was also believed that a rhythmic tick-tock was audible over greater distances; a rhythmical prayer was supposed to get closer to the ears of the gods.
At the origin of poetry with its beats, rhythms (and in modern European languages rhymes) were technological problems and a solution which came about under oral conditions. Unrecognized by all philosophical aesthetics, the storage capacity of memory was to be increased and the signal-noise-ratio of channels improved. (Humans are so forgetful and gods so hard of hearing.) The fact that verses could be written down hardly changed this necessity. Texts stored by the medium book were still supposed to find their way back to the ears and hearts of their recipients in order to attain (not unlike the way Freud or Anna Pomke had envisioned it) the indestructibility of a desire.
These necessities are obliterated by the possibility of technological sound storage. It suddenly becomes superfluous to employ rhythmical tick-tock (as in Greece) or rhyme (as in Europe) to endow words with a duration beyond their evanescence. Edison's talking machine stores the most disordered sentence atoms and its cylinders transport them over the greatest distances. The poet Charles Cros may have immortalized the invention of his phonograph, precisely because he was never able to build it, in lyrical rhymes under the proud title Inscription--Wildenbruch, that plain consumer, is in a different position. "For the Phonographic Recording of His Voice" no longer requires any poetic means. Rather than dying and fading away, his voice reaches one of today's engineers. Technology triumphs over mnemotechnology. And the death-bell tolls for poetry that for so long had been the love of so many.
Under these circumstances writers are left with few options. They can, like Mallarmé or Stefan George, exorcize the imaginary voices from between the lines and inaugurate a cult of and for letter fetishists, in which case poetry becomes a form of typographically optimized blackness on exorbitantly expensive white paper: Un coup de dès or a throw of the dice. Or they can for marketing reasons move from imaginary voices, such as Anna Pomke had hallucinated in Goethe's verses to real ones, in which case a poetry of nameless song writers appears, or reappears, on records. Illiterates in particular are their prime consumers, because what under oral conditions required at least some kind of mnemotechnology is now fully automatized. "The more complicated technology, the simpler," that is, the more forgetful, "we can live." Records turn and turn until phonographic inscriptions inscribe themselves into brain physiology. We all know hits and rock songs by heart precisely because there is no reason to memorize them anymore.
In order to provide a demographically exact account of The Employees, including their nocturnal activities, Siegfried Kracauer becomes acquainted with a typist, "for whom it is characteristic that she cannot hear a piece of music in a dance hall or a suburban café without chirping along its text. But it is not as if she knows all the hits, rather, the hits know her, they catch up with her, killing her softly."
Only two years or steps separate this sociology From the Newest Germany from fictional heroes such as in Irmgard Keun's Rayon Girl of 1932, who (obviously under the influence of Kracauer) turn into poets (and in Berlin into prostitutes) when listening to the gramophone or the radio. For it is not the typewriter, in front of which the rayon employee Doris spends her days, that turns an entertainment consumer into a producer. Only when she and her current lover hear "music from the radio" and listen to "Vienna, My One and Only," does she "feel like a poet" who "can also rhyme," "if only in limits."[122 ]And if "a gramophone next door" should be playing in the moonlight, "something wonderful takes hold of her": listening to a hit, Doris first of all has the feeling "of making a poem," and then she decides to write an autobiography or even a novel.
I think it is good when I describe everything because I am an uncommon person. I am not thinking of a diary --- that would be ridiculous for an up-to-date girl of eighteen. But I want to write like a movie, because that's the way my life is and it will soon be more so. (...) And when I later read it, it will be like a movie--I will see myself in images.
With great precision entertainment novels (including those of Keun) describe their own medial conditions of production. The medium gramophone has as its effect a type of poetry which is nothing but the inside of its outside. Skipping all textuality it jumps straight into the medium film..
My heart is a gramophone, playing excitedly with a sharp needle in my breast... Music comes from the movies, records which are passing on human voices. And all are signing...[124 ]
Novels which arise from hits in order to end in movies are part of the "Literature of Nonreaders" reviewed by, of all journals, Die literarische Welt (The literary world) in 1926:
This, the literature of nonreaders, is the most widely read literature in the world. Its history has not yet been written. Nor do I feel quite up to the task myself. I would simply like to make reference to one of its branches: poetry. For the literature of non-readers, like "our" own, has a special category for poetry.
Every couple of weeks there is a survey: "Who is the most beloved poet of the year?" Every time, the question is answered incorrectly. The ones we know are not even considered.. Neither Rilke nor Cäsar Flaischgen, not Goethe, and not Gottfried Benn. Rather: Fritz Grünbaum ("When You Can't, Let Me Do it!"), Schanzer and Welisch ("If You See My Aunt"), Beda ("Yes, We Have No Bananas"), Dr Robert Katscher ("Madonna, You' Are More Beautiful than the Sunshine)"--and who else? A lot more--before Flaischgen, Rilke and Benn come up.
"The 222 newest hits--that is the most popular poetry anthology of all. The contents are revised and expanded every two months. And the whole thing costs just ten cents. Here there is only one genuine type of poem: the love poem. Girls, women, females--other topics are not favoured.
Even if all the names on both sides of the debate have long since changed, this remains a very exact appraisal. Following the invention of technical sound storage, the effects poetry had on its audience migrate to the new lyrics of hit parades and charts. Their texts would rather be anonymous than deprived of royalties, their recipients illiterate rather than deprived of love. At the same time, however, media technology's precise differentiation brings about a modern poetry that can do without all supplementary sensualities ranging from song to love because--according to a remark of Oscar Wilde's as ironic as it is appropriate--it is not read. And this remains the case even when Rilke plans poetic coronal suture phonography or Benn writes poems which consciously set themselves apart from the entertainment industry. For Benn's poems can merely note but not verify that records and movies are part of a present which outpaces our cultural critics. Otherwise, his poems would be as successful, anonymous, and forgotten as the hits they sing about:
A popular hit is more 1950
than five hundred pages of cultural crisis.
At the movies, to which you can take along hat and coat,
there is more fire water than on the Kothurn
and without the annoying intermission.
Low-brow and high-brow culture, professional technology and professional poetry--: the
[INSERT illustrations and captions pp. 129ff.:
129: Edison's notebook, 7 September 1877
Talking and singing doll
First speech recording 1877
The mouth was tightly linked to the membrane moving the embossing point
The voice of Henry Sweet
Emile Berliner's second patent writing
First mass-produced record player (model of 1890)
Stroh violine 1899. The inventor was the electrical engineer John Matthias Augustus Stroh.
RCA-Victor recording session
`On the banks of the Rhine' 1911
: Futurist laboratory, 1914
Dermée, Prampolini and Seuphor, Paris 1927
[facing p. 129] Sound-detection apparatus from the First World War
founding age of modern media left us with those two options. Wildenbruch's third way was eliminated. "Hear, then, in the sound of this poem the soul of Ernst von Wildenbruch," the imperial state poet rhymed, as if one could simultaneously speak into technological machines and claim an immortal name. From sound back to poem, from poem back to soul--that is the impossible desire to reduce the real (the physiology of a voice) to the symbolic, and the symbolic (an articulated speech) to the imaginary. The wheel of media technology cannot be turned back to retrieve the soul, the imaginary of all classical-romantic poetry. What effectively remains of Wildenbruch in "For the Phonographic Recording of His Voice" is nothing but noise, posthumous already during his lifetime. Record grooves dig the grave of the author. Wildenbruch pulls all the stops of the imaginary and the symbolic, of his immortal soul and his aristocratic name, so as not to have to speak of his speaking body. "By virtue of our bodies"--Paul Zumthor's theory of oral poetry states--"we are time and place: the voice, itself an emanation of our physicality, does not cease to proclaim it." Upon replaying the old cylinder of 1897, it is a corpse that speaks.
Between or before low-brow and high-brow culture, between record sings and experimental poetry, there is only one third party: science. When Wildenbruch spoke into the bell-mouth, the phonograph stored indices rather than poems. And these indices speak precisely to the extent that their sender cannot manipulate them. This, at least, the poet performing "The Phonographic Recording of His Voice" seemed to have been aware of: because "the sound of the voice can never lie," its technological storage reveals the "hidden" and makes the "past"--the corpse of a Wildenbruch or a Goethe--speak.
[INSERT illustration p. 130: Protoype of receiver (Bell & Clarke, 1874)
Edison saw his phonograph "pressed into the detective service and used as an unimpeachable witness" in court. With technological media, a knowledge assumes power that is no longer satisfied with the individual universals of its subjects, their self-images and self-representations--these imaginary formations--but instead registers distinguishing particulars. As Carlo Ginzburg has shown in "Clues and Scientific Method," this new knowledge rules Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Homes, that is, aesthetics, psychoanalysis and criminology. However, Ginzburg fails to see that the shift in power technologies simply follows the switch from writing to media. Books had been able to store and convey the imaginary body self-images entertained by individuals. But unconsciously treacherous signs like fingerprints, pitch, foot tracks etc. fall into the purview of media without which they could neither be stored nor evaluated. Francis Galton's dactyloscope and Edison's phonograph are contemporaneous allies.
Wildenbruch appears to have suspected as much, or else his verses would not refer to the phonograph as the soul's own true photograph. His paranoia is justified. A phonographically recorded state poet no longer enters a pantheon of immortal writers, but rather one of the countless evidence-gathering agencies which since 1880 have been controlling our so-called social behaviour, that is, all the data and signs that are by necessity beyond our control. The good old days in which a self-controlled and "flattering" face could "fool" eyes equally bereft of media are over. Rather, all the sciences of trace detection confirm Freud's statement that "no mortal can keep a secret" because "betrayal oozes out of him at every pore". And because (we may add) since 1880, there is a storage medium for each kind of betrayal. Otherwise there would be no unconscious.
In 1908, the psychologist William Stern publishes a Summary of Deposition Psychology. This new science is designed to cleanse the oral depositions of court protocols, medical reports, personal files and school reports from all guile and deceit on the part of the speakers. Old European, that is to say, literary means of power are not immune from deception. Whether for criminals or for the insane--the traditional "stylized depositions often produce a false impression of the examination and obscure the psychological significance of individual statements." As each answer "is, from the point of view of experimental psychology, a reaction to the operative stimulus in the question," experimenters and investigators provoke countermeasures in their subjects as long as they use the bureaucratic medium of writing. An argument made by the stimulus-response psychologist Stern that, sixty years later, is reiterated by interaction psychologists like Watzlawick (despite all criticism of the stimulus-response scheme).[132 ]Which is why examiners of 1908 recommend "the use of the phonograph as an ideal method" and those of 1969 recommend tapedecks.[134
]In 1905, the Viennese psychiatrist Erwin Stransky, quietly anticipating his colleague Stern, published a study on Speech Disturbances. In order to contribute to the knowledge of such disturbances among the Mentally Ill and Mentally Healthy, German psychiatry for the first time avails itself of the ideal method of phonography. For one minute (the recording time for one roll) Stansky had his subjects "look and speak directly into the black tube" after "all extraneous sense stimuli," that is, all the psychological problems of deposition, had been eliminated. Whatever they say is completely irrelevant. The "aim" of the whole experiment "consists in shutting out all general concepts."[136 ]To test "concepts like `speaking at odds', `hodgepodge', `thinking out loud', `hallucination' etc.," the subjects must abandon their so-called thinking. In Stransky's phonographic experiment, "language," in its "relative autonomy from the psyche," takes the place of general concepts or signifieds, as if intending to prepare or facilitate a key concept of modern literature.
Media technology could not proceed in a more exact fashion. Thanks to the phonograph, science is for the first time in possession of a machine that records noises regardless of so-called meaning. Written protocols were always unintentional selections of meaning. The phonograph, however, draws out those speech disturbances psychiatry is concerned with. Stransky's fine statement that "the formation of general concepts" could be inhibited "for pathological or experimental reasons," is a euphemism. The "or" should be replaced by an equal sign. All the more so because the splendidly consistent Stransky not only places psychiatric patients in front of the machine, but also, to collect comparative data, his own colleagues, the doctors. In the case of the latter, the ensuing hodgepodge was, needless to say, related to experimental reasons, while the patients had their pathological reasons. But the fact that psychiatrists, too, immediately produce a whole lot of nonsense when speaking into a phonograph, thereby relinquishing the professional status that distinguishes them from madmen, fully demonstrates the machine's power. Mechanization relieves people of their memories and permits a linguistic hodgepodge hitherto stifled by the monopoly of writing. The rules governing rhyme and metre Wildenbruch employs to arrange his words when speaking into the phonograph; the general concepts Stransky's colleagues use to arrange theirs during the first test runs--Edison's invention renders them all historically obsolete. The epoch of nonsense, our epoch, can begin.
This nonsense is always already the unconscious. Everything that speakers, because they are speaking, cannot also think, flows into recording devices whose storage capacity is only surpassed by their indifference. "The point could be made"--a certain Walter Baade remarked in 1913 On the Recording of Self-Observations by Dictaphones--"that such an exertion is unnecessary, because it is not a matter of recording all remarks but only the important ones--this, however, fails to realize that, first of all, utterances of great importance are often made by subjects in moments when they themselves believe only to have made a casual remark and the examiner is altogether unprepared for an important comment, and that, secondly, even when both parties are aware that at least some part of a remark is `important,' the decision what should and should not be recorded by the protocol is frequently very difficult and, subsequently, has a disturbing effect. For the most part, these two aforementioned reasons make the uninterrupted indiscriminate recording of all utterances appear as an ideal."
Presumably the first to follow this ideal is a fictional psychiatrist of 1897. Bram Stoker's Dracula, that perennially misjudged heroic epic of the final victory of technological media over the blood-sucking despots of old Europe, features a certain Dr Seward, who is baffled by the nonsensical discourse produced by his schizophrenic patient Renfield. The latter keeps screaming that the master is approaching, but Dr Seward has no way of knowing that this refers to Dracula's arrival in England. However, in the wake of a profane illumination anticipating Dr Stransky, Dr Seward resorts to media technology. He purchases one of the recently mass-produced phonographs, not to record (as Stransky did) the patient, but rather his own associations triggered by the latter's speeches. The grooves store, to quote Seward's succinct and precise description, an "unconscious cerebration" which divines the subconscious of the schizophrenic, but which cannot advance all the way to the psychiatrist's ego. It is only (as Baade put it) the uninterrupted indiscriminate recording of all utterances or associations which will allow Dr Seward's unconscious cerebration "to give the wall to [its] conscious brother." And only the typed transcription of all cylinders, recommended as early as 1890 by Dr Blodgett, by a certain Minna Harker will reveal to him and all the others hunting Dracula that the Count himself was behind Renfield's schizophrenic nonsense.
Since 1897, the year of Dracula's publication, this procedure no longer belongs to the realm of fiction. A science emerges which turns it and all its particulars into a method: psychoanalysis.
As is known, Freud's talking cure is based on a segmentation of speech. On the one hand, patients lying on the couch speak--at least that's what they believe-- according to classic discourse rules: A Kantian-type ego has to be able to accompany all my representations and provide for correct words and sentences, which, unfortunately, say nothing about the patient. On the other hand, many minor symptoms emerge in the flow of speech--interruptions and paralalia, nonsensical words and puns--in which (to paraphrase Stransky) for pathological or experimental reasons the formation of general concepts has not occurred and a subconscious appears. Subsequently, the attentive doctor need only separate nonsense from sense like wheat from the chaff (and not the other way around). He feeds the parapraxes back to the patient, thus triggering new associations and parapraxes, which once again are fed back and so on, until an ego in control of speech has been dethroned and the unspeakable truth can be heard.
Around 1900, only media theoreticians play as revolutionary a part as the physician Freud. Experimenting with telephones and phonographs, Hermann Gutzmann, a lecturer in speech disorders in Berlin, discovers that the prompting of nonsense words to his patients produces nothing but parapraxes. Precisley because both machines--due to transmission economy or technical imperfections--limit the frequency band of language on either end, what subjects "understand" can differ from what they "heard." Gutzmann speaks nonsense syllables like "bage" or "zoses" into the mouthpiece, the ear at the other end receives "lady" or "process."[144 ]A simple question brings to light an unconscious. And the research On Hearing and Understanding is able to "answer the question what such experiments may mean for experimental psychology":
First of all, it is evident that using fake words stimulates the combinatory powers to such a degree that even against his will the listener is forced to replace the nonsense syllables he has heard with those words which are closest in his mind, in the pertinent constellation of ideas, that is, to hear the latter in the former. This can be seen very clearly in the protocol of subject 1, a fickle eighteen-year old who is deeply in love; he is attracted by everything feminine, and the many girls' names and an additional "lady" make his constellation of ideas easily recognizable. This also applies to the fake French words of the two "well-educated young ladies". If we wanted to conduct phonographic tests aimed at discovering certain suspected trains of thought, we would only need to use syllables sounding like the corresponding words as stimuli in order to arrive at the positive or negative result.
Freud turns Gutzmann's simple suggestion into his explicit goal and imaginary constellations into the subconscious. In other words, he himself takes the place of phonographic tests. And for good reason: the psychoanalyst in his chair would also be faced with the problem of repressing or filtering the communication of an alien subconscious with his own subconscious, had he not from the very beginning turned his ears into a technical apparatus. Unlike Gutzmann's subjects, Freud's patients fall from sense into nonsense; yet their doctor is not allowed to use his understanding to turn it back into sense. For that reason, Freud's Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psychoanalysis simply amount to telephony:
Just as the patient must relate everything that his self-observation can detect, and keep back all the logical and affective objections that seek to induce him to make a selection from among them, so the doctor must put himself in a position to make use of everything he is told for the purposes of interpretation... without substituting a censorship of his own for the selection that the patient has foregone. To put it in a formula, he must turn his own unconscious like a receptive organ towards the transmitting unconscious of the patient. He must adjust himself to the patient as a telephone receiver is adjusted to the transmitting microphone. Just as the receiver converts back into sound-waves the electric oscillations in the telephone line which were set up by sound waves, so the doctor's unconscious is able, from the derivatives of the unconsciousness which are communicated to him, to reconstruct that unconscious, which has determined the patient's free associations.
The fictional Dr. Seward had been obliged to first record his unconscious associations, which traced those of another unconscious, before he was able to arrive at a conscious interpretation upon replaying them. In exactly the same way the historical Dr. Freud turns into a telephone receiver. Following the nationalization of the Vienna telephone exchange in 1895, he not only has a telephone installed in his study, but also describes the work that goes on in that study in terms of telephony. As if "psychic apparatus," Freud's fine neologism or supplement for the antiquated soul, were to be taken literally, the unconscious coincides with electric oscillations. Only an apparatus like the telephone can transmit its frequencies, because each encoding in the bureaucratic medium of writing would be subject to the filtering and censoring effects of a consciousness. Under media conditions, however, "selection and refusal," to quote Rilke, are no longer permissible.[148 ]Which is why the conscientious deposition psychologist Freud abstains from note-taking during his sessions; instead--and much like Dr. Seward listening to his cylinders--he produces them later.
The question remains, however, how the telephone receiver Freud can retain the communication from another unconscious. The phonograph owners Drs Seward, Stransky and Gutzmann are not faced with this problem since they are in possession of a storage medium. Producing psychoanalytic case studies, that is, putting into writing what patients said, requires that one record whatever the two censors on and behind the couch want to render unsaid: parapraxes, puns, slips, signifier jokes. Only technological media can record the nonsense that (with the one exception of Freud) technological media alone were able to draw out into the open. Freud's telephone analogy elides this point. Nonetheless, his principle that consciousness and memory are mutually exclusive[150 ]formulates this very media logic. For that reason, it is consistent to define psychoanalytic case studies, in spite of their written format, as media technologies. Freud introduces his Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria with the audacious avowal that his written "record" of hysterical speeches has a "high degree of trustworthiness" though it is "not absolutely--phonographically--exact."
Evidently, psychoanalysis is competing with technological sound recording. Its enemy or image is the phonograph and not film, as Benjamin concluded from global parallels.[152 ] Neither as a word nor as a subject does film occur in Freud's writings. Rather, psychoanalytic texts are haunted by the absolute faithfulness of phonography. Thus, Freud's method of detecting unconscious signifiers in oral discourse and then interpreting these signifiers as letters of a grand rebus or syllable puzzle, appears as the final attempt to establish writing under media conditions. While women, children and madmen simply stop reading assigned novels and desert to the movies like to a "Couch of the Poor," psychoanalysis once again teaches them letters which, however, are signifiers devoid of all meaning and phantasms. As a science it performs what Mallarmé or George inaugurate as modern literature.
In his own words, Berliner's Gramophone holds on to the sound of letters; conversely, Freud's psychoanalysis holds on to the letters of sound. While the entertainment industry transmits speech flows, the factual data input of every talking cure, and his teacher Brücke, the ancestor of German speech physiology, analyses them as such, Freud writes down their signifiers. His justification: unlike any street urchin, he "could not imitate" all the stuttering, clicking of the tongue, gasping and groaning of his female hysterics. Which is why psychoanalysis is "not absolutely--phonographically--exact"; and why "[r]eality will always remain `unknowable.'"[158 ]
[INSERT illustration p. 140: Transcription of the phonogramm of a schizophrenic, 1899][ ]
A global success that falls short of the absolute or real has only one precondition: patients, who thanks to the telephonic and equidistant receptivity of Freuds' unconscious may indulge in any kind of babble as long as they stick to the everyday medium of orality, are themselves not allowed to make use of storage technologies, lest they incur the wrath of psychoanalysis, the discrete textual recording of contractually arranged indiscretions.[159
]Concerning "The Employment of Dream-Interpretation in Psychoanalysis" its inventor notes that it would be a mistake to let patients write down their own dreams. "For even if the text of a dream is in this way labouriously rescued from oblivion, it is easy enough to convince oneself that nothing thereby has been achieved for the patient. Associations will not come to the text, and the result is the same as if the dream had not been preserved."[160 ]The storage medium writing fails once it is utilized by the patient and not by the analyst. To turn speech flows into syllable puzzles or "letters," which "do not occur in nature," remains the monopoly of the scientist seated in his chair. Precisely because a dream text already amounts to half an interpretation, it can no longer draw ideas or speech flows out of the sick unconscious. As a result of this drainage, writing assumes the transitoriness of orality; it is consumed by oblivion. And thus psychoanalysis establishes with self-recursive elegance the renown and status of its own text. In 1932, Freud's writing are awarded the Goethe prize.
"Should we let Patients write down their own Dreams?" Karl Abraham asks in an essay of 1913 that appears to confirm Freud's authoritarian words with examples from the couch practise. "Against the doctor's orders" one of Abraham's patients "put writing materials next to his bed" and, following a "a very extensive, eventful and highly charged dream," brought "two quarto pages full of notes" to the session. But to his own shame and the delight of Abraham he realizes "that the notes are almost completely illegible."[162 ]The psychoanalyst's love of nonsensical speeches has no written or cryptographic equivalent. As is well known, only printed works of literature solicit interpretations, not so illegible commonplaces.
But in spite of its title and veneration for Freud, Abraham's essay does not limit itself to the old medium of writing. Something far more modern and "ingenious" caused the essay to be written or shocked: a phonograph in the hands of a patient.
Observation. 2nd patient, who in response to his question was advised by me not to write down dreams, produces a whole series of dreams in the following nights. Upon awakening --- in the middle of the night --- he ingeniously tries to save from oblivion the dreams he considers important. He owns an apparatus for recording dictations and proceeds to speak the dreams into the bell-mouth. Characteristically, he forgets that for the last couple of days the machine has been malfunctioning. As a result the dictation is difficult to understand. Patient is forced to fill in a lot from memory. The dictation had to be complemented by the dreamer's memory! The dream analysis proceeded without notable resistance, thus we can assume that in this particular case the dream would have been retained even without any recording.
The patient, however, was not convinced by this experience and instead repeated the experiment one more time. Following a dream-filled night, the machine, which in the meantime had been repaired, delivered a clearly audible dictation. But according to the patient its content was so confused that he had difficulties enforcing some kind of order. As the succeeding nights furnished a bounty of dreams which centred on the same complexes and could be reproduced without artificial aid, this case, too, proved the uselessness of immediate recording.
In terms of deposition psychology, a patient who no longer writes down but phonographically records his dreams is on the same level as his psychoanalyst. No writing material or filter interposes itself between the unconscious and its storage, no consciousness making the "selections" disdained by Freud creates order. Reason enough to bring along the repaired machine to the session and set it up next to the couch. Then the patient would be free to go for a walk while his phonograph--to paraphrase Kafka--could exchange dream-related information with the telephone receiver called doctor. But no, pre-programmed by the analyst's instructions, Abraham's patient, for a change, reverses the judgement deposition psychology had passed on phonography, its ideal method: audible to the ear and the unconscious, but confused and useless when it comes to content and level of consciousness. Thus, the historic opportunity to test during Freud's lifetime what distinguishes absolute--phonographic--faithfulness from medical reproduction without artificial aid is missed
The test did not take place until 1969, when Edison's awkward machine was replaced by mass-produced magnetophones. Jean-Paul Sarte receives (and publishes) an anonymous tape with an enclosed letter which suggests that the recording be entitled Psychoanalytic Dialogue. A., a thirty-three year old patient in a lunatic asylum, smuggled a tape recorder into his last session and recorded everything: associations, interpretations and ultimately the terror of the doctor upon discovering the machine:
Dr. X : Help! Murder! Helllp! Helllp!
A : Shut up and sit down.
Dr. X : Hellllllp! (screams again)
A : You're afraid I'm going to cut off your weenie?
Dr. X : Helllllllp! (That's the most beautiful scream of them all.)
A : That's a funny recording!
Indeed. For the first time a machine in the hand of the patient has replaced case studies, that is to say, essays from the hands of doctors. A "large part" of the conversation may be lost "due to the noise of the recording,"[166 ]but finally all those data are recorded that Freud, orally or on paper, was unable to imitate. Subject to neither selection nor refusal, a speech -- that of the psychoanalyst himself--is perpetuated as pure voice physiology.
As a result of which-- according to the editor Sartre--"the analyst now becomes an object" and "the encounter of man with man is thwarted once again." (From an existentialist perspective, psychoanalysis was itself already a form of alienation.)[167
]Writers faced with media and philosophers faced with technology are blind. As if so-called face-to-face communication could do without rules or interfaces, storage or channels, Man has to once again see to it that information systems are ignored. What Sartre calls the second alienation is simply the demolition of a monopoly. In the hand of the patient the tape recorder advances on a notation technique which could never be "absolutely--phonographically--exact" and which therefore once more re-enacted Old Europe under technologically advanced conditions: On the one hand patients, who unlike bygone illiterates are able to read and write but are not allowed to; on the other hand highly professional writers guarding and monopolizing their archives as if universal literacy or even media technology were some pie in the sky. According to Foucault, "the political credit of psychoanalysis" rested on the fact that it opposed the unrestricted "extension and intensification of micro-powers," which not even Foucault designated as media technologies, with "the system of law, the symbolic order, and sovereignty". This law, however, from Freud's "Mystic Writing-Pad" to Lacan's "Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious," is writing about writing, alphabetized monopoly squared. Only psychoanalysts (they say) can write what does not cease not to write itself.
But the beat must go on. Technology and industry do no tolerate any delay simply because a couple of writers or psychoanalysts are sticking to white paper. From Edison's primitive phonograph cylinders all the way to popular music, the true lyrics of the present, everything went like clockwork. Berliner's record of 1887, which no longer allowed consumers to make their own recordings but which, since 1893, allowed producers infinite reproductions of a single metal matrix, became the "prerequisite of the record mass market" with a turnover that already exceeded the 100 million dollar mark before the advent of the radio. The mass-produced sound storage medium only needed mass-produced communication and recording media to gain global ascendancy. Far removed from old notions of sovereignty, all the powers of this and only of this century are striving to reduce the "population's leadership vacuum" (to quote a German media expert of 1939) to zero.
[INSERT illustration p. 146 with csaption: Edward Kienholz, Concrete Box (detail), 1975)
Broadcasting of weightless material came about for the purpose of mass transmission of records: in 1921 in the US, in 1922 in Great Britain, and in 1923 in the German Reich. "The uniting of radio with phonograph that constitutes the average radio program yields a very special pattern quite superior in power to the combination of radio and telegraph press that yields our news and weather programs." While Morse signs are much too discrete and binary to be a symbolic code for radio waves, the continuous low frequencies of records are ideal for the amplitude and frequency modulations known as broadcasting.
In 1903 a principal switch for transmitting such records was achieved by Professor Slaby of the Berlin Technical University, whose Voyages of Discovery into the Electric Ocean delighted "His Imperial Majesty's dinner table at tranquil Hubertusstock." The same Imperial Majesty put Slaby's assistant Count von Arco in charge of Telefunken Ltd. Based on Valdemar Poulsen's procedure the two Berliners were able to produce a high frequency, whose wireless oscillations "were no longer in the range of audibility but delighted the electrician as much as the thrice-accented C of a famous tenor would a music lover." On this radio carrier frequency "Caruso's singing, though emanating from the bell-mouth of a gramophone, could be transmitted in all its purity to our ears through the roaring metropolis": that is, all the way from Sakrow to Potsdam. Slaby's choice of tenors was not coincidental: on 18 March 1902, Caruso had revamped his immortality--from the hearsay of future opera audiences to gramophony.
Slaby and Arco, however, were conducting their research in the service of the emperor and his navy. But soon civilians, too, came to enjoy electrically transmitted records. A recording of Händel's Messiah is said to have been part of the first actual radio broadcast hosted by Reginald A. Fessenden of the University of Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve 1906. Long before the St. Petersburg revolutionaries, Brant Rock, Massachusetts, had started its broadcast with "CQ, CQ -- to all, to all" -- but only wireless operators on ships were able to receive the call and the Christmas record.
[INSERT illustration of de Forests' audion, p. 148)
A world war, the first of its kind, had to break out in order to facilitate the switch from Poulsen's arc transmission to Lieben or deForest's tube-type technology and mass-produce Fessenden's experimental procedure. It was not only in Germany, where the signal corps created in 1911 went to war with 550 officers and 5800 men but returned with 4831 officers and 185,000 men, that the development of amplifier tubes was given the highest priority. Fighter planes and submarines, the two new weapons systems, required wireless communication, just as military command required vacuum tube technology for the control of high and low frequencies. Tanks, however, which were equally in need of communication, kept losing their antennas in the barbed wire of the trenches and for the time being had to make do with carrier pigeons.
But exponentially growing radio troops were also in need of entertainment, since apart from machine-gun skirmishes and drumfire offensives trench warfare is nothing but sensory depravation--or War as Inner Experience, as Jünger so succinctly put it. After three years of waste land between Flanders and the Ardennes the military staffs--the British ones in Flanders and a German one in Rethel in the Ardennes--had pity on their troops. Though trench crews had no radios, they were in possession of "army radio equipment." Beginning in May 1917, Dr Hans Bredow, an AEG engineer before the war and afterwards the first undersecretary for the national German radio network, was able to "use a primitive tube transmitter to broadcast a radio program consisting of records and the reading of newspaper articles. The project, however, was cancelled when a superior command post got wind of it and prohibited the `abuse of army equipment' for any future broadcast of music or words!"
But that's the way it goes. The entertainment industry is, in any conceivable sense of the word, an abuse of army equipment. When Karlheinz Stockhausen was mixing his first electronic composition Kontakte in the Cologne Studio of the Westdeutsche Rundfunk between February 1958 and fall 1959, the pulse generator, indicating amplifier, pass-band filter as well as the sine and square wave oscillators were made up of discarded US Army equipment: an abuse that produced a distinctive sound. A decade later, when the Cologne studio had at its disposal professionally developed audio electronic equipment and the record industry demanded that Kontakte attain Hi-Fi-stereo quality, Stockhausen attempted in vain to reproduce the sound: as an echo of a world war it could not do without the abuse of military equipment.
And what is true microcosmically is also true macrocosmically. In November 1918, the 190,000 radio operators of the imperial German army were demobilized but kept their equipment. Supported or supervised by the executive of the USPD (the Independent Socialist Party), the inspectorate of the technical division of the signal corps (Itenacht) founded a Central Broadcasting Bureau (ZFL), which on 25 November was granted a broadcasting license by the executive committee of the workers and soldiers council. A "radio spectre" which could have nipped the Weimar Republic in the technological bud triggered the immediate "counterattack" by Dr Bredow. For the simple purpose of avoiding the anarchistic abuse of military radio equipment, Germany received its entertainment radio network. Records that hitherto had been used to liven up military communication in the trenches of the Ardennes now came into their own. Otherwise people themselves rather than the government and the media industry could have made politics. In December 1923, two months after the first Berlin broadcast, Postal Minister Dr. Höfle, a member of the centrist party, listed (in order of increasing importance) the three tasks of the "Entertainment Broadcasting Network":
1. Wireless music, lectures etc. are to provide the general public with quality entertainment and education.
2. It is to be a new and important source of national revenue.
3. The new installations are to provide a convenient means for the nation and the states to convey whenever necessary official information to the public at large; the latter may be of importance with regard to state security.
In the interest of state security it is necessary to ensure that only those citizens own and operate equipment who have secured an official license to operate radio stations, and that, in addition, owners of radio equipment only record that which is intended for them.
But what is intended for consumers is determined not only by state security but also by technology. "[E]ven at the risk of losing to radio all they have earned with their records," the record industry had to submit to the standards of the new medium. Struggle in the Ether was the fitting name of Arnold Bronnen's novel that dealt with the establishment of the radio networks and the music industry--a novel which cunningly puts the desires of postal ministers into the mouths of the people and in particular into that of a Berlin typist: "`Records, gramophones, money,' she smiled, lost in a dream, `if one could sit here without records, gramophones, money but still hear music....'"
In order to fulfil these wishes, the major arms and communications technology cooperations had to get rid of the old shellac craft. Pioneering tinkerers like Edison or Berliner left the stage. The vacuum-tube amplifier proceeded from high to low frequencies, from radio to records. In 1924, the Bell Labs developed electromagnetic cutting amplifiers for recording and an electromagnetic pick up for replaying, and delivered sound recordings from the mechanical scratching of Edison's needle. In the same year Siemens presented the recording studios of the media conglomerates with equally electric ribbon microphones, as a result of which grooves were finally able to record frequencies ranging from 100 bass hertz to 5 kilohertz overtones, thus rising to the level of medium wave transmitters.
Edison's prototype had for good reasons preferred human voices to orchestras. Only with electrical sound processing are records ready for Höfle's "wireless music." "At last," the Sunday Times wrote, mistaking frequency bandwidth for sensuality, "an orchestra really sounds like an orchestra; we get from these records what we rarely had before--the physical delight of passionate music in the concert room or opera house. We do not merely hear the melodies going this, that or the other way in a sort of limbo of tonal abstraction; they come to us with the sensuous excitement of actuality."
And actuality itself can be produced once composers are up to date. For the third movement of the Pini di Roma, Respighi wrote or rather demanded the recorded voice of a nightingale played against the backdrop of a fully composed strings accompaniment. Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's fictional Edison had already surrounded his woman of the future with metallic birds of Paradise, who "by using the Microphone" make "an immense volume of sound" with their songs.[191 ]But only Bell Lab nightingales were capable of overtoning entire symphonic orchestras. Thus, Arturo Toscanini was able to premier Respighi's sound poem as a media link combining an orchestral score with phonographic kilohertz sensuality.
And the band played on. In the same year, 1924, US researchers hit upon the idea of applying the technique of producing intermediate frequencies to sound processing. Thanks to frequency reduction, bat voices outside of the range of human audibility were caught on record. At least that was reported by newspapers in Prague; the same Prague in which immediately afterwards a story entitled Josefine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk was written. "Is Josefine's art singing at all?" Kafka's mice ask. "Is it not perhaps just a piping? And piping is something we all know about, it is the real accomplishment of our people, or rather no mere accomplishment, but a characteristic expression of our life. We all pipe, but of course no one dreams of making out that our piping is an art, we pipe without noticing it, and there are even many among us who are quite unaware that piping is one of our characteristics."[193 ]
"The universe of sound," Cocteau's radio theory concludes, "has been enriched by that of ultrasound, which is still unknown (...). We shall know that fish shout, that the sea is full of noises and that the void is peopled with realistic ghosts in whose eyes we are the same."
In order to locate Cocteau's submarine ghosts a world war, the second one, had to break out. Today realism is in any event strategic. An unparalleled surge of innovations which from 1939 on filled land, sea and air with noise finally provided us (beyond Bell Labs) with records whose frequency range approached both limits of the audibility range, that is, with High Fidelity. In 1940, four years before consumers were also able to purchase `ffrr' (full frequency range reproduction) records and seven years before Ansermet's Hi-Fi-Petrouchka helped to drive up annual record production to four hundred million, the Decca Record Company succeeded in capturing the ghostly noises on shellac. Quietly anticipating Yellow Submarine and the sound quality of the Beatles, "the RAF Coastal Command had approached the English-owned Decca Record Company with a secret and difficult assignment. Coastal Command wanted a training record to illustrate differences between the sounds of German and British submarines. Such aural distinctions were extremely delicate, and to reproduce them accurately on a record called for a decided enlargement of the phonograph's capabilities. Intensive work under the supervision of Decca's chief engineer, Arthur Haddy, led to new recording techniques and the kind of record Coastal Command desired."
But the enemy was not left standing behind. German record companies participated in the Battle of the Bulge. To avoid Allied suspicions when the Chief of Army Communications ordered a sudden radio silence for all areas of troop concentration south of the Cologne-Aachen line on 12 November, 1944, the enemy had to be fed simulated attack preparations at other parts of the front. The Army High Command's propaganda division developed special recordings for army loudspeakers "which, among other things, simulated: tank noises, marching troops, departing and arriving trucks, the unloading of equipment etc."
The whole spectrum of sound from infra- to ultrasound is, as was the case with Kafka's mice, not art but an expression of life. It finally allows modern detection to locate submarines wherever they may be, or tank brigades where they are not. The great musicologist von Hornbostel had already spent the First World War at the front: sound location devices with huge bellmouths and superhuman audibility ranges were supposed to enable ears to detect enemy artillery positions even at a distance of 30 kilometres. Ever since then human ears are no longer a whim of nature but a weapon, as well as (with the usual commercial delay) a source of money. Long before the headphone adventures of rock'n'roll or original radio plays, Heinkel and Messerschmitt pilots entered the new age of soundspace. The Battle of Britain, Göring's futile attempt to bomb the island into submission in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, began with a trick for guiding weapon systems: radio beams allowed Luftwaffe bombers to reach their destination without having to depend on daylight or the absence of fog. Radio beams emitted from the coast facing Britain, for example from Amsterdam and Cherbourg, formed the sides of an ethereal triangle the apex of which was located precisely above the targeted city. The right
[INSERT illustration (map) p. 155]
transmitter beamed a continuous series of Morse dashes into the pilot's right headphone, while the left transmitter beamed an equally continuous series of Morse dots--always exactly in between the dashes--into the left headphone. As a result, any deviation from the assigned course resulted in the most beautiful ping-pong stereophony (of the type which appeared on the first pop records but has since then been discarded). And once the Heinkels were exactly above London or Coventry, then and only then did the two signal streams emanating from either side of the headphone, dashes from the right and dots from the left, merge into one continuous note which the perception apparatus could not but locate within the very centre of the brain. A hypnotic command that had the pilot--or rather, the center of his brain--dispose of his payload. Historically, he had become the first consumer of a headphone stereophony which today controls us all--from the circling of helicopters or Hendrix' Electric Ladyland all the way to the simulated pseudo-monophony in the midst of the soundspace of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, that once more wishes for the acoustics of targeted bombing.
[INSERT illustration p. 156:
Hughes microphone with recorded fly
The very fly whose step the carbon microphone of Hughes (1878) amplified to make it audible, circles between the left and right channnel in Pink Floyd's "Ummaguamma"
How difficult it was for British intelligence to counter stereophonic remote control is told by its chief technical officer, Professor Reginald Jones. Because the Luftwaffe's radio beam transmitters operated in frequency ranges even beyond VHF, which in 1940 the Secret Service was incapable of receiving and of which it had no conception, help could only come from a profane illumination. An incident occurred on the Farnborough airfield while testing a loudspeaker system attached to a fuselage, which, just like in today's Pentagon project, was designed to blast rebellious natives in North-West India with divine voices. When the officer standing in front of the microphone heard his voice coming from the distant loudspeaker two seconds later, he laughed about this acoustic delay. His laughter, in turn, was returned as another echo until the feedback affected all the participants and Farnborough resounded with a noise similar to that heard when rock musicians lean their guitars against the speakers. "[A] system that laughed by itself," Jones called it. But instead of laughing along, he chose to understand: feedback, the principle of all oscillators, can also generate centimetric wave frequencies, something the experts refused to believe.[198 ]Jones ordered the construction of synchronized receivers which, in turn, located the Luftwaffe's radio beam transmitters and their targets. The Battle of Britain was won. (Even if the warlord Churchill, not wanting to reveal to the enemy that his secrets had been revealed, disallowed the evacuation of Coventry which had already been identified as a target city.)
Survivors and those born later, however, are allowed to inhabit stereophonic environments which have popularized and commercialized the trigonometry of air battles. Ever since EMI introduced stereo records in 1957, people caught between speakers or headphones are as controllable as bomber pilots. The submarine location duties of aspiring air force officers or the bombing target locations of Heinkel pilots turn into the hypnosis, which in Stoker's 1897 Dracula still had to be used in order to solve a very strategic submarine detection problem without the help of radio technology.[200 ]But in 1966, following two world wars and innovation surges, hypnosis and recording technology finally coincide: engine noises, hissing steam and a brass band move across the walls from left to right and back, while a British voice sings of the literal chain that linked Liverpool's submarine crews to post-war rock groups.
In the town where I was born
lived a man who sailed to sea
and he told us of his life
in the land of submarines.
So we sailed up to the sun
till we found the sea of green
and we lived beneath the waves
in our yellow submarine.
And our friends are all on board
many more of them live next door
and the band begins to play
"We all live in a yellow submarine..."
The Beatles simply transported everybody to that impossible space that once concealed Count Dracula in his black coffin in the black belly of his ship floating in the Black Sea until he was located, and subsequently destroyed, by hypnotic sound detection. HiFi stereophony can simulate any acoustic space, from the real space inside a submarine to the psychedelic space inside the brain itself. And should locating that space either fail or be a ruse designed to fool the consumer, it is only because the supervising sound engineer proceeded as shrewdly as the disinformation campaign prior to the Battle of the Bulge.
Once again, these deceptions were programmed by the admirable Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. By design or accident, his Edison places "his hand on the central control panel of the laboratory," whereupon the telephonic voice of his agent in New York "seemed to come from all the corners of the room at once." A dozen speakers scattered across the laboratory--obviously modelled on the first sound space experiments conducted between the Paris Opera and the Palace of Industry in 1881--make it possible.
With the help of stereo recordings and stereo, VHF acoustic deceptions can invade operas altogether. When, in 1959, John Culshaw produced Solti's beautifully overmodulated Rhinegold, the homelessness of spirits was implemented. Of course the other gods and goddesses, male and female singers, were each assigned their own space between the stereo channels. But Wagner's great technician Alberich, upon tearing the newly completed Tarnhelm out of his brother Mime's hands and demonstrating in hands-on fashion the advantages of invisibility, appears to be coming, like Edison's telegrapher, from all corners at once. "Thus, in scene III, Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm, disappears, and then thrashes the unfortunate Mime. Most stage productions make Alberich sing through a megaphone at this point, the effect of which is often less dominating than that of Alberich in reality. Instead of this, we have tried to convey, for thirty-two bars, the terrifying, inescapable presence of Alberich: left, right, or centre there is no escape for Mime."[203 ]
Culshaw's stereo magic simply puts into practise what the great media technician Wagner had in mind for his dramatic doppelganger. "Everywhere now he lies in wait," sings Alberich, lost in acoustic space, making those he keeps "under guard" "subject to him for ever." In other words, Wagner invented the radio play, as Nietzsche immediately realized: "His art always carries him in two directions, out of a world of auditory drama into a mysteriously kindred world of visual drama, and vice versa." The Ring of the Nibelung, that zero series of all word wars, could just as well be called Struggle in the Ether.
[INSERT illustration p. 160: "Weltsendung Bayreuth"
To broadcast the ethereal struggle, radio merely had to take over the world war innovations and, in a move which reversed the one following the First World War, adapt itself to the standard of records. Because amplitude modulation did not leave enough frequency range, the old AM radio would have been unable to transmit Hi-Fi songs or stereo radio plays. "The spectacular growth of FM is attributable to its technical superiority to AM, and relative cheapness as an investment medium. In the late fifties, it was found that the great range of FM channels could not only sustain a higher fidelity for single transmissions, but could in fact also be used to broadcast separate signals simultaneously in a process called `multiplexing'. This discovery made possible stereo musical broadcast. Stereo broadcast was particularly attractive to those audiences discriminating and wealthy enough to prefer high fidelity music (...) As the rock audience grew in size and sophistication, it came to demand the same sound quality which it could get from records at home (reflected in the tremendous increase in the middle and late sixties in the stereo component market), but could not get from AM radio."
Frequency modulation and signal multiplexing, the two components of VHF, are of course no 1950s US commercial discovery. Without "his ingenious technical decision" in favour of signal multiplexing, General Fellgiebel, Chief of Army Communications, would not have been able to control the invasion of Russia, that is, "the most immense task ever faced by any signal corps in the world." Without Colonel Gimmler of Army Ordnance and his refutation of the delusion "that very high frequencies (between 10m and 1m) propagate in a straight line and are therefore of no use in the battle field," Colonel General Guderian, strategist of the tank blitzkrieg, would have been forced to resort to WWI-carrier pigeons. Instead, his armoured wedges, "from the tanks in the most forward position back to divisional, corps and army command," were, unlike his enemies, equipped with VHF.[209 ]"The engine is the soul of the tank," Guderian used to say, "and radio," General Nehring added, "its number one." Then as now VHF radio reduces the leadership vacuum to zero.
On 11 September 1944, American tank vanguards liberated the city of Luxembourg and its radio station. Radio Luxembourg returned to its pre-war status as the largest commercial broadcaster and advertiser of records in a continent of postal, telegraphic and radio state monopolies.[210 ]But four years as an army station had left its traces: traces of a new way of storing traces.
"By the early 1940s, German technicians had made some startling advances. Radio monitors who listened to the German broadcasting stations day after day for British and United States intelligence soon realized that many of the programs they were hearing could not possibly derive from live studio broadcasts. Yet there were a fidelity and a continuity of sound, plus an absence of surface scratching, in the German transmissions that ordinary transcription records could never have yielded. The mystery was solved... when the Allies captured Radio Luxembourg ... and discovered among the station's equipment a new Magnetophone of extraordinary capabilities."
[INSERT diagram with caption: Basic diagram of Poulsen's telegraphon]
It was not until 1940 that technicians at BASF and AEG had by chance hit upon the technique of radio frequency premagnetizing, thus turning Valdemar Poulsen's experimental Telegraphone of 1898 into an operational audio tape with a 10 kilohertz frequency bandwidth. Up until then, the record-radio media link had operated as a one-way street. Transmitters and gramophone users replayed what Berliner's master disc had once and for all recorded, even if radio stations--in a late vindication of Edison--made use of special phonographs developed for the specific purpose of program storage. But under combat conditions those wax cylinders, which, since 1930, were allowed to record parliamentary sessions strictly for "archival purposes," were useless. A propaganda ministry, which turned radio into "the cultural SS of the Third Reich," needed a recording and storage medium as modern and mobile as Guderian's tank divisions.
Major General von Wedel, Chief of Army Propaganda, recounts: "We were also essentially dependent on developments of the propaganda ministry with regard to radio equipment for war correspondents. That also applied to the appropriate vehicles. When it came to tank divisions, the Luftwaffe, or parts of the navy, the opportunities for original combat recordings were hampered by the fact that we could not obtain the stable and horizontal supports necessary for producing discs. At first, we were forced to make do with belated dispatches.
A significant change occurred after the Magnetophone was invented and thoroughly designed for the purpose of war reports. Original combat reports from the air, the moving armoured vehicle, or the submarine etc. now became impressive first-hand accounts."
As Ludendorff had pointed out, it is a truth of Total War that "the mass usage of technological equipment can be tested much better in wartime than it would ever be possible in peace." The motorized and mobilized audio tape finally delivered radio from disc storage; Yellow Submarine or War as Acoustic Experience became playable.
But reaching beyond the acoustic experiences of the so-called general public, the magnetic tape also revolutionized secret transmissions. According to Pynchon, "operators swear they can tell the individual sending-hands." As a consequence, the Abwehr as part of the German Army High Command had the `handwriting' of every single agent recorded at the Wohldorf radio station close to Hamburg before they went abroad on their secret missions. Only magnetic tapes guaranteed to Canaris and his men that it "was really their agent sitting at the other end and not an enemy operator."[.218]
Inspired by this success, the Abwehr switched from defence to offense. Because the enemy was not yet in possession of magnetic tapes, the Abwehr was in a position to transmit its famous Funkspiele (radio games), which in spite of their name did not result in entertaining millions in front of speakers, but in the death of 50 British agents. The Abwehr managed to capture and turn around agents who had parachuted into the Netherlands. As if nothing had happened, they were forced to continue their transmissions in their own handwriting. The transmission of German Funkspiel messages to London (or, in one parallel case, to Moscow) lured additional agents into the Abwehr trap. Normally, intelligence agencies arrange emergency signals with their agents for such situations, "such as using an old code, making absurd mistakes, or inserting or emitting certain letters of punctuation." Each Morse message of the converted agents was taped, analysed and, if need be, manipulated, before it was transmitted. This procedure continued uninterrupted for years in the hardly civilian ether.
The world war audio tape inaugurated the musical-acoustic present. Beyond storage and transmission, gramophone and radio, it created empires of simulation. In England, Turing himself considered using a captured German Magnetophone as the storage mechanism for his projected large computer. Like the paper strip of the Universal Discrete Machine, tapes can execute any possible manipulation of data because they are equipped with recording, reading and erasing heads as well as with forward and reverse motion. Which is why today's cheap PCs work with attached tape decks.
In a far more practical vein, captured magnetic tapes aroused sleepy US electric and music giants which had, naturally, taken on other than commercial duties between 1942 and 1945. Inserted into the signal path, audio tapes modernized sound production, by replacing gramophones they modernized sound distribution. Tape decks made music consumers mobile, indeed automobile, as did the radio producers in the Magnetophone-equipped German lead tanks of old. Thus, the "American mass market" was "opened up" by "the car playback system." In order to minimize the leadership vacuum and exploit the possibilities of stereophony, the only things missing were new VHF stations with rock'n'roll and traffic reports on the transmitting and car radios with FM and decoders on the receiving end. Six-cylinder engines whisper, but the stereo equipment roars. Engine and radio are (to paraphrase Guderian/Nehring) also the soul of our tourist divisions, which under so-called postwar conditions rehearse or simulate the blitzkrieg.
The central command, however, has moved from general staffs to engineers. Sound reproduction revolutionized by magnetic tape has rendered orders unnecessary. Storing, erasing, sampling, fast-forwarding, rewinding, editing--inserting tapes into the signal path leading from the microphone to the master disc made manipulation itself possible. Ever since the combat reports of Nazi radio, even live broadcasts have not been live. The delay, which in the case of tapes is due to separate head monitoring (and which is now more elegantly achieved by digital shift registers), suffices for so-called Broadcast Obscenity Policing Lines. It appears that listeners, once they have been called by a disc jockey and are on the air, are prone to exhibit an unquenchable desire for obscenities. Today everybody can and (according to Andy Warhol) wants to become famous, if only for two minutes of air time. In the blind time which media, as opposed to artists, are subject to, chance is principally unpredictable. But the 6.4 seconds of dead time the Broadcast Obscenity Policing Line inserts between telephone call and actual broadcast make censorship (if not art) possible in the data flow of the real.
That is precisely the function of audio tapes in sound processing. Editing and interception control make the unmanipulable as manipulable as symbolic chains had been in the arts. With projects and recourses, the time of recurrence organizes pure random sequences; Berliner's primitive recording technolology turns into a Magical Mystery Tour. In 1954, Abbey Road Studios, which did not coincidentally produce the Beatles sound, first used stereo audio tapes; by 1970 eight-track machines had become the standard; today discos utilize 32 or 64 tracks, each of which can be manipulated on is own and in unison.  Welcome to the Machine, Pink Floyd sang, with which they meant "tape for its own ends--a form of collage using sound".[226 ]In the Funkspiele of the Abwehr, Morse hands could be corrected; in today's studios, stars do not even have to be able to sing anymore. When the voices of Waters and Gilmour were unable to hit the high notes in Welcome to the Machine, they simply resorted to time axis manipulation: they dropped the tape down half a semitone while recording and then dropped the line in on the track.
But neither is tape technology always an end in itself, nor does editing always amount to correction or beautification. If media are anthropological prioris, then humans cannot have invented language; rather, they must have evolved as its pets, victims, or subjects. And the only weapon to fight that may well be tape salad. Sense turns into nonsense, government propaganda into the white noise of Turing's vocoder, impossible fillers like is/or/the are edited out--: precisely the ingredients of William Burroughs's tape cut-up technique.
Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden begins (like all books) with the word, and in the beginning that word was with God. But not only in the shape of speech, which animals, too, have at their command, but also as writing, the storage and transmission of which made culture possible in the first place. "Now a wise old rat may know a lot about traps and poison but he cannot write a text book on DEATH TRAPS IN YOUR WAREHOUSE for the Reader's Digest." Such warnings or "tactics"[229 ]are restricted to humans--with the one exception that they are not capable of warning of the warning system writing, which subsequently turned into a deadly trap. Because apes never mastered writing, the "written word" mastered them --: a "killer virus" that "made the spoken word possible. The word has not yet been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host," that now seems to be "breaking down."[230 ]Reconstructing the apes' inner throat which was not designed for speech, the virus created humans, especially white males, who were stricken with the most malignant infection: they mistook the host itself for its language parasite. Most apes died due to sexual frenzy or because the virus "caused death through strangulation and vertebral fracture."[231 ]But with two or three survivors the word was able to launch a new beginning [ ]
"Let us start with three tape recorders in the Garden of Eden. Tape recorder 1 is Adam. Tape recorder 2 is Eve. Tape recorder 3 is God, who deteriorated after Hiroshima into the Ugly American. Or to return to our primevil scene: Tape recorder 1 is the male ape in a helpless sexual frenzy as the virus strangles him. Tape recorder 2 is the cooing female ape who straddles him. Tape recorder 3 is DEATH."
What began as a media war has to end as a media war so as to close the feedback loop linking Nixon's Watergate tapes to the Garden of Eden. "Basically, there is only one game, and that is war." World war weapons like the magnetophone have been put to commercial use in the shape of tape recorders, as a result of which ex-writers like Burroughs can take action. The classic rift between the production and reception of books is replaced by a single military interception.
"We now have three tape recorders. So we will make a simple word virus. Let us suppose that our target is a rival politician. On tape recorder 1 we will record speeches and conversation carefully editing in stammers, mispronouncing, inept phrases... the worst number 1 can assemble. Now on tape 2 we will make so a love tape by bugging his bed room. We can potentiate this tape by splicing it in with a sexual object that is inadmissible or inaccessible or both, say the senator's teenage daughter. On tape recorder 3 we will record hateful disapproving voices and splice the three recordings in together at very short intervals and play them back to the senator and his constituents.
This cutting and playback can be very complex involving speech scramblers and batteries of tape recorders, but the basic principle is simply splicing sex tape and disapproval tapes in together."
As simple as any abuse of army equipment. One just has to know what Shannon/Turing's scrambler or the German magnetophone can be used for. If "control" or, as engineers say, negative feedback, is the key to power in this century,[237 ]then fighting that power requires positive feedback. Create endless feedback loops until VHF or stereo, tapedeck or scrambler, the whole array of world war army equipment, produce wild oscillations of the Farnborough type. Play to the powers that be their own melody.
Which is exactly what Burroughs does after having "described a number of weapons and tactics in the war game":[238 ]he joins Laurie Anderson in producing records. Which is exactly what rock music does in the first place: it maximizes all electroacoustic possibilities, occupies recording studios and FM transmitters, and uses tape montages to subvert the separation into composers and writers, arrangers and interpreters induced by writing. When Chaplin, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and others founded United Artists following the First World War, a movie executive announced that "the lunatics have taken charge of the asylum." The same thing happened when Lennon, Hendrix, Barrett and others started recording their Gesamtkunstwerke by making full use of the media innovations of the Second World War.
Funkspiel, VHF tank radio, vocoders, magnetophones, submarine location technologies, air war radio beams etc. have released an abuse of army equipment that adapts ears and reaction speeds to World War n+1. Radio, the first abuse, lead from WWI to WWII, rock music, the next one, from WWII to WWIII. Following a piece of very practical advice from Burroughs's Electronic Revolution, Laurie Anderson's voice, as usual on Big Science distorted by a vocoder, simulates the voice of 747 pilot who uses the plane's speaker system to suddenly interrupt the ongoing entertainment program and inform passengers of an imminent crash landing or some other calamity. Mass interception media like rock music amount to mobilization, which makes them the exact opposite of Benjamin's distraction. In 1936, only the unique "Reichsautozug Deutschland, a motorcade consisting of eighty vehicles," was able to "broadcast party congresses and mass rallies without any local help by setting up speaker systems on a giant scale, erecting stands, and so on"--: today, the same is achieved night after night by the trucks and kilowatt systems of any rock group. Filled to the brim with electronics or army equipment, they carry us away to Electric Ladyland. The theme of love, that production secret of the literature for non-readers, has run its course. Rock songs sing of the very media power which sustains them.
Lennon/McCartney's stereo submarine is not the only post-war lyric in the literal sense of the word. The Final Cut, Pink Floyd's latest record, was written by Roger Waters (born 1944) for Eric Fletcher Waters (1913-1944), that is, for a victim of a world war. It begins, even before the first sound, with tape cut-ups of news broadcasts (on the Falklands, NATO fleet transporters, nuclear power stations), which all simply serve to point out that "post-war," both the word and the thing itself, is a "dream," a distortion made to mollify consumer ears. Post War Dream is followed by The Hero's Return. The cut-up returns to its origins--: when army communication equipment, the precursor of the mass medium radio, cuts up the symbolic and the real, orders and corpses. A commemoration which is the flip side of post-war, love and Muzak.
Sweetheart, sweetheart, are you fast asleep, good
`cos that's the only time I can really talk to you
and there is something that I've locked away
a memory that is too painful
to withstand the light of day.
When we came back from the war
the banners and flags hung on everyone's door
we danced and we sang in the street
and the church bells rang.
But burning in my heart
a memory smoulders on
of the gunner's dying words
on the intercom.
Interception, chopping, feedback and amplification of war reports: Sympathy for the Devil means nothing else. Legend has it that the Rolling Stones used cut-up techniques to produce the lyrics for Beggars Banquet. They cut out newspaper headlines, pasted them to the studio wall, and shot at them. Every hit was a line. Anticipating modern statistics, the precondition of cut-up and signal processing in general, Novalis remarked: "The individual facts are random events--the combination of random events--their concurrence is itself not subject to chance, but to laws--a result of the most profound systematic wisdom."
Thus, the random distribution of newspaper headlines results in the law of information technology and a martial history of rock music. The devil, whose voice is immortalized by Sympathy for the Devil, was there when the revolutionaries of St. Petersburg killed the czar and with their radio transmission "CQ--to all" turned army equipment into global AM radio; he was there when television broadcast both Kennedy assassinations, turned "you and me" into murderers, and exorcized all radio magic. But above all Lucifer screams out which radio spectre, ghost army or tank general VHF and rock music are indebted to:
I rode a tank
held a gen'rals's rank
when the blitzkrieg raged
and the bodies stank.
The blitzkrieg, as is well known, raged from 1939 to 1941, when Guderian rode his lead tank. The bodies stank longer.
From War Heroes to Electric Ladyland--: a mnemotechnology of rock music. Nietzsche's gods still had to receive the sacrifice of language; cut-up techniques have done away with that virus. Before Hendrix, the paratrooper of the 101st Airborne, cuts his machine-gun-like guitar to the title song, tape technology operates for its own sake: tympans, jet engines, pistol shots. Writing can write nothing of that. The Songbook of Electric Ladyland notes the tape's forward and backward motion as well as its changing speed and the test points of a blind but manipulable time. The title on the cover--: that which does not cease not to write itself.
[INSERT illustration p. 173]
[INSERT caption p. 173: AND THE GODS MADE LOVE]