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V/A - Konstantin Raudive: The Voices of the Dead

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Artist: V/A

Album: Konstantin Raudive: The Voices of the Dead

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: May. 7, 2003

Liminal Hymns to the Afterlife

Here one lives
This is not a collection of music. This is an experiment in the aurality of the immaterial.

I should be with you
Throughout the 1960s, ex-Baltic Swedish professor (and student of psychoanalyst Carl Jung) Konstantin Raudive engaged in tape-recording experiments. His purpose: to hear the immaterial, the ghostly, the voices non-present. Utilising non-mic'ed analogue tape pick-ups, telephone-line and in-between radio frequency recordings, Raudive gathered faint traces of voices in a multitude of languages. He arranged these into three groups. Group A is immediately audible; Group B is "faster or thinner," and more difficult to identify. Group C, the most important group according to Raudive, resides – or fluxes – on the edges of human perception, and concerns "life after death – here is the land of soul."

I am never going to see
Traces of Raudive's experiments have surfaced despite receiving no recognition from the scientific community. One finds mention of Raudive in William S. Burrough's writings, in the work of Genesis P-Orridge (with Burroughs), on work by Coil, and on The Smith's Rubber Ring. Raudive himself studied massive archives (72,000 samples) gathered by his collaborator, Friedrich Jürgenson, primarily continuing Jürgenson's work on Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). The experiments were continued by oboist and sound explorer Gerhard Stempnik. Australian musician Brett Dean, a friend of Stempnik's, gained permission to copy the recordings, and began assembling source material and sound artists to work on the project with Guy Marc Hinant. This is the result.

I can speak
One does not need to accept a spiritualist hypothesis to explain the traces of multi-linguistic voices gathered on these tapes. Besides what are undoubtedly remnants of "background noise" (but then – what is this "background noise"?), the thesis of a material-memory, or an "incorporeal materiality" – in the words of Foucault – remains primary to our intuition as well as in philosophic, theosophical and scientific writings. Removed from theology and Platonism, and of an occult conception of the soul, we are left nonetheless with difficult questions over time, space, perception, consciousness, and memory. In the twentieth century, a major breakthrough was made with General Relativity (time is relative) and quantum physics (space-time is indeterminate), both predicted, by all accounts, by French philosopher Henri Bergson (today we would say that he was a philosopher of science). It may come as no surprise that Bergson's ideas form the core of Gilles Deleuze's work with Félix Guattari on schizophrenia, schizo-consciousness, schizoanalysis, time, space, memory, duality, multiplicities, the material and the immaterial. If matter is a form of memory, if memory itself is a time different to itself, as pure difference, if consciousness is a wolf pack, peopled by currents and lines of speed that form thought as the movement of difference – then it may come as no surprise that we are technically able to elucidate traces of the schizo-unconscious, of difference in its emergence in the aural. Neither an "afterworld" nor a "spirit" or "soul" in the theological sense, this would be akin to recording the quantum fluctuations of memory. It may indeed be possible. Why not? Similar traces are found in the writings of the Surrealists, automatic writing, Antonin Artaud, Burroughs' cut-up experiments, etc.. Not to mention the preoccupation with haunting, the other and death, destinerration, difference, what "remains," the eternal return (of Nietzsche), the palimpsest, the traces of ex-writing, and all forms of the unheimlich (uncanny) in the deconstructive writing of Jacques Derrida.

2 x 2 is nothing
Uncanny, if not frightening. Two by two is nothing. There is nothing to add. Nothing builds or constructs. All questions amount to zero. Two and two – the bifurcation of the question, of the two, of the two hands, of the one hand and the other. Nothing, it is, a two and two. Nothing, then, to proclaim: nothing to delimit or denounce as music. Only sound experiments and resulsts. We cannot judge or hold it to any requirements of "music." This is an experiment, and aesthetic one, one in which all the producers involved have – one would hope – treated seriously. Raudive himself introduces the recording, and we hear interspersed samples of Groups A, B, C. Silence – sample/static/noise – silence. Repeat. As an English speaker, I cannot understand the mix of predominantly European languages (French, German, Latvian, Baltic languages, Russian) – which seem to suggest that the languages owe something to a geographical specificity (which would also suggest something akin to an incorporated immateriality of the material). The majority of the producers maintain, or play with, the aesthetic of the stop-start, the hum, the noise and the drone, the haunted voice, Raudive's obscure accent (Baltic German), the multi-layering of speech. Various explorations include sound artist Carl Michael Von Hausswolff's stunning mix of voice-in-repetition and low-frequency, electric drones (Hausswolff's work with drones and electricity are also available on Raster-Noton; his work is primarily for installation). Brett Dean's "Intimate decision for solo viola," which uses no samples at all, manages to capture the schizoid aspects of the fluttering voices through a solo recording. Scanner's pulsating drone-scape oscillates synth-drones, ambient textures, and radio-voice-noise; Ensemble's microscopic landscape of cuts and acoustics is earthly and dirty. Lee Ranaldo's pure mix of Raudive's voice and samples provides a cut-up technique; Random Inc.'s manages to successfully infuse an abstraction of cut-beats through sampledelia, while David Toop's line-wire electricity scramble flows through the fluxed-essence of the phantomic qualities. The pieces are interspersed with samples from Raudive and further cuts from arresting experiments by Gerhard Stempnik (sometimes with his daughter). Perhaps a little less successful are the results from DJ Spooky's two mixes, which are heavily layered and, although perhaps possessing the potential to reveal overlapping homophonies and cross-speech, generally leave the material confused in a realm of babble. As an experiment, the latter remains not a judgment but a question: is Spooky's mix, as persona "DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid," another performance of himself, or would "Paul D. Miller" have produced a sonic question with more attention and care? The results could also be interpreted, it could be argued, as a palimpsest. If this is the case, then this particular palimpsest sounds overdetermined. Compared to the startling sonic affect of the other recordings, Spooky's sonic result remain less engaging, to the body, the ear, and memory. This may only tell us that the Voices operate best when given time to unravel and unfold their implicate explications.

These owners of these voices have their own vehicle
All title quotes are translated phrases of the Voices.

By tobias c. van Veen

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