a must read:
Edited by Bernd Herzogenrath
(short excerpt from the Introduction)
I would like to start with a set of resonances. First of all, a resonance on the word “resonance”—on the one hand it means something like “echo,” or “reverberation,” on the other hand, the word “reason” is somehow hidden in “resonance.” The French verb r.sonner makes this resonance even stronger—one might even be tempted to invent the word re[a]sonance here.
Thus, a kind of knowledge is involved here. A kind of thinking— maybe not what we would call rational thinking, but a kind of thinking nonetheless. As the Polish philosopher and mathematician J.zef Ho.n.-Wronski has it, as quoted by Edgar Var.se: “Music is the corporealization of the intelligence that is in sound” (Var.se 1966: 17).
Music as the becoming-body of the knowledge of sound—sound thinking. Again, also this knowledge that sound is, has a highly interesting resonance in its “wordhood” in French: conna.tre—knowledge as a process of “being-born- with”—this could mean that this knowledge, this thinking, this re[a]sonance, that sound is not a knowledge about the world, coming to you only in retrospective reflection, but a thinking of and in the world, a part of the world we live in, intervening in the world directly.
Friedrich Nietzsche, in his unpublished early notebooks, dating from the period of his Unfashionable Observations (1872–3), relates the true philosopher to the scientist and the artist as listener: “The concept of the philosopher . . . : he tries to let all the sounds of the world reverberate in him and to place this comprehensive sound outside himself into concepts” (19, 115); whereas the artist lets the tones of the world resonate within him and projects them by means of percepts and affects. So, here, sound-art practice becomes research and philosophy, and vice versa.
Rainer Maria Rilke, in his 1919 essay “Primal Sound” (Urger.usch in the German original) described an experience he had as a young boy, when introduced to a phonograph for the first time, seeing how the needle produced sounds out of grooves in a wax cylinder, grooves that the recording of actual sounds had put there in the first place. Years later, while attending anatomical lectures in Paris, Rilke connected the lines of coronal suture of the human skull to his childhood observations—“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!” (2001: 22). From this incident, Rilke derives the following “experimental set-up”: “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 a sound, but existed of itself naturally—well: to put it plainly, along the coronal suture, for example. What would happen?” (23). Rilke’s obvious answer, is, of course, noise, music—sound! Probing further, Rilke asks himself, “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?” (23).
In a letter, Rilke specifies this idea. Writing to Dieter Bassermann, Rilke speculates on “set[ting] to sound the countless signatures of Creation which in the skeleton, in minerals . . . in a thousand places persist in their remarkable versions and variations. The grain in wood, the gait of an insect: our eye is practiced in following and ascertaining them. What a gift to our hearing were we to succeed in transmuting this zigzag . . . into auditory events!”