Transcendigital Imagination: Developing Organs of Subtle Perception
With the advent of cheap digital recording gear, many have taken to recording their environments and presenting it as sound art. Without considering how technology leaches the soul of an environment, much of today’s field recording based sound art will ultimately fail to capture the holistic nuance and subtleties found in nature. What this essay calls for is a resurrection and development of the postdigital aesthetic in the form of “Transcendigitalism.”
//The illusion of life was absolute: mobility of expression, the continual working of the lungs,
speech, various actions, walking – nothing was missing. Raymond Roussel (2011)//
Ritual Intoxication Toward the Universal Field : Pleromaticatalyst
//the song of empty space – Aliza Shvarts, Sunn O))) – Kannon liner notes//
Triangulating a tradition of ritual intoxication that transtemporally cuts across cultural and geographic boundaries illuminates several forms of flattening that are isomorphic to the dissolution of social, neural, and psychological boundaries found in many altered states of consciousness. This reduction of boundary-condition-thresholds across multiple axes renders thought maximally general-> genitive -> generative – driving a pluralized unity : a multiplicative multidentity – the droneswarm flexibly mutating between becoming-One : becoming-Many : becoming-Zero.
When the work of mathematicians Gabriel Catren and Fernando Zalamea is coordinated with cutting-edge psychonautic research we may begin to approach viewing the pleromatica as a cyclic continuum between the particular and the general – a radical flattening of the impersonal flood of sense-data and an entity’s material existence into an infinitely-smeared, [sub]merged heterarchy of seemingly-conscious pheno(u)mena. A phenoumenodelic experience – any experience that //involves a shift of the very transcendental structure that renders a transcendent experience possible (Catren)// – unfurls the pleromatica out of hyper-enfolded limitations of the stratified human structure – “transcending transcendence” onto a “free field” of “impersonal experience” – the immanent “void-plane of zero-intensity.” In the phenoumenodelic experience, we puncture the “Bouncing Wall” and //make a slit in the umbrella […] tear[ing] open the firmament itself (Deleuze/Guattari)// to counteract the gravity of unitary consciousness.
In order to demonstrate how drone music functions as a phenoumenodelic opening onto the pleromatica in the audible field, we will diagram the structure of the drive to ritualize intoxication and codify a set of psychedelic gestures toward this unihilified universal field that emerges in diverse localities ranging from hash-eating Sufi saints and the Eleusinian kykeon ritual to modern drone metal performances that collapse the difference between the visual and audible. This collapse amplifies the ekstasis of dissolution and unveils //…not the inside knowledge of an elite but […] a universal openness to movement, difference, sensation. – Sadie Plant, Writing on Drugs//
A hybrid text utilizing as a foundation a parallelism between noise/drone in its relation to cosmogenesis and cosmic time.
Noise as the miasmother, the chaos sum of all signals in a previous epoch cancelling out into a single point & tone, the first signal signifying the birth of the next. Wave oscillation as the breathing of the big bounce (bang & crunch, expansion & a retraction) itself becoming a drone as the universe undergoes continual cataclysm/resurrection. The is no interval but variation.
Sublime Backwash: Drone as Puncturing of the Weird Threshold
This essay will explore forms of drone music as mediums which best share the philosophy of The Weird, as originally articulated by writers such as Arthur Machen (1863-1947), Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) and H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). Fascinated with the numinous, practitioners of The Weird depict the unimaginable, interrogate the unthinkable and desire the unknowable. For Machen – Welsh visionary and mystic – a hidden mystery lies at the heart of everyday life and common objects: “the sense of the eternal mysteries, the eternal beauty beneath the crust of the common, trivial things; hidden and yet burning”. As Andrea Franzoni argues, the central message of Machen’s work is that it is “through the arts that the modern man can still be exposed to ecstasy, can avoid the otherwise unavoidable fall into chaos and live on the threshold between our world and the ‘world of the spirit’”. In a similar manner, China Miéville has asserted that The Weird “punctures the supposed membrane separating off the sublime”, allowing “swillage of that awe and horror ‘from beyond’ back into the everyday” – a “radicalized sublime backwash”.
I have argued elsewhere that extreme metal in its numerous forms is the sonic medium that best expresses and captures the aesthetics and philosophies of The Weird. This essay will develop these ideas, focusing on drone metal as a fundamentally estranging musical mode well suited to capturing sensations of Weird horror and existential dread. I discuss drone metal as (pseudo) spiritual practice that acts as vehicle to transport the listener through the “threshold between our world” and the “world of the spirit”, following Owen Coggins’ assertion that “drone metal listening is reported in terms of imaginative temporal, spatial and bodily ‘elsewheres’”. Drone metal also offers impressions of sounds from the Weird space beyond.
Drone is Machen’s “link between terror and ecstasy, that leads to the abyss”.
Drone Production as a Hieroeidetic Process
In 2004 Arthur Versluis suggested that esoteric art is ‘hieroeidetic’, in that its contemplation encourages the audience to orientate their perceptions toward an imaginative field ‘midway between the mundane and the transcendent’. Although discussions around esoteric art often focus on the final art-object, it is the creative process – the sense of channeling higher powers, or the imaginative unfolding of symbolism – that is of prime importance for many artists we may traditionally consider esoteric, such as painter Cecil Collins and poet, agriculturist and painter AE (George William Russell). However, these processes, and their importance to the production of art that may be deemed hieroeidetic, have only recently begun to be acknowledged by academics in musical fields. To contribute to this discourse, this paper will explore the importance of ‘inner-sense cultivation’ (Noll, Luhrmann, Asprem & Taves) in the production of drone-influenced works deemed to possess hieroeidetic properties.
While some precedents exist in, for example, the music and mythos of prog-rock band Gong (who encouraged their listeners to commune by meditating to the music at the full moon), or the visionary approaches of Coil’s Jhonn Balance, two particular artists are suggested for this study. Firstly, the American composer Kim Cascone, who has recently toured Dark Stations – a drone composition ‘for meditating audience’ – alongside workshops on ‘inner ear cultivation’ for artists. Furthermore, Cascone’s recent paper on Transcendigital Imagination can almost be read as a manifesto for hieroeideticacy in a digitally-mediated creative process. Secondly, the author seeks to approach his own portfolio of work from an etic perspective: this includes many works of ‘rural’ drone whose influences were ascribed to imaginative encounters with the genius loci. This relationship with place was further developed as part of an open-ended production technique incorporating successive iterations of improvisation, editing and imaginatively-engaged listening with the intention of presenting not only a record of experience, but and invitation for sympathetic listeners to also engage imaginatively with the sources of the music. Through an auto-ethnographic process, a framework developed from cognitive science of religion (CSR) approaches will be proposed toward an exploration of the roles of ‘special’ experiences (those deemed religious, mystical or esoteric), inner-sense cultivation and quasi-ritual path-goal processes (Taves) in the production of hieroeidetic sound works.
Summoning the Black Flame : Trepaneringsritualen’s Music and the Philosophy of Noise
Dark ambient ritual noise band Trepaneringsritualen allows the listener to contemplate the “black flame”, the foreclosure of existence. The droning monotony transmits what Maurice Blanchot in his The Writing of the Disaster calls “the language of waiting”, a silent mode of communication that is directed towards nothing other, the No-Other which is death. Noise is the infinitely dense form of silence, the recollection without object. Each object, through such dark ambience, contains objecthoods glued to its form. Trepaneringsritualen’s “All Hail the Black Flame” is animated by a sense of basic incompleteness. In Peter Schwenger’s view, the defining characteristic of objects, including the objects of love, is the impossibility of possession. We must ask what is the “mysterious item” of Trepaneringsritualen’s love? What is the Thing that we pray to when we engage in black rituals, when we “hail the black flame”? What is it that blackens the flame? According to the lyrics of the mentioned song, there is a “Ceaseless Howling”, both “Cherished” and “Despised”, underlying all existents. Indeed, every object, we argue, may be interpreted as constituting a ceaseless howling, a manifestation of noise. Alphonso Lingis observes that human voices, however individuated they may seem, are indistinguishable from the murmur of the world. Rather than seeking to escape from noise, we must recognize its inherent unity with silence. To unite oneself with the murmur of the world is to “become what one is” and be dispersed among degraded ruins. This black flame is more than a mere absence. Poetry annihilates the world and makes room for manifestation, the irruption of volcanic emptiness. “Language”, writes Pierre Klossowski, “is the stranger inside us.” A sinister stranger, we add, the strangeness of the darkened flame.
On the transcendental significance of time-stretching
In a recent interview with Lee Gamble, Robin McKay refers to a “transcendental significance of time-stretching”. This essay, without being an attempt to reconstruct McKay’s idea of what this significance might be, is a personal uptake on this idea.
Time-stretching is a digital process whereby a sound and/or a musical structure has its duration extended without modifying its pitch content. Before the advent of digital sound the only available way to extend the duration of recorded sounds was downward transposition, in such a way as to obtain an inversely proportional duration with regards to the pitch to which the sound is transposed. In one type of digital time-stretching the increase is created by the multiplication of the digital windows that compose the digital representation of the original sound. This means that time-stretching exists through the recognition of the constructed character of digital sound in order to activate- ideally beyond human capacity of perception of that structure which is maintained (stretched)- an contrived traversing the discontinuous representation of sound.
This exemplifies human incapacities in at least two ways: a) by the sometimes extreme extension of the duration the identity of the original structure is lost on the listener because it exceeds her available identifying memory and b) by the micro-assemblage of digital samples it creates the impression of continuity by exceeding human limits of micro-temporal discrimination.
This essay intends to explore some of the consequences of extreme time-stretching, as a specific form or procedure related to drone music, in relation to human cognition, digital processing and the aesthetic consequences of a form of “art” that exceeds both the superior and inferior temporal limits that a (human) subject is capable of indexing. This echoes Kantian ideas on the mathematical Sublime in a specific way: Is this experientially absent time recuperated by the concept, or by reason? Or is reason defeated by the impossibility of sensibly engaging with such a totality?
The Black Depths of the Droneswarm
In this piece we argue that the drone is the sonic expression of the swarm insofar as the latter is the formula for the One and the innumerable, the infinite and the unnumberable. The droneswarm may be heard in the buzz of existence without being, but more often it is not heard at all except in the resonance of the funeral bell, since it occurs above or below the threshold of human perception. For the most part the droneswarm has no relation to human perception or aspirations, even as it provides the indispensable undead condition of life including the matrix of cultural and social being, its infrastructure and the possibility of its complete de-structuration or destruction. This is an essay on the blackened depths of the droneswarm that can only be evoked and assessed in terms of the uncomprehending effects of incomprehensible catastrophe. It draws on the devastating histories of pestilence in the visual arts, in scientific and religious speculations, in fiction, and currently in contemporary music and lyrics, in particular black metal, the RAT guitar drones of Sunn 0)))), and the plague songs of Scott Walker. The piece revisits the Black Death in order to explore the swarming contagion and voracity of rat rationality (Negarestani) alongside the bacterial logic of Yersina pestis (S1(S1(S1(S1àS2))) in order to metaphorize excess, base materialism and existence below the threshold of being that refuses the biopolitical quantification and management of life.
The indistinction of the droneswarm refuses the division of life and death upon which biopower depends, its resonance dissolving the measurable limits of human calculation and moral utility, heralding the necessity of a different conception of ontology, of being and existence, in anticipation of ‘all these plagues that are coming that we have no answer for’ (Walker in Young, 2012).
For the cymatic Church, drone was Pantheistic; resonance within the architecture of the Church betrayed a God in nature and insulted the Christian God beyond nature. Certain forms of drone were especially forbidden within the walls of the Church, as was the geometry of the pentagram and golden triangle. The Devil’s Drone was attenuated by ancient dampers of resonance, and in 1234 Pope Gregory IX outlawed the tritone in Church music. This pagan resonant interval was considered sacred by the architects of the Church, and to preserve their dark secrets they encoded cymatic symbols into the architecture of the Church.
Cymatic representations of the Fibonacci ratio 13:8 or 1.625 are embedded into the architecture of Churches. After the ratio of 13:8 the ratios of adjacent numbers in the Fibonacci series converge into the infinite golden ratio and damping increases, gradually canceling all fractional standing waves and leaving only whole number harmonics. The Devil’s Drone was muzzled by the architecture of the cymatic Church itself, and the standing wave patterns of drone avoided long before Chladni’s scientific discoveries.
The Church strictly forbid the standing waves of drone, relegating the Pantheistic knowledge of resonance to the secret knowledge of the Underworld. But in the very act of outlawing drone the church indelibly bore features of what it negated. The damping effect of the cymatic Church was so effective that to this day it is used extensively in the design of speakers and other media to cancel resonance. The secret knowledge of the Church’s architects disseminated into the modern world. It no longer has anything to hide.
Two things interests us in this essay: First, the cymatic Church — a chamber which amplified the Angel’s symbolic resonance while minimizing Pantheistic drone with anti-harmonic damping effects — as well as its modern correlates; and second, drone compositions designed to exploit the resonant and damping properties of the cymatic Church. We will explore an array of cymatic media and composers such as Emptyset who subject Woodchester Mansion’s irregular spaces to their sonic investigations inscribing its architecture onto their drone; the composer Paul Jebanasam with his Music for the Church of St John the Baptist which was created especially for the church of St John The Baptist; and Maja S. K. Ratkj with her Crepuscular Hour which was inspired by the phenomena “crepuscular rays” and is to be “performed in a cathedral or similar”.
The Bouncing Wall
Through mediation and remediation — recording and rerecording —images and words are rendered unintelligible, nothing more than the operators of resonance (artifact drones, codec drones). In this essay we will explore two examples of resonant phenomena: Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room (where a subject, hidden behind a device, vanishes into artifacts of resonance), and Florian Hecker’s Chimerization (where the subject’s voice is recorded in an anechoic chamber and processed through chain-linked, hyper-chaotic algorithms). We explore the absolute difference of Hecker’s algorithmic process and how it can dissolve the drone of the resonance chamber, faintly attenuating it with an increasingly complex network of “walls” undergirding the subject and the recording device (through this process drone is grafted into a complexly spatialized environment that smothers the tyrannic drone of the resonance chamber).
What interests us is the interpellation process of the resonant chamber, and how the subject becomes nothing more than a functionary of drone. We will unpack the subjectification hypotheses of Butler and Foucault, combining them with Flusser’s theory of “triple abstraction”, as well as DeleuzoGuattarian theories of resonance and cave systems. We will also explore how the work of Hecker explodes the quadrangular architecture of “cubic” resonance chambers, and palpates haptic space to produce topological fictions.
We hope to provide an evacuation route; a plan of escape; an échappatoire that siphons the “arborification of multiplicities” which form “when the black holes scattered along a rhizome begin to resonate together” forming “the Face” that binds the town and the countryside.
That sense of unreality was all the more wonderful because the next day I heard sounds as unaccountable as were those lights, and without any emotion of unreality, and I remember them with perfect distinctness and confidence. (Yeats, 2004, p. 139).
There are sounds that present a quality of otherness and have an illusory, almost paranormal quality. They can have an atmosphere of liveliness, unreliability, presence, or mystery. I am interested in sounds that have no discernible source and/or whose presence alludes to an impossible sense of place. The listener can hear it but cannot locate it— as though it were a spirit from another realm. This sonic situation can lead to interesting perceptual results, much like mystical negation.
In the visual realm, this is a situation known as isoluminance and is common in mystical art. Isoluminance can be identified in many religious art traditions, where the divine body is represented as glowing or shimmering. Examples of this can be seen in medieval paintings of holy people, in Hindu and Buddhist art, and in the Yolngu art practice. The divine is represented by light with a shimmer or a glow to represent the spirit. Though isoluminance is a term used specifically to refer to light, there are analogous experiences in sound. I argue though that the ephemerality and time-variable nature of isoluminant phenomena brings this particular visual experience closer to sound and the mystical-ephemeral than to the normal visual sphere. The conflation of location and identification can lead to interesting and somewhat supernatural impressions of objects in space, because the eye can easily identify the presence of an object but cannot easily determine where the object is. Sometimes, when the object is not located in the visual field, the object is interpreted to be from another, possibly spiritual, realm.
In sound, I consider sonic isoluminance to be aberrations in the spatial/locational information gathered from a sound. This would be identifiable as a sonic object but impossible to locate in space, or would seem to have spatial qualities separate from a known listening space. Within this context, isoluminant objects exist almost outside of the realm of space, time, and form. Their conflation of the “where” within the space of the “what” can conjure new, often mystical, sonic experiences and I propose to write a chapter on the meaning of these sounds in a mystical and musical sense.
Drone Construction: Philosophy of Identity in Conan’s Horseback Battle Hammer
In the early 1800s, Schelling argued for the ultimate indifference of the finite and the infinite in the absolute. However, the nature of his argument could not be straightforward. Discursive forms of reasoning which relied on causal explanation to reach their conclusions were ruled out, since causation could only apply within the world of finite particulars, and bore no relation to the absolute.
Schelling therefore turned to the method of ‘construction’: less a causal explanation than a showing, an exhibition of the infinite in the finite. This was a demonstration allied to a certain experience or intuition of the absolute.
In his Philosophy of Art, Schelling sets out a construction of art as a determination of the absolute in various ways, always grounded in an absolute indifference. He begins with music, which he presents as rooted in a sonority which is the aural expression of that indifference, punctuated by rhythmic multiplicity.
In drone metal, we find this sonorous absolute manifest in crushing slowness: the minimal interruption of the black hole of sonority by sparse beats. However, rather than allowing light and consciousness to take flight (pace certain tendencies in Schelling), such indifference acts as an infinite drag upon finitude. This essay thus attempts the construction of the absolute in view of Conan’s early doom/drone EP Horseback Battle Hammer. Musically and lyrically, it will show Conan’s work to be the epitome of audible heaviness, an intuition of the death of intuition. Their minimalist rhythm and lyrics demonstrate the sucking pull of an absolute swamp, where even speed becomes an agonising slowness of dissolution: ‘Bodies flow to the bottom/always flow to the bottom’ (Conan, ‘Satsumo’).
Non-Terminator : Rise of the Drone Gods
Orpheus and the Vanishing Note: Xenosonics, Melismatics, Katabasis