Archive for the ‘voice’ Category

Maybe writing will get you back your soul?

May 11, 2008

Otto Dix, Self Portrait of Mars, 1915

McLuhan said: “Every media work us out completely”

I’ve been (re)dragged into excessive conversations with all sorts of softwares, communicating in the inhuman medium called “machine language”, aka programming.

Observing the outside then became a function performed by the machine’s I: it’s seeing the world through a bipolar personality that operates in an acute dichotomy between zero and one, black and white, good and evil. Reality is made of procedures, modules, statements, debuggers, purifiers, validators – it’s rationality all over; it’s specialization all the way.


I felt horrible, been growingly molded and worked out into the machine’s reality-tunnel, incapable of emitting any other signal but that acknowledged by “it”.



And then a Voice arrived from the Blogosphere. Hafeez asked me why I no longer write. I answered that “I can no longer write, for I have no soul”. He then replied with a vice-versa smile: “Maybe writing will get you back your soul?

I feel it’s probably the most subtle and deep answer to the “Why do I write?” question. Writing is fighting, a battle to get back your soul.

The soul, so it seems, neither needs a body nor an avatar – some corresponding words will do.

I’m not sure, but does it matter what kind of corresponding words are sent over the wire?

(Can Twittering save my soul?)


1. It has been noted, By Roland Barthes for instance, that sometimes it is the opposite action – that of cutting off all communications – which restores and/or preserves one’ soul. Barthes interprets Rimbaud’s total silence as an act similar to Abraham’s silence – under the Kierkegaardian perspective – when told to sacrifice Isaac.

2. “SPECIALIZATION IS FOR INSECTS”: a citation from Robert Anton Wilson‘s “Prometheus Rising”, where RAW mentions the incredible diversity and versatility of the human race. We’re capable of anything as a race, and of doing many diverse things as individuals. Specialization is a plague of the modern market forces, aspiring at the creation of cost-efficient humanoids, i.e. robots. McLuhan, in war and peace in the global village says similar things.

3. Music piece from Aisha, Death In Vegas, The Contino Sessions ( a song that worth a separate post)


The Death of the Author; the Birth of the Voice

February 10, 2007

In my post DJ Spooky’s Remix Simulacrum I questioned the concept of an “authentic voice” in general, and the concept of a “remix” in particular:

“Given that the human history of ideas, progress, art, etc. is the history of remix, i.e. the unexpected association of different, seemingly unrelated memes, should “remix” be classified as an authentic voice or an unauthentic one?”

That post ended with only questions. I might have now a sort of an answer, which will be based on literary criticism, specifically on Roland Barthes “The Death of the Author”, as well as on our memory, or rather on our capacity to… forget.

In “The Death of the Author” (1967) Barthes states that “the writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original”. Any text, therefore, be it an “original” or a “remix” is deemed to be the reincarnation of older texts. Let’s forget, than, the illusion of authenticity [, or of truth, or of reality etc.] – there’s no such thing.

Here’s an excerpt from Barthes:

“We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture. Like Bouvard and Pecuchet, those eternal copyists, both sublime and comical and whose profound absurdity precisely designates the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original”.


Yet I’d like to suggest a distinction between the authenticity of the text and the authenticity of the voice (leaving aside concepts of author, writer, speaker etc.). Indeed, the text is essentially unauthentic; the author is being dead, and the reader is, righteously, the new meaning-provider. Yet from all this destruction, I think that something new is born: the voice.

The Voice

Barthes continues the above quoted text with what can be understood as a minor observation on his part, but a one that I think is key to understanding the essence and the role of the authentic voice – that which tells an essentially unauthentic story:

“his [the writer, the dead author, the layman speaker] only power is to combine the different kinds of writing, to oppose some by others, so as never to sustain himself by just one of them”.

I’d like to interpret this last sentence as suggesting that authentic voices are those associating old texts in a certain way in a certain time for a certain society. And even if the last sentence from Barthes doesn’t say that, I’d still like to stick to this idea, and to maintain that this role of the authentic voice is of an extreme importance.

The authentic voice is that which reminds us of old, forgotten texts. What I’ll say now is not original, but it’s important: the past contains many answers for us, mostly in the form of unanswered questions (yes, I noticed the paradox). Faulkner has this saying that the past is never dead and that it is not even past. This insight, I think, is critical for our survival, for our progress. The right old question [or text in its broadest meaning] brought up in the right moment in the right context can change things. What Barthes cannot take from the dead author is his choice of the texts and of the moment and context of their reincarnation.

In other words, the role of the authentic voice is to bring up, to remind, in a certain point in time, some old texts so that the “reader” will start his/her process of creating meaning – actual, relevant meaning – around them. The authentic voice is the catalyst, the trigger of the whole process.

Remember (for future use): a society that cannot forget is a society that cannot remember.