Sunday, April 03, 2005

Digital Archeology and the Meaning of Noise

It is like rebuilding a mosaic of sound, vision and text. In a form of digital archeology I am using my page (365 for each day of the year) to rebuild some of the digital skin which was torn open when the hard drive died. From this I reconstruct some of the face and torso but most of the body is missing. I search the web for files I uploaded to news and music sites, of images sent to friends I ask for copies, there is a disk in Australia of 300 photos of our trip to Paris last year, a few Mp3s with a colleague........

Unlike archeology the survivors are doing the digging. It is basically to start again. A few days ago I listened to a recording of Tennyson reading The Charge of the Light Brigade (1890) its blistered surface snapping out a static voice. Does this give us something of the man? A preserved voice reaching out over 115 years to strike us with some of the energy of his being. It gave me a feeling for the strict sense of rhythm he employed in the poem and some idea of the restrained power of his words. But it is a prosthetic curio added to the pages of his works. The shift happened later with T S Elliot, Dylan Thomas and even Kerouac and his crew. They all threw the words out in public space and recorded wave of sound. They were not meant so much to last, be preserved or outlive the source, but rather to have a life of their own. To explode and in the explosion something would take root and grow in those that heard. That's noise I suppose (Elliot said The Wasteland was "a rhythmical piece of grumbling")and this brings me to something else I have been reading; Jacques Attali's Noise: The Political Economy of Music:

"More than colors and forms, it is sounds and their arrangements that fashion societies. With noise is born disorder and its opposite: the world. With music is born power and its opposite: subversion. In noise can be read the codes of life, the relations among men. Clamor, Melody, Dissonance, Harmony; when it is fashioned by man with specific tools, when it invades man's time, when it becomes sound, noise is the source of purpose and power, of the dream - Music" Jaques Attali (trans. Massumi 2003)p6

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