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<nettime> U / Radio & Aural Destabilization [2]

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      this is the second of four short texts]

Radio & Aural Destabilization

Liner notes for the "Future Dub" CD compiled by Black
Sifichi for Radio Nova in Paris

"Some people are searching for something different,
something unknown, something darker than grey, louder than
an espresso machine, and a challenge to decipher."
        --Black Sifichi

by bart plantenga

2. Sub-Para-Dubabolical

Vibe is slang for the invisible emanations of feeling that
operate between receptive souls. Vibration is the emotional,
physical and acoustical agitation of stagnant space by
aesthetics, passion, jazz, dub; the amplitude of emotion
that sits atop every bass string, trumpet valve, and looped
rhythm. As Joscelyn Godwin described it in her "Speculative
Music": "The whole universe is in a state of vibration; in
fact it is a fair speculative position ... that it is
nothing but vibration. There is an unbroken continuum of
vibrations running from the infinitely large and slow to the
infinitely fast and small ... Approached in this way, our
perception of sound becomes something of cosmic significance
for us ..."

Humans are genetically predisposed to seek out
transcendence--or kill a boring Friday night. People
continue to chew, snort, smoke, inject, beat or blow almost
everything, be it extracted from nature or the lab, to get
into some beyond.

LSD induces trance states--time-space perception alteration;
synasthesia; deep feelings of cosmic unity, lucid
thought--by tweaking neuro-transmitters which allow
tangibility to become insubstantiality; boundaries, mores,
aesthetic prejudices get blurred, are liberated from the
mind's "material matrix" as paleontologist-theologian,
Teilhard de Chardin once described it.

Think of bongwater gurgling in the hookah--confluence of two
ethereal realms, smoke and water. Inhaling the blue fumes
defines the capacity of the lungs and test the limits of the
bloodstream's ability to absorb the psychotropic molecules
of tetrahydrocannabinol, the "mind-bending chemicals,"
through the blood-brain barrier into the grey matter's
various pleasure centers where they dismantle the
neuro-clusters which control the glands and hormones, raise
adrenaline levels, and amplify natural brain activity by
mimicking essential brain chemistries.

The exhalation of blue spectral fumes tags its surroundings,
defines space. Dub is the first ambient music of ganja
because it has the ability to aurally mimic non-articulated
narco-ecstatic feelings. It emerges from inside, reeking
havoc with exteriors, holding mental territory for ransom as
it emanates beyond bodily limitations so that the awesome
"out there" is brought in and the in is drawn out. This is
its magic, its subterranean aspect--the ability to maintain
a seamless abstract; mammoth, yet implosively intimate;
"inner music," beyond polemic, enjoyable yet provocative,
inscrutable, (mystery, texture, density, stratas of
meaning--a harmonious discord melted right into its grooves)
ever mutating, migrating, gypsy, cyber, mestizo and
homeless--art, in other words.

Hearing is our most temporally accurate sense; vision our
most spatially accurate. The problem of how the nervous
system organizes and integrates perceptual information at a
given speed in a given locale is exacerbated with the
application of echo (reverb, delay, etc.) because it mimics
psychotropic time-space dislocations, present becomes a
future in a reprocessed past. Time goes fluid, into a
non-calendrical "intimate immensity." Space goes tentative,
non-geometric, sonically-defined. "Hippie music" and some
jazz tried representing the feelings and perceptions of drug
users, through distorted sound and soundeffects.

The modern recording studio, with its faders, knobs, and
microchips deployed in the role of psychotropically-drenched
cells in synaptical space, creates a subworld where musics
are destratified defactionalized, genre-obliterated and
engaged in inveterate play.

Echoes ripple outward at 331 meters per second and into our
conch shell shaped ears bouncing off pinna
neuro-transmitters which gauges the precise locations of a
sound's source--in vain because here echoes reverberate back
upon themselves to jam with one another and further
disintegrate standard musical syntax and smudge precise

At this mental point where sound as mechanical energy is
converted into bioelectrical nerve impulse, we bridge the
synaptical gaps between ethnomusicology and psychoacoustics,
between body and spirit, between fader and phalange. We
rewrite cultural anthropology, obliterate previous
hegemonous (national)isms and re-map new routes into the
sacred and speculative.

Imagine a stone tossed in a pond, see the concentric
emanating waves. They represent, in cosmic terms, the
planets revolving around the sun but also electrons orbiting
their protons. But then the waves hit shoreline and fold
back into one another to produce a crunched accordion effect
of sound, ricocheting from one ear to the other dislodging
wax from the innermost portion of our tympanic nerve--a
visualization of the aural havoc that reverb can wreak on
the stable human ear. "Dub creates [this]...shock for mind,
body, and spirit." David Toop has said.

Dub (versioning, doubling, duplicating) was originally a
reggae strategy (B-sides of old 7") of reconfiguring songs
by stripping their vocals and then customizing them with
stratum upon substratum of echo, delay, and interspliced
samples; transforming a song into a psychotropic remixed
rambunctious instro version with a new sense of timing
(inspired by ganja? meditation? tropical heat?)

Dub expands space by plowing deep vibrating silences between
sounds. These empty spaces, these synaptic sectors serve as
exposed orifices, tympanic playgrounds for producers to play
in; the deep breathing space where contemplation and
invention thrive. Or as Godwin explains: "...expansion into
bigger and bigger spaces slows down temporal events, to the
degree that a single vibration, or rotation, of our planet
takes a whole day, and that of a galaxy, millions of years."

Dub occurred "accidentally" in the presence of King Tubby,
electronics engineer and sound system operator, who was
fidgeting with sound's components and producing "crucial"
4-track shack attacks. Or in Toop's words, "massive towering
exercises in sound sculpting." And, along with some others
(Prince Far I, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Prince Jammy), forever
altered the methodology of musical construction by unhinging
intoxicating rhythms from gravity, utilizing the
hyper-post-modern tactics of appropriation, dissembling,
sampling, and detourned function to skew the vestibular
apparati which monitors aural signals, apprising the brain
of the position of the body with respect to gravity, sound
and other forces thus most certainly reshaping our
inner-most ear.

They converted linear chug-a-chug-a, folksy reggae music
(beholden to pop song construction) into urban spatial jazz.
Their forebears may well be the avant free jazz adepts like
Albert Ayler or Rahsaan Kirk in the way they shook up pop
standards. Think of the multiple vibrato of Tuvan throat
singers, Prince Far I's deep vibrato, the Gyoto Monks, their
mantric grunts and grumbles sending shivers and "sympathetic
vibrations" down that most "bass-ic" of neurological bass
strings--the spinal cord.

The subworld is the aural nether where these sounds grumble
along below sea level, snugly hugging the contours of
territory with great spectral and counterfrictional
lassitude, way below fetishized thresholds of pain, near the
edge of all audibility; "sub-bass frequencies ...
register(ing) as tremors in the chest and stomach, rather
than audible sound." David Toop elaborates. This is where
its signature sound (pungent alloy of ephemeral noise, found
sound, archival musics, distended rhythms, echo,
auto-piloted composition, psychodynamic mood enhancement,
and disembodied voices), rumbles along at the somnambulatory
frequency of 30 hertz.

"In the obscurity of the decibels of the sound systems where
dub deploys its magnitude," as dj Laurent Diouf put it, is
where the metarhythmic subworld of hidden currents is
produced by an enclave of neuronauts, marginal homebodies,
bassomatics, soundwave surfers, macrobiotechnicians, and
electro-prosthetic hypnoriddimtists who extrapolate and
amplify the neural-organic sound of the 21st
century--producer as ambassador, audio-pharmacologist, and
surrealist. They have made of this "landmind" web of data
that some might call consciousness, into a kind of
clandestine pleasance or speakeasy sanctum of the auditory
cortex (next to the temporal lobe) where musical sounds can
become the phenom of "hearing music in one's head."

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