Disinformation in Melbourne, June 2015 – http://tinyurl.com/hp52ovb
An article called “Pulse Shape 22: Audiovisual Performance and Data Transmutation” by media artist Mark Cetilia has just been published in Leonardo, Volume 49, Number 4, 2016, pp. 317-323. The article describes “an improvisational audiovisual performance featuring shortwave radio transmissions as the sole source material for real-time audio processing alongside video of the sun” – a performance whose structure is “derived from metrics on energy accumulation over a period of 2.2 nanoseconds resulting from the targeting of 60 laser beams on a single tetrahedral hohlraum in weapons testing experiments as carried out by the Los Alamos Inertial Confinement Fusion unit”… wow! The performance sounds astonishing, and, although linking such ideas to EVP may sound equally extraordinary, in fact Mark Cetilia states that “though I am not looking to communicate with the dead, the concerns of my artistic practice are somewhat analogous to the concerns of the EVP community” since “I not only carefully scrutinize the radio noise I use as raw sonic material… (and) I also look for ways to make meaning from this material”, hence the relevance of quoting “Rorschach Audio”. The article states that…
“Belief in EVP has become widespread since (Friedrich) Jürgenson’s time, and with the advent of the internet, numerous groups and forums have appeared wherein users trade tips on how best to capture these recordings. Joe Banks… has, in Rorschach Audio, framed EVP as sound recordings whose existence is “as relevant to the emergent field of sound art as studies of optical illusions have been to the study of visual art” (with Mark’s article citing the version of “Rorschach Audio” that was published in 2001 by Leonardo’s sister publication, Leonardo Music Journal).
While all research is selective to varying extents, unfortunately Mark’s article quotes the earlier article out of context, in a way that that could lead to misunderstandings. While it does seem to be true that “belief in EVP has become widespread”, at least in some circles, what the earlier article offers is “the primary hypothesis that an understanding of the relevant aspects of psychoacoustics provides a complete explanation for most EVP recordings”, and the “secondary hypothesis that an informed understanding of these processes is as relevant to the emergent field of sound art as studies of optical illusions have been to the study of visual art”.
So, what “Rorschach Audio” says is that it is an understanding of psychoacoustics which is as relevant to the field of sound art as the understanding of optical illusions has been to the study of visual art, and not that EVP themselves are as relevant to sonic art as optical illusions have been to visual art; and the reason this distinction’s important is because without it one could be forgiven for thinking that “Rorschach Audio” seeks to celebrate or to elevate the status of EVP research in relation to the arts, whereas instead what “Rorschach Audio” points-out is that EVP is blatant pseudoscience.
“The Illusioned Ear: Disembodied Sound & the Musical Séances of Francis Grierson” is a huge, fascinating and minutely researched treatise on the life of the now little-known singer, pianist, essayist, psychic and mystic, written by the sound artist Matt Marble, published in April 2014 by Ear Wave Event. Although the following offers a summary of what the “Rorschach Audio” book says rather than a direct quote, the article compares Francis Grierson’s interests in Spiritualism etc to EVP research, and says that the “Rorschach Audio” book “repeatedly notes” that “illusioned auditions of spirit” (meaning EVP recordings etc) “are fundamentally a creative activity, engaging in perceptual ambiguities, imaginative projection, and often theatrical persuasion”; then Matt’s article (directly) quotes the book as saying that “EVP experimenters… are or were, in effect, creative artists, producing, through their audio experimentation, forms of sound art and poetry”… which is true, but it’s more complex than that.
In fact what the “Rorschach Audio” book says is that “a common reaction from within the arts community to genuinely critical appraisals of EVP has been the counter-argument that EVP experimenters are or were, in effect, creative artists, producing, through their audio experimentation, forms of sound art and poetry”. The book says that the view that EVP is a form of art or poetry has been a response, put forward by other people in the arts, reacting to the critique of EVP provided by “Rorschach Audio”. So, while the book does argue that accurate and illusory perceptions both rely on creative faculties, and does acknowledge that this means that EVP is artistic and poetic to an extent, it is important to remember that the book also says that EVP is no more creative than any other form of hearing. The “perceptual creativity” argument is democratic and inclusive, but also a great leveller, and, invoking Jean-Paul Sartre’s dictum that “anyone can write bad verses”, the book argues that the fact that EVP is artistic does not mean that EVP makes good art. Notwithstanding that clarification, Matt’s article’s well worth a read…
Thanks to all researchers who’ve quoted “Rorschach Audio”.
The text description on You Tube states – “Update: Been a few years now, doing very well! For those of you saying this was forced on me, it wasn’t. Completely my decision. Just wanted to clarify that. I’m in college now and thriving!”
AXNS Collective – Arts X Neuroscience – just published an article on “The Analysis of Beauty & Blind Spots – Evolution & Neuroscience”. The article revisits some ideas, which are discussed in the “Rorschach Audio” book and on this website, in context however of material which includes passages on opthalmic neuroscience quoted from Aldous Huxley. The article places discussion of “The Analysis of Beauty” in context of a broader argument about how certain types of perceptual phenomena demonstrate the extent to which “visual reality is in itself a carefully constructed optical illusion”, being very careful to stress however that such illusions “usually provide accurate descriptions of our external world”. In addition, the suggestion that the mind might also be able to “switch off” visual objects (which exist right there there in front of us) may also seem counterintuitive, however the article responds to William Hogarth’s assertion that “the eye may be subdued and forced into forming and disposing of objects even quite contrary to what it would naturally see them, by the prejudgment of the mind” (emphases added) by showing how the mind can and does “edit” whole objects into and out of visual perception as a matter of routine…
For reasons of space, it wasn’t possible to include all the quotes from Aldous Huxley in the article for AXNS, so, in context of this website, it’s helpful to add some more detail. In his book “The Art of Seeing” Aldous Huxley states that “sensing is not the same as perceiving” and that “the eyes and nervous system do the sensing, the mind does the perceiving”. Huxley describes how “in adults, the three processes of sensing, selecting and perceiving are for all intents and purposes simultaneous”, with the effect that under normal circumstances “we are only aware of the total process of seeing objects and not of the subsidiary processes which culminate in seeing”. Huxley goes on to describe how “by inhibiting the activity of the interpreting mind”, it is however possible to “catch a hint of the raw sensum [sense data] as it presents itself to the eyes of the newborn child”, and how “for the adult, a complete recapture of the experience of pure sensation, without perception of physical objects, is possible, in most cases, only in certain abnormal conditions, when the upper levels of the mind have been put out of action by drugs or disease”.
Aldous Huxley describes “an experience of my own”, recalling how “coming out of an anaesthetic administered in a dentist’s chair” produced the effect that “returning awareness began with pure visual sensations completely devoid of significance”. These sensations “were not objects existing ‘out there’ in the familiar, three-dimensional world”, but were “just coloured patches, existing in and for themselves, unrelated not only to the external world, but also to myself – for the knowledge of self was still wholly lacking, and these meaningless and unattached sense impressions were not mine, they simply were.” As the anaesthetic wore off these coloured patches became “associated with certain objects ‘out there’ in the external three-dimensional world”, and Huxley goes on to describe how his mind progressively identified and categorised these objects, increasingly relating them to his own memories and to his re-emerging sense of self. Then, perhaps most revealingly, Huxley describes how these thought-processes themselves led to “further clarification of vision”.
Now, I’m aware that there’s some controversy about some of the content in “The Art of Seeing”, however that relates to debate about the efficacy of specific therapeutic procedures advocated by Huxley, and not to his insights into psychology of perception. It should also be stressed that studies of illusions also provide very powerful tools for studying perception.
Source – Aldous Huxley “The Art of Seeing” Chatto & Windus 1943
With apologies for not posting about this earlier, thanks to everyone who came to an excellent night at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, 2 June 2016. “Music Concrète: of the Building Outside the Building” was “a collaborative night of joyful experimental sound art and performance (created) using recorded sounds and sonically manipulated environmental data from Senate House Library”. The source material was recorded by Senate House artist-in-residence Hannah Thompson, and the evening featured sets by Paul Middleton & Daniel Knowler, Medial Ages, Isn’tses, Aatschlag, Raxil4, Orlando Harrison, Disinformation, and a particularly memorable contribution by real-life beekeeper Bioni Samp (with GPUD not performing owing to commitments at Senate House). Among other sound elements, the Disinformation performance showcased recent “Rorschach Audio” themed experiments, created using speech synthesis and vocoded speech recordings…
“Let Him Have It” on London Live TV, repeating 11pm tonight – Tues 3rd May 2016