In a wide-ranging, cross-cultural, and transhistorical assessment, John Mowitt examines radio’s central place in the history of twentieth-century critical theory. A communication apparatus that was a founding technology of twentieth-century mass culture, radio drew the attention of theoretical and philosophical writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, and Frantz Fanon, who used it as a means to disseminate their ideas. For others, such as Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, and Raymond Williams, radio served as an object of urgent reflection. Mowitt considers how the radio came to matter, especially politically, to phenomenology, existentialism, Hegelian Marxism, anticolonialism, psychoanalysis, and cultural studies. The first systematic examination of the relationship between philosophy and radio, this provocative work also offers a fresh perspective on the role this technology plays today.
Introduction: The Object of Radio Studies
1. Facing the Radio
2. On the Air
3. Stations of Exception
4. Phoning In Analysis
5. Birmingham Calling
6. “We Are the Word”?
John Mowitt is Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. His previous books include Re-takes: Postcoloniality and Foreign Film Language and Percussion: Drumming, Beating, and Striking.
“Intelligent, poignant, and engaging, Radio offers readings of a remediated form of radio—Mowitt’s subject matter is not really radio as a medium or the history of that medium, but rather the impact the wireless dissemination of voice across radio networks had on modern conceptions of community. This presupposes a view of radio that goes beyond narrow historical facticity and also avoids the sometimes narrowly sociological readings offered by media studies in the US. A welcome addition to the field of radio studies.”
— Sven Spieker, author of The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy
“John Mowitt's Radio: Essays in Bad Reception is an innovative study of transnational, historical dimensions of broadcast culture. Broad and deep in encompassing a century of cultural theory, the book contributes to a new understanding of radio by treating it in an original and stimulating manner for a wider audience of scholars and students in cultural studies, media studies, communication, and the history of technology. Mowitt tunes into the polyphonous lineage of radio transmissions, and the programs received go far beyond commonplaces of a mass medium of seduction and manipulation.”
—Peter Krapp, author of Noise Channels: Glitch and Error in Digital Culture
Facing the Radio
A distinction useful for my purposes is drawn in scene 11 of Wilder and Brackett's Sunset Blvd. In it Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson, and Joe Gillis, played by William Holden, are discussing her script, Salomé. The dialogue is as follows:
Norma: I've written it myself. It's taken me years. It's going to be a very important picture.Joe: It looks like enough for six important pictures.Norma: It's the story of Salomé. I think I'll have de Mille direct it.Joe: De Mille!? Uh-huh.Norma: We made a lot of pictures together.Joe: And you'll play Salomé?Norma: Who else?Joe: I'm only asking. I didn't know you were planning a comeback.Norma: I hate that word! It's return! A return to all those who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen.Joe: Fair enough.
Comeback versus return. On the face of it, what's the difference? For Norma the difference is clear: a return is a response, in effect, an acknowledgment of a debt owed to those who have otherwise not forgiven her for the withdrawal of her presence, her desertion of the field of the visual. A comeback, by contrast, involves no such acknowledgment. It appears to be utterly narcissistic, utterly scripted. Whether tenable in the long run or not, what strikes me as useful about this distinction is that it cues us to a subtlety that calls out for attention when we are thinking about the contemporary theoretical status of the voice. How, in other words, should we think about the resurgence of scholarly interest in the topic? Or, put differently, what do those involved in this resurgence think they are doing? Is this the voice's comeback or its return? Or is it something else altogether? Moreover, is the difference here yet another way to approach the problem of residualism?
This may seem like an odd place to begin, especially to begin what is conceived as an examination of the relation between philosophy and radio, so allow me to explain. Certainly one way to think about what I have called the "resurgence" of interest in the voice is to grasp it as part of a response to the waning of poststructuralism, or, more precisely, to the attenuation of the critique of "phonocentrism." Although many have jumped onto the bandwagon of this critique, it was put in play with exemplary rigor by the late Jacques Derrida. In its emergent formulations this critique sought to draw out the consequences of the collaboration between Saussurean linguistics and Husserlean phenomenology. Specifically, Derrida found in Husserl's fuzzy and ultimately untenable distinction between expression and indication the same ambivalence to be found in Saussure's risky reduction of the signifier to an acoustic image (literally, image acoustique), that is, an entity devoid of all physicality yet capable of yoking together something seen and something heard. Recognizing this allowed Derrida, through the distinctly French pun on the heteronymic word entendre (that is, "to hear" and "to understand"), to tease out the centuries-old open secret of the essential link between the voice and meaning. The fact that this insight derives from a heteronym, a word whose written or spoken signifier produces two apparently different signifieds, is interesting but does not merit further elaboration here.
In the opening section of Of Grammatology Derrida fastened phonocentrism not only to logocentrism but also to ethnocentrism, arguing that logocentrism is "nothing but the most original and powerful ethnocentrism" (3). Once in place and taken up by those interpellated by the grammatological project, the voice became untouchable. To engage the voice, perhaps even to pronounce it, was understood to consign one to an ethnocentrism that, in the sixties, was under siege in every corner of the decolonizing globe, most conspicuously, perhaps, in Vietnam. Indeed, an entire, carefully cultivated rhetoric of the voice as the very embodiment of revolutionary agency was suddenly and fundamentally challenged. It was as though Derrida had discovered, a decade before Foucault, the "repressive hypothesis," not in the vow, but in the voice itself.
I am not, of course, saying anything terribly fresh, so let me get to the point. What remained, as Don Ihde and others sensed, foreclosed in the critique of phonocentrism was precisely the matter of sound. For it is one thing to show how hearing and understanding collude or collide but quite another to say that the voice is nothing but the sounds heard in the event of understanding. Saussure himself struggled with the matter when, in the chapter on "linguistic value" of the Course in General Linguistics, he pondered over how the sound units of the phoneme, that is, the acoustic molecules of the signifier, were initially separated from the chaotic flux of sound without, at any point, presupposing the arbitrary conventions made possible through this very separation. Even if we grant him the principled disciplinary procedure of simply setting certain things outside the purview of linguistics, one cannot fail to recognize the sonic dross left in the wake of this procedure and his lack of theoretical interest in it. What is the relation between this remainder and phonocentrism? Can sound gain access to meaning only through the mediation of the voice, not primarily as the faculty of human speech, but as the philosopheme of the understanding that is at bottom a hearing? Is a meaningless listening possible?
These questions are but samples. One could certainly proliferate others (indeed, the whole notion of "secondary orality" might immediately come to mind). However, if such questions herald what I have called a resurgence of interest in the voice, then what this clarifies is that this resurgence takes place, not just anywhere, but specifically in the wake of the critique of phonocentrism. That is, instead of being an anxious denial of this critique, the resurgence is an immanent requestioning of the voice, by which I mean that it retrieves and reanimates questions that the critique of phonocentrism could not, on its own terms, answer. Obviously, one of those questions is the question of sound itself, precisely the sound escaping the call and response that Saussure located at the heart of the sign.
I turn now to the distinction between comeback and return teased out of Wilder and Brackett's Sunset Blvd. My aim is to flesh out this distinction in two ways: first, I will deploy it as a rationale for pondering the implications of two figures in what I have called the resurgence of scholarly attention to the voice, Mladen Dolar and Giorgio Agamben; and second, I will import this distinction into the concept of resurgence in order to evaluate it both theoretically and politically. Is it, as I have suggested, an avatar of one residualism or another? And the residualism of what? The voice? The radio? Their theoretical superimposition?
Doubtless the most sustained recent reflection on the voice, in English, is to be found in Dolar's A Voice and Nothing More (2006). This is a very rich, very compact book that seeks to change the way we think about everyone from Derrida and Lacan to Kafka-and change in a rather specific way. As Slavoj Žižek puts it in his introduction to the series in which the book appeared: "After reading a book in this series ["Short Circuits"], the reader should not simply have learned something new: the point is, rather, to make him or her aware of another-disturbing-side of something he or she knew all the time" (viii). Because Žižek also blurbs Dolar's book, insisting that, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, its author is "not an idiot," one can safely assume that this book is one through which we will encounter something disturbing about ourselves that we knew all along. The obvious question is: What?
For my purposes the most immediately relevant aspect of the text is its discussion of Saussure, Derrida, and Lacan. Here Dolar seeks to tease out the radicality of the voice by clarifying its status as an object, invoking the series of objets a enumerated by Lacan in Seminar 11 from 1964: the gaze, the voice, the breast, and the turd. Structurally, these are all objects that tear a hole in our wholeness, meaning that they mark a limit of and in our identities. We cannot, as it were, leave home without them. Dolar's discussion is as rich as it is intricate. Although it resists easy summary, this is how it concludes.
So, if for Derrida, the essence of the voice lies in its auto-affection and self-transparency, as opposed to the trace, the rest, the alterity, and so on, for Lacan this is where the problem starts. The deconstructive turn tends to deprive the voice of its ineradicable ambiguity by reducing it to the ground of (self-) presence, while the Lacanian account tries to disentangle from its core the object as an interior obstacle to (self-) presence. This object embodies the very impossibility of attaining auto-affection; it introduces a scission, a rupture in the middle of full presence, and refers it back to a void-but a void that is not simply a lack, and empty space; it is a void in which the voice comes to resonate. (Voice 42)
Stated semantically, the choice is clear: the voice as object or the voice as ground. If I may risk repeating Dolar's own strategy of attributing to his interlocutor values the latter is known to have repudiated, less clear is the "real" difference between these voices. One senses the difficulty instantly when Dolar pulls his punch, saying, "The deconstructive turn tends to deprive the voice of its ineradicable ambiguity," as if conceding in advance that the more blunt and theoretically decisive formulation, "The deconstructive turn deprives" (that is, as a matter of principle, that is, as a matter of credo) "the voice of its ineradicable ambiguity," is both unfair and untrue. Despite my having raised the issue of the truth about deconstruction, the issue here is not quite as petty as all that. Instead, what calls for attention is not only that in Dolar's hands the voice as object, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, is unambiguously set opposite the voice as ground, but also that its ineradicable ambiguity cannot easily be disambiguated from precisely what Derrida means by the trace. To say, as Dolar does, that the object is an "interior obstacle to (self-) presence" is not thereby repeating the structure of the trace, except for the careless invocation of an "interior" that neither he nor Derrida believes in. In effect, Dolar gives us a voice, even the voice, that is the trace, simply now rebaptized as "voice." Armed with this voice, he then goes about separating himself from a position he is obliged to caricature, as if conceding that the whole exercise is, at bottom, a performative articulation of the structure of the objet a. In effect, the voice as ground tears a hole in the voice as object so that the latter can get on with the pressing business of demonstrating that the voice resonates in the void left by this tear.
One is reminded here of chapter 25 in Tristes Tropiques, "A Writing Lesson," except that what is at stake here is not finally about the right word and how to spell it properly. The intellectual historical question of precedence is not without interest-who came up with the logic of postdialectical difference, if it makes any sense to say this, "first"-but a responsible, that is, thorough, treatment of the prolonged confrontation between philosophy and psychoanalysis will take us out of signal range.
I will settle for a few observations. First, regardless of whether one agrees with Dolar's reading of Derrida, what is beyond serious doubt is that the former's approach to the voice, his reinvestment in it, is marked profoundly by the perceived impact of the critique of phonocentrism. In this sense my characterization of the resurgence of interest in the voice is at least partly justified-about which more in a moment. Second, and this is closer to the gist of the matter, Dolar's discussion, while it certainly succeeds in disambiguating the voice and presence as the phenomenological condition of meaning, avoids wrestling with precisely the acoustic character of the void within which the voice as object is said to resonate. How are we to think the resonance of the void? Is it to be ceded to the concerns of psycho-acoustics? In short, sound again drops out. Perhaps the clearest symptom of this is in Dolar's effortless gliding from voice to music, a gliding rendered in an arresting formulation late in the text: "What Freud and Kafka have in common ... is their claim that they are both completely unmusical-which made them particularly susceptible to the dimension of the voice" (Voice 208). While on the face of it this would appear to oppose music to voice, my point is that Dolar appears here to assume that the relation between music and voice is so intimate as to be organized by the law of inverse proportion. The less you think you know about music, the more you clearly don't know you know about the voice, and vice versa.
Needless to say, the work of one thinker-however much he is not, as Žižek insists, "an idiot"-does not a resurgence make. Consider, then, in addition to the ample bibliography that appears at the end of A Voice, Giorgio Agamben's trilogy, Homo Sacer, The Open, and The State of Exception, all of which appeared between 1995 and 2005. Rewarding though it might be, I have no intention of working carefully through each of these delicately argued texts. Instead, I want to scan immediately to the discussion of Aristotle that sets the stage for Homo Sacer and, by extension, for the trilogy as a whole.
Precisely because Agamben is concerned in Homo Sacer, as he says in chapter 3, to articulate a theory of politics "freed from the aporias of sovereignty," he establishes and crosses the threshold of his text by putting in play the distinction that will ground the theory of politics that must be overcome. This is the distinction between the Greek terms zoe (life in general, singular) and bios (particular, or distinctive forms of life in the plural). Almost immediately Agamben will move to clarify that zoe encompasses the form of living that he, following Benjamin, calls vita nuda, the form of living that must be excluded from lives ordered by activity that is properly political. If this distinction is read too quickly, one fails to see that it not only triggers a subsequent one between voice and language but in so doing triggers the second volume of the trilogy. How so? What is crucial to the distinction is what is gathered on either side of it. Under zoe in its undifferentiated singularity are gathered "(animals, men and gods)" (Homo 1). Under bios are gathered the myriad different life forms. In other words, what might be said to require the political exclusion of zoe is the fact that under its auspices the animal and the human are not yet differentiated. Differentiating them will require the very distinction triggered by the first.
This is how Agamben presents the matter. He derives it from The Politics, where Aristotle writes:
Among living beings, only man has language. The voice is the sign of pain and pleasure, and this is why it belongs to other living beings (since their nature has developed to the point of having sensations of pain and pleasure and signifying the two). But language is for manifesting the fitting and the unfitting and the just and the unjust. To have the sensation of the good and the bad and of the just and the unjust is what is proper to men as opposed to other living beings, and the community of these things makes dwelling and the city. (1253a, 10-18)
In setting up this citation, Agamben makes it clear that he sees and appreciates the important link forged in Aristotle between the voice and zoe. Indeed, Dolar himself is drawn to this very discussion, confirming-if only obliquely-the common ground of their respective projects. The link at issue is that between zoe and the animal, or, to put the matter more carefully, the exclusion from the properly political-that is, the politics sustaining the aporias of sovereignty-the exclusion of the being who has a voice but not language, that is, the animal.
Voice, animal, bare life, politics: these terms, virtually in this syntagmatic order, reappear in The Open, Agamben's unsettling meditation on the human-animal relation. He does not here return to Aristotle but instead restages the discussion of voice by appealing to Ernst Haeckle's Anthropogenie, a text in which the origin of the human is grounded in an evolutionary transformation of a sprachloser Urmensch, a primordial man without speech. As in Homo Sacer, what Agamben wants to foreground is the relation between a politics founded on the aporias of sovereignty and the becoming human of the prehuman. And while this might lead one to assume that he aligns the animal, and therefore the voice, with naked life, he does not. Instead, what he aligns with naked life is the form of existence that serves as the background out of which emerged the human/animal distinction, that is, "a life that is separated and excluded from itself" (Open 38). Significantly, this life excluded from itself recalls Agamben's earlier alignment of zoe and voice by stressing the fact that zoe refers to the undifferentiated background out of which the animal/human distinction will emerge. Nowhere in the trilogy does Agamben call for an evolutionary reversal, but it is clear that voice must be brought back, if for no other reason than to remind us of how deeply into the human sensorium the political cuts, and what precisely a politics freed of the aporias of sovereignty must seek to give expression to.
On the face of this, it is hard to recognize here the motif of phonocentrism. And while Agamben nowhere appeals to the Lacanian concept of the voice as the objet a, his treatment of voice as a concept through which to approach the means by which life excludes itself from itself certainly implies a somewhat less occulted affiliation with the psychoanalytical discussion-or so might one conclude before considering carefully how Agamben's discussion of the animal takes up the work of Heidegger.
As Agamben acknowledges, his title derives from Heidegger's lectures from 1929 to 1930 collected as The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude., There, Heidegger following Rilke's invocation of "the open," sets up an organizing tension between the animal, who is "poor in world," and man, who is "world forming." In the course of Agamben's intricate and thought-provoking discussion, this tension is recast in ontological terms as one between concealedness and unconcealedness, a distinction that in the final paragraph of chapter 15 is made to reconnect with politics. To wit, the unconcealedness that sets the tone of Dasein is understood by Heidegger to find its proper locus in the polis, that is, a social order in which the animal's mode of openness, that of captivation and extreme boredom, is left radically outside, as it were, both day and night. On Plato's city map of Athens, and this would not have escaped Rilke, the poet and the animal are found in the same place: outside howling at the moon.
What brings this presentation into connection with the theme of phonocentrism does not, in fact, appear on its face. Instead, phonocentrism functions like what Michael Rifaterre used to call a "hypogram," a borrowed, often unconsciously borrowed, grit of text matter that allows the pearl of a subsequent discussion to form. In this case, Agamben's hypogram is the entirety of chapter 6 in Derrida's Of Spirit (1987). Although Derrida is there concerned with the status of Geist, indeed, the difference between geistig and geistlich, and Heidegger's avoidance of it, he too comes upon the animal that hides in the thickets of The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. Precisely because Heidegger defines the world as spiritual, geistlich, the animal, that is, the being poor in world, is essentially without spirit. What Derrida adds, and this will come as no surprise, is the problem of language. Specifically, starting from Heidegger's acknowledgment that "the leap from the animal that lives to the man that speaks is as great ... as that from the lifeless stone to the living being" (Of Spirit 53), Derrida lingers over Heidegger's use of the "strike through," the "crossing out" that is put to work in these pages. In discussing the poverty of the animal, Heidegger emphasizes that this bears on the matter that while a lizard may be stretched out on a rock, strictly speaking, the word rock should be crossed out (much as Heidegger will later cross out Being itself) because the lizard cannot relate to "the rock" as such. That is, the animal is poor in phonocentrism. It cannot be present to the signified of the signifier rock, a situation figured in the crossing out of the written word. Note that Heidegger insists that the lizard is certainly present to the referent, the rock upon which it lies, but not to the signified of the phonemic bundle rock. Linking this to the philosophical as such clarifies that we are indeed on the terrain of phonocentrism, that is, that the meaning of the rock in general is tied to the acoustic image that the lizard cannot fail to miss. Perhaps, if Thomas Sebeok is right, the lizard is simply poor in zoosemiotics. To be sure, we may never know.
My point: although manifest in a completely different way, to summarize crudely-through the crossed-out or suppressed Derridean hypogram-Agamben's discussion of the voice is every bit as engaged with the legacy of its phonocentric critique as is Dolar's. Whether one thinks about the voice as an object or as the avatar of a life that can be killed without sacrifice-and I am by no means saying that these are the same thing-what matters is that in both cases the voice is redeployed theoretically to get at something, to produce an insight, thought to be inaccessible without it. Because thought, whether philosophical or not, cannot thrive in the absence of such maneuvering, one must concede that what I have called the resurgence of the voice finds its most principled motivation here. But the question remains: Does this get us where we want to go? And where, precisely, is that?
This is where the exchange between Norma and Joe finds its pertinence. Comeback versus return. It seems to me that what Norma protests in Joe's word is precisely its predictability, the fact that he is already narrating his encounter with her as part of a Hollywood script. The comeback is thus an effort to get started again, but one whose logic and motivation have already been determined by what no one-not even Norma herself-had recognized as her "last" performance. Now, it is certainly true that "return" is every bit as scripted, especially to whatever extent it responds to the call of forgiveness, but what is important here is the very thematization of the temporal join. Norma insists, nay, demands, that we think twice about how one step follows upon another. Brought to bear on the matter of the voice-which, as some will recall, is the topic of discussion in the immediately preceding exchange between Norma and Joe (they quarrel about the sound-image relation in the cinema)-the issue is not so much whether the resurgence of interest in it is either a comeback or a return as whether, as I have said, it gets us where we want to go. If this is to a concept of sound that is radically postphonocentric, it will come as no surprise when I aver that I have my doubts. To clarify why getting here is worth the effort, let me turn yet again to Sunset Blvd.
As Norma and Joe enter her study just prior to the exchange regarding her Salomé script cited earlier, the cut to their passage over the threshold finds it sonic articulation in the beginning of a persistent but distinctly haunted wheezing of the organ on the opposite wall. Norma gestures in its direction, noting that it should be either removed or repaired (we later find Max, her butler, playing it). Joe then quips that she might also consider teaching it "a better tune." Because the scene is structured sonically around the toggling back and forth between Joe's voice-over narration and the dialogue of the characters, both the wind playing, poorly, on the organ and the voice-over come from an acousmatic if not quite nondiegetic space. A structural relation is thus forged between the voice and music. Here is my point: of interest in the scene is not so much the rather typical way in which the sound of the organ is buried beneath the dialogue (the very noose of words Norma has only just decried) as the way sound, and here its distinctly acousmatic character, is boxed in between music and voice, as if it can be grasped, or picked up, only on this disciplinary frontier, that is, somewhere between philosophy and musicology.
Thinking outside this particular box is not easy, a fact demonstrated with instructive clarity by Adorno's voluminous writings on the box he calls radio. Several of these are well known. Less well known are the writings recently compiled and edited by Robert Hullot-Kentor in his contribution to Adorno's ever-completing works titled Current of Music, a volume that gathers virtually all of the work written by Adorno-and, I might add, written in English-while he was affiliated with the short-lived Princeton Radio Research Project. The only significant omission, one addressed in Hullot-Kentor's detailed introductory remarks, is the still unpublished "Memorandum: Music in Radio," a text one must consult in the Rare Books Room in Butler Library at Columbia University. In this indispensable collection two texts call out for attention: "Radio Physiognomics" and especially "The Radio Voice." Elaborations of "Memorandum," both engage in rich and compelling ways the problem of the box, as furniture and as philosophy. They lead us directly to the vexing interplay between radio and philosophy.
Adorno's correspondence establishes that he and Gretel arrived in New York from Great Britain in late February of 1938. Adorno writes Benjamin on letterhead from Princeton University, the Office of Radio Research (located in, of all places, Eno Hall), on March 7, 1938, saying that they have taken an apartment on 45 Christopher Street, once the heart of queer Manhattan. He goes on to solicit from Benjamin a short paper on "listening models" that he hopes to integrate into his work at Princeton ("To Walter Benjamin" 240-41). Almost a year later to the day, Adorno presents to the faculty of the Psychology Department at Princeton the paper "Radio Physiognomics," in which he lays out what he takes to be the most serious limitations of the "experimental methods" of psychology. Hadley Cantril and Gordon Allport-the authors of the 1935 study The Psychology of Radio-were, whether in attendance or not, his intended audience. Those familiar with the Frankfurt School critique of "instrumental reason" and the "re-enchantment of positivism" will find nothing particularly interesting in these remarks. Truly interesting, however, is the methodological alternative that emerged in their wake.
This alternative is formulated through an appeal to Johann Kaspar Lavater's concept of physiognomy, a figure that although translated into English at the dawn of the nineteenth century required the curiosity of Allport and others to make him matter to psychology. As Adorno reminds us, physiognomics referred to the analytical practice of discovering the truth of personality beneath or behind facial expressions. Although in his discussion Adorno has recourse to the English vocabulary of Peirceian semiotics, notably the notion of the index and the sign, he does not underscore the extent to which physiognomy is clearly a rearticulation of the very derivation of semiotics from the Greek practice and technique of symptomatology, that is, the reading of an inner, invisible condition through the decipherment of outward, visible signs. Nevertheless, he is insistent upon the structural value of the channel, the communication, between an inner and an outer, a hidden and a manifest-something of an inverted acousmatics. Brought to bear on the phenomenon of radio, physiognomy leads Adorno almost directly to the concept of the radio voice. Aware that this invites immediate comparison with Lavater's concept of personality, Adorno embarks on a somewhat tortuous but telling justification for both physiognomy and the radio voice that it allows one to pick up.
On the face of it, Adorno's material would appear to surrender to phonocentrism in advance by seeking the social meaning of the radio in its voice, and to some extent this is true. Moreover, insofar as he addresses himself to sound he does so by turning immediately to music, again as if the meaning of sound must be made to resonate within and across the frontier bordering philosophy and musicology. Although true, these are not the only conclusions that can be drawn from his discussion. Indeed, it is precisely the way Adorno's analysis sidles up to phonocentrism without succumbing to its charm that is at once interesting and important.
After provisionally setting aside the matter of the obsolescence of physiognomy, Adorno turns to the problem of the face. What is the equivalent of the human face in the domain of the radiophonic? Does physiognomy have more than a merely metaphorical value? It does if we recognize that, like the face, the radio presents us with a unity, something that synthesizes psychological, sociological, and technological elements. It does so by exhibiting voice. In other words, just as we might say that Don LaFontaine had a voice that exuded aggressive masculinity (his was the ubiquitous promotional voice of summer blockbusters in the United States), we might want to say that the radio has a voice that can be delimited and read as the sign of something, if not someone, behind it. Voice then becomes the very means by which Adorno wants to salvage physiognomy in the face of its obsolescence. It thus has, as it were, two faces: one turned toward the radio and the other turned toward the disciplinary field in which radio appears as an object of inquiry.
But what precisely can be said about the radio voice? Adorno is quick to point out that it has nothing to do with the voices or other sounds that are broadcast over the radio. That would be too empirical. The issue, instead, has to do entirely with what he insists upon calling the "how" of the radio. In other words, the radio voice is different from both voices and music, presumably because it emanates from somewhere that neither the voice nor music can name.
Because Adorno's discussion of the impact of radio on symphonic music (in "The Radio Symphony") numbers among his better-known writings on radio, I will only point briefly to the aspect of this discussion that bears on physiognomy. In essence, radio is at odds with symphonic music because it deprives this music of its sonic power. It does so in two ways: first, it generates an acoustic image of the music that miniaturizes it, making it impossible for the listener to be surrounded, absorbed by the forces of the symphonic orchestra. Second, this act of miniaturization blocks what Adorno elsewhere calls "structural listening," forcing the listener to engage in atomized listening, a form of listening that in failing to feel the whole of a musical composition seeks to recognize and isolate fragments of melody or thematic passages and motifs. It contributes to what he regards as the patently offensive practices of humming and whistling-both, it should be pointed out, sounds that fall somewhere between voice and music. This is a point that ought to have attracted more of Adorno's attention and less of his impatience.
Famously, or perhaps infamously, this discussion does not settle for a technical dressing down of the radio as a device, as a piece of furniture. It goes after the theoretical jugular instead: the claim that radio so transforms our relation to the listening required by symphonic music that it destroys this music from within. Trivializing this analytical proposition through the psychologism of "pessimism," a polemical weapon drawn these days almost as quickly as Göbbel's famed Browning, is really more of a bluff, a feint. It is certainly no argument against the theoretical ambition of Adorno's insight-or so I am contending here. With this caveat in mind, we return now to the physiognomic problem of the voice.
Consider then the following extraordinary passages from "The Radio Voice":
What actually "speaks" through radio is man: by his voice or by musical instruments. Thus the term "speaking" appears to be a purely metaphorical one. One attributes to the instrument what is due to man merely because of his invisibility and remoteness. Still, when the phenomenon is analyzed, man's remoteness from the loudspeaker and his invisibility are part of the phenomenon. Whenever one switches on his radio, the sounds pouring out bear an expression all their own, an expression which is related to the men behind it, only by reflection and not by the primordial awareness of the phenomenon. Radio speaks to the listener even if he is not listening to a speaker. (533)
And on the following page, segueing from a summary of his critique of the radio symphony:
Radio has its own voice inasmuch as it functions as a filter for every sound. Due to the comprehensiveness of its operation as a filter, it gains a certain autonomy in the ears of the listener: even the adult experiences the radio rudimentarily, like the child who personifies radio as an aunt or uncle of his. It is the physiognomics of this radio voice wich [sic] provides the key for an understanding of how the expression of the radio tends to become a model for its social significance. (534)
More worthy of close attention follows thereon, but for now let me underscore a few especially salient issues. First, there is the complex interplay between metaphor and attribution. Obviously, Adorno remains haunted throughout by the epistemological status of physiognomy. Here he supplements metaphor with belief, that is, while hanging on to the physiognomic idea that something is signified behind the radio voice, he not only points to the invisible man but also emphasizes the role played by listeners in attributing an identity to the source of what is heard. Moreover, as if defending his appeal to appearances, Adorno builds into the radio itself the remoteness and invisibility of the human subject. In other words, what the radio is includes the irreducibly acousmatic character of what lies behind it, the missing subject whose absence is compensated for in the listener's attribution of voice to the radio. Because this very dimension of radio arises only in reflection, it is otherwise essentially unconscious; indeed, it is through this unconsciousness that the human and the radio belong to each other.
In the second passage, the motif of the unconscious manifests itself in the figure of the filter. This is not just a filter for what "man" says or the music he plays, it is a filter for every sound, a specification that finds in the compensatory structure of the radio voice a deflective processing of all sound transmitted by the radio. Here, one might reasonably suggest, sound breaks away from voice and music in serving as the index of a filter that explicitly extends beyond the two. Importantly, as with the discussion of radio's impact on the radio symphony, the filter becomes a prosthetic earpiece. It at once enhances and preempts our listening. In Eisenberg's formulation, it listens for us. As Adorno says, the filter gains a certain autonomy in the ear of the listener, but instead of miniaturizing the power of the symphony it consigns the human subject to an infantilized personification of radio in which, regardless of what is being broadcast, "he" is spoken to by the invisible and remote brother or sister of one of his parents. Is sound filtered here, in and as radio, through what we could properly call Oedipalization? It is worth recalling here that one of the preoccupations of the psychoanalysts assembled by Lazarsfeld to consult with the Princeton Radio Research Project was that of the radio's interference with parenting. In effect, Fromm, Sullivan, and others worried that radio functioned as an alternative authority in the family. Does such a function have a sound? What would such a sound sound like?
Before attempting to respond, consider the closing formulation of the second passage. This is the sentence in which physiognomics is mentioned by name and advocated as an approach to radio because through it one understands how its expression becomes a model for its social significance. It is not hard to grasp how expression and significance fall in line with the physiognomic distinction between the hidden and the manifest, but what does pose difficulties is the notion of an expression that becomes a voice by virtue of an absence for which it compensates. Moreover, what, if anything, does this have to do with the filter?
Recall here that it is because the radio filters that it has a voice. It is as though Adorno were here anticipating what Barthes would later call "the grain of the voice," the material quality of speaking-the pace, timbre, volume, in short, the sound qualities of a voice. Indeed, turning back briefly to the discussion of the radio symphony in the same essay, Adorno goes on at some length about what he calls the "hear stripe": the surface noise of a phonograph or the static hum of a public broadcasting system, noise that adds a relentless pedal tone to the score of every piece of music broadcast by radio. This grain, this irreducible materiality of transmission, would certainly qualify as the audible presence of a filter. Indeed, one might think of the haunted wheezing organ in Sunset Blvd. as an incarnation of the hear stripe, or at least its screen. But what bears repeating here is the fact that voice is what lies, in the terms of Adorno's exposition, behind or beneath a face. Given that the radio is faceless, a voice must be invented for it and then attributed to it-in which case radio would thus appear to call to or for the physiognomist.
The voice as the "face-like unity" is precisely what cues the physiognomical analysis of radio. As such, the filter-the audible sign of the radio voice's functioning-is as much about radio as it is about theory. Adorno, by locating the filter in the ear of the listener and declaring both it and the absent speaker to be parts of the radio apparatus, would appear to be including in radio its physiognomic study. Because the social significance of radio would presumably derive-at least in part-from such a study, one can then say, as Adorno does, that the radio's expression "models" its social significance. In short, because the face-voice relation repeats in advance the expression-significance relation, theory as a critical mediation of the whole is apparently already active in the radio itself. It is as if the radio voice were calling from behind its purely metaphorical face, not to a listener per se, but to a theory capable of picking up its signals. What does this call sound like? How does the filter that is the voice deflect or channel it? To begin to amplify this sound, or at least the problems that it poses, I want to approach it by thinking about closeness, invisibility, and spooks.
To the reader familiar with Adorno's cranky rejoinder to Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Era of Its Technical Reproducibility," his advocacy of the critique of aura in "The Radio Voice" comes as a bit of a surprise. In an early pass over this material, Adorno, invoking the work of Robert Havighurst, puzzles over the matter of the "liveness" of radio music. Preparing us for the physiognomic turn, Adorno quotes approvingly Havighurst's assertion that radio listeners feel that they know the personalities of those speaking on radio because of the "illusion of closeness," which makes the listener "feel that he is actually present at the place where the broadcast originates-or purports to originate" (Radio Voice" 501-2). Because the motif of "knowing personality through voice" is, as we have seen, properly physiognomical, it is clear that this discussion is asking us bring together the "face-like-unity" of the radio with the illusion of closeness, the notion that we are present to/at the origin of the broadcast. In further characterizing this closeness, Adorno first reminds us to consider that we listen to the radio in the privacy of the home, as he says-tellingly-"in face of [our] wireless set" (502), and that the "amplified noises" emitted by it approach the listener as an "owner victim," or, as he later specifies, they "approach one bodily." Thus closeness is clearly more than proximity: it is about a feeling that sound, amplified noise, is penetrating, breaking into something or someone who can face a wireless. In this sense, Kafka's "The Burrow" surely provides the template for Adorno's encounter with radio.
Adorno, of course, is here more interested in the puzzle of the live versus the reproduced, but it is important to note how quickly in the piece the physiognomic motifs enter and how intimately they become associated with the acoustic or sonic problem of what pours into or through the body. Perhaps not surprisingly, later, when Adorno's anxiety about the metaphoricity of the physiognomic method is at its height, he trots out not only a catachrestic justification for it-we refer, he notes, to the sound source as a "loudspeaker," the "diaphragm" of the microphone is modeled on the ear, in short, "the radio mechanism is patterned after human sense organs" ("Radio Voice" 535)-but a psychoanalytical one. Indeed, in the long footnote on 534-35 he rehearses the dispute between Ferenczi and Bernfeld regarding the physiognomic symptomatization of the human organs whereby they can function as expressive centers of personality disorders. His comment on this debate, where he characterizes the radio "as an organ of society" ("Radio Voice" 535), leaves no doubt that if such exaggerations, in the end, nevertheless help one understand something fundamental about radio, then they are analytical risks worth taking. And what, apparently, is fundamental about radio is the "illusion of closeness" generated in and by its voice.
But does this not contradict the earlier emphasis on the remoteness of the invisible man whose voice breaks into one's home? It does, until one recognizes that this invocation of the acousmatic character of radio sound is treated by Adorno as an avatar of the uncanny, that is, the sense of its sound being "here" but in such a way that one cannot be, as he says, 'face to face" with it ("Radio Voice" 503). To flesh out this uncanny "hereness" of radio, Adorno appeals to Günther Stern's (later Anders's) 1930 study "Spuk und Radio." Although Stern's concern is to illuminate the odd spatiality of broadcast music-the fact that it has a precise "when" while lacking a precise "where"-Adorno draws on Stern's discussion of ubiquity to extend his insight into hereness, and by extension the illusion of closeness. In effect, what ubiquity provides is a way to talk about how the remote comes near precisely in being everywhere. The invisible man, in falling outside a certain construal of the domain of the visible, is someone or something that can, in principle, be anywhere. If listeners feel themselves addressed as owner victims by the invisible voice, and especially if the nearness of this address spirits them off to the site from which the broadcast purports to originate, then it is not hard to understand what appeals to Adorno about Stern's figure of the spook. Moreover, given Adorno's unusually receptive relation to psychoanalysis in this essay, it is hard to believe that he was not aware of Freud's use of Goethe's spuk from Faust II-"Now the air is so filled with spooks, that no one knows best how to get out"-a line that stands as the epigraph to The Psychopathology of Everyday Life but that in this context suggests that ubiquity and the psychopathological character of the everyday are mixed together in the sound of closeness. Perhaps this sheds light on the curious fact that this essay of Adorno's, like several others of those done under the auspices of the Princeton Radio Research Project, finds an occasion to reference the War of the Worlds broadcast that took place in the fall, on Halloween Night, to be precise, of his first year in the United States. Recall that in exculpating the Mercury Theater and NBC Radio, Welles described the broadcast as a Halloween prank, our "own radio version of dressing up in a sheet jumping out of a bush and saying Boo!" (Cantril, Invasion 42).
Boo. What kind of sound is that? Semantically, of course, it registers both disapproval and menace. But it is also one of those so-called imitative or onomatopoetic words that, in apparently defying the principle of the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign, gave Saussure fits. But rather than puzzling over precisely the sort of sound that boo is, and remembering that the larger aim here is to get at the sound that escapes the radio voice, consider that boo, as an imitative and thus analogical word, challenges the discipline of linguistics as Saussure is seeking to found it. To exaggerate if only for effect, boo is the sound of something whistling, maybe even humming, through or around the limits of a discipline. This means, of course, that I am rather obviously pressuring the notion of what sound is, where it takes place, indeed whether it can or should be heard/understood at all.
To move beyond these unsettling abstractions, it is crucial that we follow the lead of Adorno in adducing the relevance of Heidegger to his discussion of the radio voice. Adorno invokes Heidegger to help clarify in what way Stern's analysis succumbs to the ahistorical tendencies of "existential philosophy," and although Adorno makes no immediate reference to those pages in Being and Time where Heidegger discusses the radio, the pointed ambiguity of his remarks essentially prompts one to do so. In effect, the reader has, as it were, been transferred-not to the source, even purported, of the broadcast, but perhaps to the source of reckoning with it in certain terms.
Virtually all media historians of the Weimar period-Pohle, Currid, Jelavich, Bergmeier, and Lotz-insist that radio underwent a profound transformation and reorganization in Germany after World War I. This was due to the emerging consensus among educators and politicians that Germany had decisively lost the propaganda war; indeed, this very concept appears to have come into its own during this conflict. As an expression of this device envy, Germany embarked upon an aggressive centralization of radio broadcasting, a process that might be said to have culminated in Göbbels's appointment as Reichspropagandaleiter of the Nazi Party in 1929. Immediately following the war in the winter of 1918-19, many still-equipped veteran wireless operators lent their talents to an ugly confrontation with the uprighting and rightward-tending German state, a confrontation that came to be referred to subsequently as the Funkerspuk or radio scare. Doubtless, this and the fact that it was taken as the pretext for an aggressive state centralization of radio under the Postal Ministry cannot be far from the minds of Stern and Adorno, both, as we have seen, eager to articulate the radio-spook link. Finding its ideal echo at the level of reception, as early as 1933, almost immediately after Hitler's seizure of state power, his government developed and began aggressively distributing the Volksemfänger, or people's set, a low-cost radio receiver designed to interact with the broadcast signals transmitted from the Berlin Funkhaus. Brian Currid is surely not exaggerating when, in his study, he refers to this situation as exhibiting what he calls a "national acoustic," that is, an experience of a sound envelope, the "unisonality" described by Benedict Anderson as key to a meaningfully bounded national imaginary.
Of course, Stern and Adorno were not the only Germans picking up the process reputedly triggered by World War I and the Funkerspuk. Friedrich Kittler, as stressed in the Introduction, has draw attention to the fact that Heidegger was also following these events, and doing so in the course of writing Being and Time, his still-resonant essay in fundamental ontology. The key passage reads as follows: "In Dasein there lies an essential tendency towards closeness. All the ways in which we speed things up, as we are more or less compelled to today, push us on towards the conquest of remoteness. With the 'radio' for example, Dasein has so expanded its everyday environment that it has accomplished a de-severance [Ent-fernung] of the 'world'-a de-severance which, in its meaning for Dasein, cannot yet be visualized" (Being 140, italics in the translation).
As if miming its own insight, this passage is crowded with dense and important ideas. It appears in Section Three of Division One, titled "The Worldhood of the World," and specifically in those passages dedicated to the problem of the spatiality (note the convergence with Stern) of Being-in-the World. In these passages Heidegger is keen to distinguish between a form of being in the world that is to a certain degree empirical, that is, a form of being-in that is subject to measurement, and a more ontological form. To adduce one of his own examples: the garment is in the closet, the closet is in a room, the room is in a house, the house is in a city, and so on. Precisely where the garment is in this configuration is determinable by and through calculation. Against this stands the spatiality of ontology, that is, the experience Dasein has in being with things in what then deserves to be called a "world." Recall that this is the very world Heidegger thought animals, that is, those without language, were decidedly poor in.
In the midst of this discussion, Heidegger turns to the radio. In the context created by my remarks, his immediate attention to "closeness" captures our own. Oddly enough, it would appear, on the face of it, that Adorno, who otherwise has very little time for Heidegger, is essentially recycling this discussion. But this seems decidedly less possible when one sorts out precisely how Heidegger understands "closeness." The important first step lies in confronting the difficult concept of what is here translated as "de-severance." Macquarrie and Robinson tell us important things in explaining how, in the footnote on pages 138-39 of their translation, they confected the term. Heidegger's word Ent-fernung has fern, or, "far," at its root. The privative prefix ent- takes farness away from itself, a semantic effect that is intensified when, as in the case of the passage cited, the prefix is set off by a hyphen. In other words, Ent-fernung is not simply a remoteness that is less remote, but a coming near of the remote, of the far. Given the topic of spatiality, one might reasonably conclude that we are dealing here with an insight into the essential spacing of the being of Dasein, an insight that Heidegger virtually picks up from the radio, one that points directly at the difference between disembodiment and delocalization. Although no reference is made to Dasein, it seems obvious that Adorno has modeled the "illusion of nearness" on Heidegger's treatment of Ent-fernung. In fact, when, in 1964, Adorno turns the full intensity of his critical glare on Heidegger-I am thinking here of The Jargon of Authenticity-it is striking that in challenging the latter's approach to the immediate he rehearses in condensed form the arguments from "The Radio Voice," down to reiterating the motifs of the "voice of the announcer" that "resounds" in the home, the nearness of the whole, and the atomized individual (Jargon 76).
Before, however, we get distracted by the question of influence and its Angst, I want to dwell briefly on the closing sentence in the passage cited from Being and Time: "With the 'radio,' for example, Dasein has so expanded its everyday environment that it has accomplished a de-severance of the 'world'-a de-severance which, in its meaning for Dasein, cannot yet be visualized." What draws attention here is the distinct way in which Heidegger evokes the acousmatic character of the radio. He does not frame this in terms of the invisibility of the sound source. Instead, he deftly traces the dilemma that arises as an ontological structure, that of Dasein itself, undergoes an expansion whose effect-the de-severance of the "world," that is, the no-place where Dasein is with itself and with others-cannot yet be visualized (the German, übersehbare, might be better rendered as "fore-seen," even "looked over," scrutinized). Such a formulation might appear to be inconsequential, except that a page later Heidegger writes: "Seeing and hearing are distance senses [Fernsinne] not because they are far reaching, but because it is in them that Dasein as deseverant mainly dwells" (Being 141). In other words, when one insists upon the limits, even if provisional, of vision, one is pointing to an asymmetry in the ontological structure of Dasein itself. Radio is thus obliging hearing to speed out ahead of seeing, producing a de-severance out of step with itself, recalling, I should think, the importance of thinking about the sound of this racing hearing. Indeed, when Heidegger returns to these questions ten years later, in "The Anaximander Fragment," he envisions the press "limping after" radio, whose speed has overtaken even historiography itself, establishing the world dominion of historicism (Early Greek Thinking 17).
It is tempting, especially since the interventions of Françoise Fedier and Victor Farias, to approach this racing sound as the voice of Hitler that resounds in the speaker of the Volksemfänger, mixing, as Horkheimer and Adorno insisted, with the sirens in the street. Or, put differently, it is certainly possible to read this asymmetrical de-severance at the heart of Dasein, especially as indexed to the nationalizing of German radio in the twenties, as the vulnerability of Dasein to the Nazi temptation-in effect, to invoke Berel Lang's anguished study, as Heidegger's rehearsal for his silence on the Jewish Question. Doing so, however, suppresses too hastily the unsettling proximity between Adorno and Heidegger on the radio, that is, the fact that Dasein's vulnerability refers with equal immediacy to an ontological structure and to the fundamental ontology-the philosophical project-putting this structure, as it were, on the playlist. In other words, if the full implications of de-severing the world are not yet fore-seeable, this may well cast the shadow of the acousmatic upon philosophy itself, to the extent that the source of its sounds, its rumblings, falls outside its construal of the visual field. In short, the sound that haunts phonocentrism could be said to fall out of the range of our hearing, but hearing understood as a faculty or capacity of a subject that belongs to the knowledge, at once rational and affective, that we have of what passes for the acoustical. Here we face squarely the sound of both knowing and not knowing, a philosophical dilemma of shared interest to both Adorno and Heidegger.
But surely there is a political circle to square here? While not wishing to suggest that they are the same, much less identical-although each finds his own way to the retreat from politics (Heidegger in the name of "thinking," Adorno in the name of "negating")-it is instructive to witness how effortlessly Denis de Rougement aligns Heidegger not only with antifascism but with a Frankfurt School-style repudiation of mass culture. Written while de Rougemont was in exile in the United States, The Devil's Share is a probing, even desperate study of the status of the diabolical in modern society. In a pugnacious chapter, de Rougement advances a thesis pitched to scold Americans about both their political, moral, and ultimately military failure to recognize the diabolic character of Hitler and, almost paradoxically, their too automatic reduction of Hitler to a largely Judeo-Christian symbol whose cardinal virtue lies in its ability to persuade us that the devil does not exist. Seeking the conditions for this everyday, ordinary damnation, de Rougement turns, in chapter 47, to the theme of "depersonalization" and, surprisingly, radio.
Noting that the devil, in the twentieth century, has lost interest in conscripting individuals and has thus turned its attention to the masses, de Rougement points to the work of Kierkegaard as the first systematic diagnosis of this development. Supplementing Kierkegaard, he points to not only the dialectical fact that "the radio, the press and mass meetings" (Devil's Share 144) address themselves to masses, leading people to lead lives they do not have, but for him the essential corollary that "masses would not be possible, in the precise sense of a concentration of men, without the radio, loudspeakers, the press and rapid transportation" (145), insisting upon the perverse, onto-technological dimension of depersonalization. Radio produces the reception that scans for it, a reception just as bad as the designs of the device. It is when de Rougement teases out the distinctly diabolical character of the contemporary situation that the Heideggerian themes, doubtless cued by the references to Kierkegaard, enter the mix. In quick succession, under the titular heading of "The Tower of Babel" (an allusion later taken over by Erik Barnouw for his volume on early radio), de Rougement appeals to formulations such as the "frames have grown too big," we "clamor for bigness," things are "too large for our capacities," we have "moved too fast," and perhaps most tellingly of all, "society has become too gigantic to be taken in at a single glance." Given these characterizations of mass-mediated depersonalization coupled with the syntagmatic fact that this list segues to a discussion of boredom (one of the recurrent preoccupations of both Being and Time and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics), one is hard-pressed to deny that Heidegger, and specifically Heidegger's discussion of radio, haunts this analysis. De Rougement is virtually repeating, but now in the context of mobilizing the confrontation with fascism, Heidegger's anxious discussion of de-severance. While today (and to some extent already in the thirties) we recognize that the so-called romantic anticapitalist critique of fascism was compromised, the all too readily at hand-because tendentious-opposition of Adorno and Heidegger's politics around the implications of mass culture is hard to sustain. Moreover, the obsession with alignment is the surest means by which to subject politics to what Agamben called "the aporias of sovereignty" (Homo Sacer 48). This said, the fraught and contentious proximity between Adorno and Heidegger is perhaps not as interesting as the fact that radio brings it out. Indeed, radio as something like a metonymy of mass culture appears precisely as the locus for a certain form of philosophical crisis, as though the political meaning of philosophy's position were directly transmitted by or otherwise channeled through it.
By way of bringing the discussion to a provisional rest, I will dwell for a bit longer on Lang's underdeveloped, yet politically charged concept, that of silence. In solidarity with Margaret Attwood's laconic assertion that "context is all," indulge me as I repeat an oft-repeated anecdote, firm in the belief that the context generated by these remarks will realize the formalist goal of estranging the familiar. As John Cage himself tells it in a 1955 essay, the story goes like this:
There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to hear. In fact, try to make a silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes it is desirable to have as silent a situation as possible. Such a room is called an anechoic chamber, its six walls made of a special material, a room without echoes. I entered one at Harvard University several years ago and heard two sounds, one high, one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation. Until I die there will be sounds. ("Experimental Music" 8)
The immediate aim of this anecdote is, on the one hand, to defeat the neo-Romantic notion that music emerges from, and thus gives transcendental order to, the Pascalian universe of silent, infinite space and, on the other hand, to assure readers that music, once retheorized, has a future. For me, however, what is striking is the way Cage re-poses the question of listening and the range of hearing. In effect, the two sounds he identifies, radiating as they do from the living body, from what Agamben would have to call the sheer animal capacity for voice, point to the haunted wheezing, the hear-stripe, that conditions all hearing we are prepared to recognize as such. The point here is not to resurrect the bio-anatomical body but to recognize that hearing is, to use a Lacanianism, mediated by listening, that is, by the signifier, or, as I prefer, by disciplinary reason. In this sense, Cage can be read as proposing that we produce silence as the form of the not-hearing that our listening rests upon in order to identify its objects of acoustic attention. Or, to translate the point back into the terms of this discussion, Cage finds in the absence of silence a sound calling for attention, not in and of itself as some ethereal avatar of the musica universalis, but as an index of what the contemporary, disciplinary organization of listening receives badly, if at all.
Formulating the point in these terms directs us immediately back to Being and Time, not to its meditation on de-severance, but to its analysis of the call, der Ruf. This material appears in Heidegger's effort to grasp "conscience," specifically "the voice of conscience," not as a psychological experience but as an ontological structure. The formulation inviting the comparison between Cage and Heidegger reads as follows: "The call does not report events; it calls without uttering anything. The call discourses in the uncanny mode of keeping silent. And it does this only because, in calling the one to whom the appeal is made, it does not call him into the public idle talk of the 'they' [des Man], but calls him back from this into the reticence [Verschweigenheit] of his existent potentiality-for-Being. When the caller reaches him to whom the appeal is made, it does so with a cold assurance which is uncanny, but by no means obvious" (Being 322). To be blunt, I do not find the matter of conscience, per se, what is most interesting about this material. More interesting is the way Heidegger anticipates Cage's complication of silence by discovering in the call a sound that does not utter anything. Sensing that enunciating such a call complicates the entire motif of the "voice of conscience," Heidegger insists not only that the caller of the call is the neutral "it" ("Es" ruft) but that, to the extent that it speaks at all, it does so with an "alien voice" (eine fremde Stimme). Obviously, one finds here-in the no one who is the speaker, in the uncanny, in the odd fascination with des Man-elements that vividly recall Adorno's discussion of the "Radio Voice," but before these are elaborated, note that just as the voice of conscience is a sound but not a voice, so too is the reception of the sound a listening that is not a hearing. Indeed, Heidegger is careful both here and in "Logos" (his reading of Heraclitus from 1954) to insist upon the need for philosophy to think the ontology of hearing differently, specifically with an ear pricked toward the philosophical limits of the thinking of hearing.
The point is simply this: in both Cage and Heidegger the silence that is not one produces both a practical possibility and a theoretical provocation. Specifically, what is called for-and I use the expression advisedly-is an approach to sound that situates it in the "neutral zone," the zone of indistinction, between a musicology straining to capture noise as something other than sheer alterity and a philosophy struggling to apprehend meaning, as it were, outside the vox. The acousmatic, that is, the sound whose source falls outside the visual field, finds here its evil twin, its double, that is, the sound whose source falls outside the audible field. Isn't this precisely what Cage is getting at in the closing paragraph of his 1958 statement on film: "Therefore, the most important thing to do in film now is to find a way for it to include invisibility, just as music already enjoys inaudibility (silence)" (116)? Sound when thus pitched against the limits of the image becomes about the "listening models," as Benjamin called them, although he was not, alas, thinking in the disciplinary terms I prefer.
To anticipate the concerns that may have arisen with regard to whether Heidegger's discussion of the call has anything to do with radio, it should be emphasized that between the earlier discussion of de-severing the world and the later discussion of the alien voice stands the problem of the near. It is in fact not difficult to discern here a relation, perhaps even a necessary relation, between the closeness that speeds toward us through the radio and the urgency with which Heidegger contrasts "the call" to the idle chatter of the "they," the medium through which world events are reported. Crucial is not that the call is remote while the report is ever nearer, but that the call is uncanny: it is, as he puts it early in the discussion of conscience, "from afar unto afar." Or, put differently, precisely to the extent that the radio hastens our perdition among the "they," it isolates, frames, that which the call meaningfully but silently calls to. Radio in this sense belongs not only to the ontological structure of conscience but to the very theoretical practice of fundamental ontology, that is, to Heidegger's phenomenology. Because this, as I have argued, forms a land line between Adorno's and Heidegger's approach to radio that is, as it were, off the radar (officially Adorno held Heidegger, his jargon if not his person, in contempt), perhaps the alien voice that is coming ever nearer and distancing us ever further from our world is not a voice at all but the sound of philosophy, or, for that matter, musicology, seeking to catch up with or otherwise attune to the it, das Es, that whistles between them. This may, in the end, be the most important feature of the "illusion of closeness," of nearness, or, as Heidegger puts it in "Age of the World Picture," of "Americanism," in that it calls upon us to hear differently the hum, the rumble, the flutter that foils the suppression of all echoes, a sound that in falling below the voice cannot be either picked up by our models of listening or taught a better tune.
Can we not say, then, that radio spooks philosophy, that radio, not film, not television, is historically the medium that obliges the field to confront the question of where both its questions and its answers come from? Recall, if you will, that each of us is a radio receiver, that our bodies are fully shot through with radio waves, and that, as Neil Strauss reminded us now almost twenty years ago, all we have to do is clench a simple device in our teeth to begin broadcasting (192).
This is a sound that has, in the end, neither come back nor returned. To treat it as such, in the manner of Dolar and Agamben, is to attempt to avoid or at best contain radio-in effect, to redeem the field of philosophy from the sound that haunts its voice. Instead, radio might better be thought to operate as the residual, as Williams taught us to say, the residual in the mode of the archaic that progress produces to have a temporal atmosphere in and against which to fire its retro-rockets. Perhaps this is why, when the alien voice does show up, as it was thought to have done on Halloween in 1938, it is always already defeated by a lingering "before" that progress cannot leave behind. Welles, as has been argued, wanted to grasp this in vestigial, that is, Darwinian terms, and if we are not all to succumb to the wave of evolutionary biology now sweeping and reorienting the field of interdisciplinary studies, we will have to come up with terms of our own-even if, or perhaps especially if, they are difficult to hear. One such term, word, name, may well be radio itself.
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