The “acousmatic voice”—as famously defined and deployed by Michel Chion and Kaja Silverman—has in recent years unanchored itself from its cinematic context and become a free-floating aspect of the information age. We thus find ourselves adrift in a sea of solicitous voices without a visual origin or point of reference. The inherent uncanniness of the voice—whether it be the dog’s absent master, man’s distant lover, or woman’s internalized other—is normalized by digital technologies such as MP3 compression. Depending on the conditions of production, distribution, and reception, this serves to either further or obscure, or violently reveal, what I call (in the wake of Roland Barthes) “the aural punctum.” This article explores the importance of such detached voices for simulating, or even summoning, intimacy and presence in a time of long-distance relationships and time-shifted exchanges. As such, it asks what role the voice plays in the ongoing game of fort-da that underlies everyday human experience, and whether the ontological stakes change in different technological situations and environments. Paying particular attention to the gendered voice, this piece attempts to steer a middle course between the Lacanian “object voice” of Mladen Dolar and the intense focus on human singularity of Adriana Cavarero. Through discussions of the libidinal economy circulating within certain mythological tropes (Sirens, Swan Maidens, Narcissus/Echo, etc.) as well as an aesthetic genealogy of contemporary pop music, this article encourages a more sensitive ear for the sonic dynamics of the gendered acousmatic voice.
Dominic Pettman; Pavlov’s Podcast: The Acousmatic Voice in the Age of Mp3s. differences 1 December 2011; 22 (2-3): 140–167. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1428870
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