Installation/lecture with Jacob Remin at HfK Bremen' Salon Digital during the summer 2018. The following is an excerpt from the lecture.
On the 5th of June 1995, 23 years ago, a time-matter compound called the Bose–Einstein condensate was produced for the first time in history. With this condensate, quantum matter stood completely still for a split of a second, as if time stopped and rendered matter motionless once and for all. In this Cryptic Meditation we want to mark this mythical moment by inviting you to an outdoor séance. The main topic we will address relates to the notion of matter-as-waveform, transcendence and their arcane relation to medium-isms. So today, moving from the Salon, we are going outside—to meditate.
Our languages are said that harbour meaning (Deutsch, English, Dansk, Français, etc.). Yet, this meaning is not a given, it transcends something. There is something beneath language. Beneath language—beneath all languages—their is sound, or rather, music. Music lives beneath meaning and before it. It is before meaning, as a pre-condition as well as standing in front of it—or rather beneath it. Meaning presupposes music, and could not emerge without it. Music inhabits the sensible. In fact, it carries all senses. It vibrates in this very microphone at this very time, and reverberates in the innermost secrets of our conversations. The transcendental dimension of our communication is nested in music. Before any exchange of meaning, even false meaning, deceptive utterances, and lies, music knows in advance harmonies and discords. Thus, beneath language there is a layer of music.
Language needs music—though music doesn’t need language.
Yet this music covers something else also. It covers the chaos that precedes it. Music needs noise. Noise is music’s essential condition. While music may know harmony and its discords, noise doesn’t know such thing. Noise is all that vibrates, may it be harmonious, discordant or otherwise. Noise makes music undifferentiated. It no longer carries any specific meaning; it carries all, or none. While music transcends noise, noise dins from the depth of matter. The transcendental dimension of music is nested in noise—its physical condition.
Music needs noise—though noise doesn’t need music.
There is thus a double transcendence from this global passage from noise to meaning. In other words, there are two local passages that link noise to language: (1) the first passage is the one from music to language—whose corridor is guarded by the mythological figures the goddess Muse and traversed by Orpheus, and (2) the tumultuous passage from noise to music—whose corridor is traversed by Ulysses and populated by the mythological figures of the unknown Sirens.
Like Orpheus’ Muse, noblewomen and noblemen excelled in the French art of conversation in the Salon. With tact, taste and acuity, they mastered the art of the pitch—this passage from music to meaning—from the soothing layer of harmony to the subtleties of meaning.
Still, before and below these séances in the Salon, the Sirens always control the mandatory local passage between the noisy din and the beginning of music—waves crashing, filtering white noise into distant, hypnotic songs. Sirens are born in sharp toothed-chaos, yet their mesmerising chant emanating from the din, which does also have perfect pitch, may not know harmony but nevertheless cuts through chaos, only to return back to it.
Michel Serres writes: “Eloquence begins by standing on coarse sand, facing the chaotic ocean and breaking pebbles in your teeth, and ends with the sublime. We should define sublimation as the passage from solid to gaseous, a softening.”
Noise is hard, meaning is soft. The soft smoothes out the sharp edges of solids, while the hard flattens out meaning altogether.
"Breaking rocks, transporting them by the tonne, compacting their sharp edges into a solid mass, demands energy output measurable in the horse-power. On the other hand, drawing letters on crosses with a brush, red on white, recognising their place within a code, makes energy demands that are not even comparable. The former is measured on the entropic scale, the latter on the information scale. The former is manual, the latter digital. It is the latter that is preferred by philosophers, who love signs and words, icons and notices, language, writing. A childhood spent breaking stones no doubt predisposes me to prefer the former. With time, progress is shifting from one to the other; I know full well that history passes from reality to language, from things to signs and from energy to information: from hard solutions to so-called soft ones. I merely ask that we remember hardness.
My ears still ring from the stone-breaking." — Michel Serres, The Five Senses