Radio-active
Monstrosities
**In a text of Anne Carson I find many adjectives and expressions of how people describe . . . of how our society describes . . . women's voices . . . high-pitched, loud shouting, having too much smile in it . . . decapitated hen, heartchilling groan, garg . . . horrendous, howling dogs, being tortured in hell, deadly, incredible babbling, fearsome hullabaloo . . . she shrieks obscenities, haunting garrulity, monstrous, prodigious noise level, . . . otherwordly echo, making such a racket . . . a loud roaring noise . . . wailing, sobbing, shrill lament, loud laughter, screams of pain or of pleasure, eruptions of raw emotion . . . groan, barbarous excesses, female outpourings, bad sound, craziness . . . non-rational, weeping, emotional display . . . oral disorder, disturbing, abnormal, "hysteria", "Not public property", exposing her inside facts . . . private data, permits direct continuity between inside and outside, female ejaculation . . . "saying ugly things", objectionable, pollution, remarkable . . .**

VOICE CONTRIBUTIONS

./collective_voice
The speaker's voice is channeled through multiple voices and in this case through distorted mediated voices of the same person
./echo_voice
A voice that is more distant from the speaker, sounding like being in an outer space inside the medium. This voice resembles sounds from online calls, theatre stage.
./lowpitch_voice
A voice that sounds more male because of lowering its pitch
./lowpass_voice
A voice that sounds like "shrill" if it is in high frequencies. This script doesn't allow high frequencies to pass through
p_p

jeffa

not_not

belastingdienst

unnamed

simoon_again

simoon_still_trying

:(

lo

Heidi.

nogartse

history_lesson

soundkm

up

aaaaaargh

lain

my_defense

drag

lo_2

estragon

ou

ariannanas

ariannanas

settle

perfectionist_again

perfectionist

p_p

Heidi.

not_not_not

scribble&plink

Joana


        


[Angeliki Diakrousi, Radioactive Monstrosities, 2020. Rotterdam]. Copyleft: This is a free work, you can copy, distribute, and modify it under the terms of the Free Art License
If you want your full name to appear in the contributors list send me your name here: angeliki@genderchangers.org. The voice files will be part of this platform and future performances.

This web-audio interface addresses ways of listening to certain female-sounding voices that are perceived as inappropriate - because of the quality of their sound, their gender, the medium's distortions but also stereotypes and collective memories that they often awake. These are verbal expressions that have been associated with forms of 'monstrosity' since ancient times. You are invited to record yourselves, expressing your thoughts and choose a type of distortion to participate in, forming new imaginaries around a technologically-mediated collective voice, which through its monstrosity can reveal other forms of speech.

You can choose what type of distorted voice you want to have; 'collective', 'echo', 'lowpitch' or 'lowpass'. A series of texts reveals stories and theories behind each distortion. The interface allows each recorded voice to be saved on a home server where the website is hosted, and then distorted by executing several scripts. Then the new sounds are categorized by the type of chosen distortion, and published back to the platform. They can be played at the same time or in any desired order.

The interface was made by Angeliki Diakrousi for the performance "Radioactive Monstrosities", part of the event NL_CL #2 : FLESH : FLESH hosted by iii and Netherlands Coding Live. The voice samples will be part of this platform and future performances. Its conceptualization is an ongoing process related to the research project Let's Amplify Unspeakable Things and previous performances.

Credits: the platform is inspired by Vocable Code. Thanks to Alice, Gert, Joana for sharing references, Amy for her publication made for the workshop Eclectic Speech and Alex for helping with parts of the code. Thanks to the people that contributed and donated their voices:

Some more thoughts: Women's voices are often going through censorship and critique when they appear in public. They have to be adjusted and filtered in order to be heard and avoid silencing. This is extended to the technological apparatus that channel their voices, like radio. The listeners then, are hearing a distorted voice that expresses needs and opinions of its physical proprietor and it goes beyond its control. In this work I focus on the sound of that voice that is asking to become part of public dialogues. In the platform I refer to several examples that such voices have been through some kind of distortion. But it is not only women's voices that are going through these filters. It is also the queer, any feminine sounding voice, the collective, the resistant, the black and so many more. The examples I refer to have attracted my attention and are triggering aspects of my personal identity. This platform intends to welcome any case of medium's transformations that certain voices are going through as an extension of the society's censorship. I want to open the dialogue to more communities and people that have noticed an exclusion through mediated speech platforms. I invite you to reclaim these distortions that characterize excluded voices. Their distortion becomes their quality that is also their damage, through which needs, opinions, desires are expressed. I made a set of tools that distort the voice in ways that are borrowed from the examples I have encountered in my research. I invite you to choose the voice that you think reflects your personal needs, damages or you want to talk through it and become part of this dialogue and share your own experience or your imaginations about this voice. Regarding privacy, a distorted voice camouflages the actual vocal identity, and becomes anonymous.


Instructions:

*Press record and allow microphone share
*Speak to the microphone for a couple of seconds (max size:1M). The texts may be a source of inspiration
*Press stop and listen to it without distortion
*Press upload
*Type your name or nickname
*Choose a type of distortion
*Wait to be uploaded


git
Urban spaces host a variety of political activities such as squatting, demonstrations, displays of the politics of culture and identity which are visible on the street and which are not dependent on mainstream media technologies. Since the beginning of human societies there has been a need for gatherings and sharing knowledge through verbal communication. Today the agonistic dynamics of primitive oral thought, which have effected the development of Western literate culture, have been "institutionalized by the ‘art’ of rhetoric, and by the related dialectic of Socrates and Plato, which furnished agonistic oral verbalization with a scientific base" (Ong, 2002, pg. 45). 'Agonistic pluralism' – a term proposed by Chantal Mouffe – is a type of democracy that acknowledges the multiplicity of voices and values, as well as conflicts of contemporary pluralist societies.[1] A space, where is open for dialogue, can facilitate a democracy of agonism. Part of the occupy events would be public speeches in the context of public assemblies, often delivered by philosophers, writers, academics, resistance figures on the site of the occupied space – site specificity is also very characteristic in these cases. The audience would often be very big and therefore an amplifier was needed for the voice of the speaker to be heard by everyone. However, in the case of Occupy Wall Street, amplified sound devices, like microphones and megaphones, were only allowed outside, in public spaces when special permission from the police was given. But "when the technologies above them are removed somehow, the foundational elements remain embedded and embodied in our cyborg bodies and brains" (Moraine, 2011). The participants of #occupy became the 'human microphone', as they called it. This means that all together they would repeat the words of the speaker for the benefit of those located in the rear. "Even given that many of the participants of #occupy are in full possession of smartphones, verbal address to the crowd from a singular source is still important" (Pages, 2011). Saskia Sassen (Sassen, 2012) observes that in cities today a big mix of people coexist. Those who lack power can make themselves present through face-to-face communication. According to Sassen, this condition reveals another type of politics and political actors, based on hybrid contexts of acting, outside of the formal system[2]

[1] 'Agonistic pluralism' is based on 'agonism', instead of competitive antagonism, which means that people can see each other as adversaries who disagree, rather than enemies. Mouffe says that "a pluralist democracy cannot be to reach a rational consensus in the public sphere" (Mouffe, 2000a, pg. 104), because such a consensus cannot exist as it always implies a form of exclusion. 'Agonism' can be achieved by providing channels through which all collective passions can be expressed and mobilized towards democratic approaches between adversaries – rather than a process of rational persuasion that refuses the existence of such passions.

[2]Kanaveli (Kanaveli, 2012) maintains that something that is visible and can be heard is reality and can create and give power.

  • Kanaveli, E. (2012) 'Φύλο, φόβος και δημόσιος λόγος' [Gender, fear and public speech], Βαβυλωνία [Babylonia], (4), pp. 50–52. [In Greek]
  • Moraine, S. (2011) '“Mic check!”: #occupy, technology & the amplified voice', The Society Pages, 6 October. (Accessed: 6 December 2018).
  • Mouffe, C. (2000) -'For an Agonistic Model of Democracy', in The Democratic Paradox. London ; New York: Verso, pp. 80–107. -'Politics and Passions: the Stakes of Democracy', Ethical Perspectives, 7(2–3), pp. 146–150.
  • Ong, W. J. (2002) Orality and Literacy. 2 edition. London: Routledge.
  • Preston, J. (2011) 'Occupy Movement Shows Potential of Live Online Video', The New York Times, 11 December. (Accessed: 6 December 2018).
  • Sassen, S. (2012) 'The Shifting Meaning of the Urban Condition', archive public, 12 May.(Accessed: 5 March 2019).
We often feel uncanny listening back to our voices and their echoes through phones, video calls, voice messages. Imagine what a radical change radio brought in the experience for listening to each other, when it became public and accessible to everyone. I would like to think of echo in a more metaphorical sense, regarding the mediated female voices. I imagine a voice that has a special quality that creates the feeling that exists in different temporal spaces. I am thinking of gossip as an echo effect where messages are spread fast and collectively through a sequence of voices. Here an extract from a book of Silvia Federici:

[1]**Gossiping and the Formation of a Female Viewpoint

Gossip today designates informal talk, often damaging to those that are its object. It is mostly talk that draws its satisfaction from an irresponsible disparaging of others; it is circulation of information not intended for the public ear but capable of ruining people’s reputations, and it is unequivocally ‘women’s talk.’ It is women who ‘gossip,’ presumably having nothing better to do and having less access to real knowledge and information and a structural inability to construct factually based, rational discourses. Thus, gossip is an integral part of the devaluation of women’s personality and work, especially domestic work, reputedly the ideal terrain on which this practice flourishes. This conception of ‘gossip,’ as we have seen, emerged in a particular historical context. Viewed from the perspective of other cultural traditions, this ‘idle women’s talk’ would actually appear quite different. In many parts of the world, women have historically been seen as the weavers of memory—those who keep alive the voices of the past and the histories of the communities, who transmit them to the future generations and, in so doing, create a collective identity and profound sense of cohesion. They are also those who hand down acquired knowledges and wisdoms—concerning medical remedies, the problems of the heart, and the understanding of human behavior, starting with that of men. Labeling all this production of knowledge ‘gossip’ is part of the degradation of women—it is a continuation of the demonologists’ construction of the stereotypical woman as prone to malignity, envious of other people’s wealth and power, and ready to lend an ear to the Devil. It is in this way that women have been silenced and to this day excluded from many places where decisions are taken, deprived of the possibility of defining their own experience, and forced to cope with men’s misogynous or idealized portraits of them. But we are regaining our knowledge. As a woman recently put it in a meeting on the meaning of witchcraft, the magic is: “We know that we know.”**

In feminist movements the practice of speech and listening is very present. For many women it is difficult to express their inner thoughts, fears and opinions. These thoughts become internal voices that accumulate into anger and despair. These thoughts are becoming endless echoes of unrealized public speeches reverberating inside our bodies. In the text below, Audre Lorde speak with warmth and strength about turning this silence into language and action.

**The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action[2]

(...)In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear — fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live. Within this country where racial difference creates a constant, if unspoken, distortion of vision, Black women have on one hand always been highly visible, and so, on the other hand, have been rendered invisible through the depersonalization of racism(...)

Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation. For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it. For others, it is to share and spread also those words that are meaningful to us. But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth. And it is never without fear — of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death. But we have lived through all of those already, in silence, except death. And I remind myself all the time now that if I were to have been born mute, or had maintained an oath of silence my whole life long for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die. It is very good for establishing perspective. And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own. For instance, “I can’t possibly teach Black women’s writing — their experience is so different from mine.” Yet how many years have you spent teaching Plato and Shakespeare and Proust? Or another, “She’s a white woman and what could she possibly have to say to me?” Or, “She’s a lesbian, what would my husband say, or my chairman?” Or again, “This woman writes of her sons and I have no children.” And all the other endless ways in which we rob ourselves of ourselves and each other. We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.**

[1] The extracts in this text were collected by Amy Pickles in the publication for the workshop "Eclectic Speech", where I was invited to do a session called "Speaking to the machine".

[2]Paper delivered at the Modern Language Association’s “Lesbian and Literature Panel,” Chicago, Illinois, December 28, 1977. First published in Sinister Wisdom 6 (1978) and The Cancer Journals (Spinsters, Ink, San Francisco, 1980).

  • Silvia Federici (2018) Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women. Oakland, CA: Pm Press.
  • Lorde, A. and Clarke, C. (2007) Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Reprint edition. Berkeley, Calif: Crossing Press.
During the conflict in Syria, a group of people that wanted to broadcast their own news for the safety of the citizens and the avoidance of more killings, set up a radio station. Its programs would include urgent announcements of battles, strikes, and skirmishes, tutorials for medical care, music and other topical issues. The station, which was called Radio Fresh, ceased to exist in 2016 because of a sudden intervention from Nusra, an extremist Islamist group. While it was on the air the male initiators invited women, who were mainly hidden in their houses, to produce their own programs. Some groups of women decided to first learn vocal techniques. They then broadcasted their own music and speech, but after a while Nusra threatened to close the station if women didn't leave. "Nusra considered their voices shameful, a form of nakedness" (Ballout, 2019) – it sounds similar to the political nakedness that Anne Carson refers to in her text. When Alkaios, an archaic poet, was exiled in the outskirts of the city, he is surrounded by the cries of women – "[n]o proper civic space would contain it unregulated" (Carson, 1996, pg. 125). A man would not make a sound like that and for Alkaios to be exposed to it is a condition of political nakedness. Pythagoras had a similar opinion about his wife's voice; he believed that her speech like her body should not exposed to public, "and she should as modestly guard against exposing her voice to outsiders as she would guard against stripping off her clothes" (Carson, 1996, pg. 129).

Nusra refused to listen to whatever they want to say, because they were women. The group said that female voices in public is like a form of 'nakedness', that should not be exposed. However, when women transformed their voices technically to a male register – technicians helped them to change electronically the quality of their voice as they speak in the microphone – everybody would listen carefully to their words. For the purpose of making their own radio program, and include their voices in airwaves, they changed the gender of their voice. Their female body accepted a distortion into male. And by extension, the distorted mediation of their voice broke the fixed gender binary regarding their bodies being in public.

  • Ballout, D. (2019) 'Good Morning, Kafranbel', Wartime Radio This American Life. (Accessed: 5 February 2019).
  • Carson, A. (1996) 'The Gender of Sound', in Glass, Irony and God. First Edition edition. New York: New Directions, pp. 119–142.
**[1]TINA TALLON:. . . Newspapers and magazines repeatedly referred to women on air as “affected,” “stiff,” “forced,” and “unnatural.” . . . they asserted that women sounded “shrill,” “nasal,” and “distorted” on the radio, and claimed that women’s higher voices created technical problems.**

As Tina Tallon observes in 1927, the Federal Radio Commission decided to provide each station its own little 10000 hertz slice of bandwidth. So there's a segment . . . before you take the signal and modulate it into something that can be transferred . . . `{./radio-voice.sh}` in between stations known as the base band or the pre- modulated signal that had to be actually limited to 5000 hertz because amplitude modulation actually doubles the bandwidth of the signal. So initially they said, OK, we're gonna take all of our baseband signals and limit them to 5000 hertz. What that meant was all of the microphones and all of the equipment that people were using to record didn't need to go above 5000 hertz because none of that information would get transmitted.

**TINA TALLON: `{./lowpass.sh}`Steinberg’s experiments showed that the voiceband frequencies reduced the intelligibility of female speech by cutting out the higher frequency components necessary for the perception of certain consonants. Steinberg asserted that “nature has so designed woman’s speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well modulated tone.” Hinting at the age-old notion that women are too emotional, he wrote that a woman’s raised voice would exceed the limitations of the equipment, thus reducing her clarity on air**.

[1]Extract taken from scripts, part of the performance "Radioactive Monstrosities"