Notes on Voice

This text is a collection of notes on the voices of Stefan Burnett (alias: MC Ride) and Thebe Neruda Kgositsile (alias: Earl Sweatshirt), from live performances and studio recordings in LA. These notes attempt to see the voice in the process of desiring-production, through live video and sound recording. It goes without saying that they are incomplete.

From Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus:

The disjunctive synthesis of recording therefore comes to overlap the connective syntheses of production. The process as process of production extends into the method as method of inscription. Or rather, if what we term libido is the connective “labor” of desiring-production, it should be said that a part of this energy is transformed into the energy of disjunctive inscription (13).[1]

Conforming to the meaning of the word “process,” recording itself is produced by the production of production. Similarly, recording is followed by consumption, but the production of consumption is produced in and through the production of recording. This is because something on the order of a subject can be discerned on the recording surface. It is a strange subject, however, with no fixed identity, wandering about over the body without organs, but always remaining peripheral to the desiring-machines, being defined by the share of the product it takes for itself, garnering here, there, and everywhere a reward in the form of a becoming or an avatar, being born of the states that it consumes and being reborn with each new state. “It’s me, and so it’s mine…” Even suffering, as Marx says, is a form of self-enjoyment. Doubtless all desiring-production is, in and of itself, immediately consumption and consummation, and therefore, “sensual pleasure” (16).

Desiring-production is that force which appropriates (consumes) a Real image or recording of the Other, in process, effectively making it with them (consummation). The Real image that records the Other here, within the process of desiring-production, immediately becomes a sensual image, framing, or fantasy of the Other.


Positioning of the mouth; objects nearing the mouth wide open, screaming. Microphone shoved towards it. As for the rest of the body? Stance ー width between the leg exaggerated. Waving from arm, madly. Aggressive hailing tactic. Classless. That grip of his, it’s quite concerning. How you hold the mic is how you hold the voice and any other organ on the surface of your body, if you’re screaming, I mean if you’re a rapper, you’re the rapper, you know, how they do it like that.

Uh, I don’t know about this…

Chest expanded, pointing as head or eye… towards the back overbent, bad ballerina, wicked. Cracked at… above the sweet spot. Hurled from the pit of the stomach, hacked up from the gut. He’s curled over now. Where’s the voice here? The body discharging from the voice faces its mouth to you. What’s the image here? Not a description of the sound of a voice. Why would you need that anyway? Well, you’ll need to get from voice, heard, to word, written. Both can be seen. Image as flat surface, open wide to seeing, the gazing function. Porous. Bypass an accumulation of objects under the wrong loving eye, one that sees charming objects. “Adorable!” Who says that? “I adore you because you are adorable…” No. You root yourself into a premeditated encounter with the voice. But here, on the page, the way it will be, it will not be sounding for you. Catch it from its backside, away from the production of sound itself. Take a look. See that voice twisting the vowels, overdrawing the long ones like he’s got a toothache. What it is first is not what it sounds like but how he arrives there, by the shaping of his mouth, by the framing of the parts on his face. To finetune a certain handling of the voice. Don’t know if I can say that at this point what you would be listening to, in total with the voice, would still be music. I say that you need to have a good ear, a hungry one, with good appetite. Then, holding yourself like this, tightly creased but spread open, for easy manipulation. Holding yourself like this, you face the voice. Desiring-production. In order to see the voice outside of description, representation, or mimesis, you need to look at the parts of the body included by the voice, the parts that make it work. Then you identify where the erotic is in it, what you like of it, what of it you want more, what in it appeals to you. Then you identify where the sexual is. Then locate precisely where it differentiates itself from the erotic. Start from the body, what’s closest to you, up front. Here, at the body. Ask: What’s the look of all of this?

Stanceーwidth between the leg exaggerated. Waving from arm, madly.

Why does he have to move like this when his mouth does like that? Just listen. Then you extend this, carefully, to the voice itself. You make a hypothesis. You work before the screaming voice, fabricating its cause, a second one, what became before its first articulation. If you have it. You have to have it. What you’ll have is two at once:  rhyming in rhythm, crossover, tripping, dizzy. Voice cluttered with no inflection. Smooth, monotonous. The image of him like this, Earl… Get it right and it won’t be a mirroring or mimetic function. If you’re lucky, you go on to develop principles, rules of thumb for building your own toy Ride, your own toy Earl. Could you speak like that? Productive culmination of a flawed personality. Nasty even. Schizophrenic? Ah, not so fast. I think the two of them are suspicious. With their body, the model they have for the body. Look at the eyes. Don’t listen to them; retain the face. In perfect condition. Identifying the personality here, in potential difference from the schizophrenic should give me something to say of a new productive body, or bearer of intensive production.

The theory of schizophrenia is formulated in terms of three concepts that constitute its trinary schema: dissociation (Kraepelin), autism (Bleuler), and space-time or being-in-the-world (Binswanger). The first of these is an explanatory concept that supposedly locates the specific dysfunction or primary deficiency. The second is an ideational concept indicating the specific nature of the effect of the disorder: the delirium itself or the complete withdrawal from the outside world, “the detachment from reality, accompanied by a relative or an absolute predominance of [the schizophrenic’s] inner life.” The third concept is a descriptive one, discovering or rediscovering the delirious person in his own specific world. What is common to these three concepts is the fact that they all relate the problem of schizophrenia to the ego through the intermediary of the “body image”一the final avatar of the soul, a vague conjoining of the requirements of spiritualism and positivism.

The ego, however, is like daddy-mommy : the schizo has long since ceased to believe in it. He is somewhere else, beyond or behind or below these problems, rather than immersed in them…but why try to bring him back to what he has escaped from, why set him back down amid problems that are no longer problems to him?… There are those who will maintain that the schizo is incapable of uttering the word I, and that we must restore his ability to pronounce this hallowed word. All of which the schizo sums up by saying: they’re fucking me over again. “I won’t say I any more, I’ll never utter the word again; it’s just too damn stupid…” (23).


…At the end of Malone Dies, Lady Pedal takes the schizophrenics out for a ride in a van and a rowboat, and on a picnic in the midst of nature: an infernal machine is being assembled. “Under the skin the body is an over-heated factory,/ and outside,/ the invalid shines,/ glows,/ from every burst pore.”

This does not mean that we are attempting to make nature one of the poles of schizophrenia. What the schizophrenic experiences, both as an individual and as a member of the human species, is not at all any one specific aspect of nature, but nature as a process of production. What do we mean here by process? It is probable that at a certain level nature and industry are two separate and distinct things: from one point of view, industry is the opposite of nature; from another, industry extracts its raw materials from nature; from yet another, it returns its refuse to nature; and so on (3). 

Ride is an interesting case. The question is how is the face masked, clothed here. If you always keep your front well-groomed, well-presented, always remaining handsome. What voice does the mouth cause here? I mean Ride can’t remain handsome. Earl can, kind of, but it’s more of a smoothness “like it’s nothing.” Violence as if it were nothing. The total lack of premeditation… the immediate application of intense force known by the brute. Still smooth. But not humorous. Nothing to laugh about. With the case of the two of them. The voice is disfigured. He’s screaming again.


What happened?

Imagine trying to keep it clean, contained, when you’re clearly losing it. The voice takes on this texture that’s trying to cover up itself, gaining depth, its wobbly, warped, surface twisted. “Warping.” Ride’s voice is often just bulging, stretching, gaping out from itself, out of line, its own line, which is, through time, unfolding before us, paved ahead of us as we watch, listening. The other one? He smoothes everything out with register and rhythm, his voice is monotonous. But Stefan has to ride through maybe three faces to keep on spitting out. “Deep Web.” His hypeman is his second face. “I’m the coathanger in!…” Or: A voice that’s deep. A large span in a hand. Slow fingers. Sturdy wrists. Heavy eyes, drooping. As if, as if… Puppet-mouth, frozen open. Check the flow, keep on going.

Uh, I don’t know…

Keep on going.

Yeah his mouth is really good… but where is he looking at, hmm… There are very miraculous things that happen in opera. Wagner forces a new capacity of the voice, requires a whole new configuration of the prima donna. You see, she needs to basically be an elephant. To shout over the brass. The mouth there is different now, but not first on the surface of the face. The shape of his mouth doesn’t change as much as where it’s relocated within the body to gain a new force. Chest voice, head voice… what’s the other one?

You’re stuck on this flat level of enjoyment, listening to the voice. This won’t cut it. You can’t produce anything stuck here. So what’s the proper encounter, how do you recognize the voice? The question isn’t “How do you like it?,” or “what’s the ideal voice?”

Ah ー passaggio!

Desire now is weighted too heavy towards the other, away from you, nearly fetishizing it. The best you could get here is acquisition of the voice, zipped up, toetagged, and frozen. As they say, there’s desiring-acquisition and desiring-production. Shoot for the latter, I’m pretty sure the former gives you death, with nothing of the voice left remaining. Ride screams and nearly tips himself over. From the gut, no? Earl’s got it so he doesn’t even have to scream. A lot of times he’s just playing mouth games, really just twisting his mouth, emitting a vowel, then framing consonants around it. Counting time on his fingers. Or he’s tired, voice is hoarse. Inverse operation. Ride just barely holds his voice sprung out of joint, hyperextended. Production is funneled through the process of recording, repeated in parts, each time with something of the real voice leftover, something you couldn’t quite catch. The first recording is what you have available to you. There’s video recording. There’s studio recording. There’s recording of live video… If you need to get to somewhere other than the first recording that’s available to you, but somewhere that bears a genuine relation to the first one, his voice and his voice… what will be your new recording method? Patch it together. You can treat the voice as a law to be said again and again: the cover, lip syncing, karaoke. But these methods risk a casual mimesis of the voice. There is the arrangement. A collection and redistribution of voices that strips the voice from its forces or productive bodies in the first instance, and transfers them to a new set of bodies, new workforce, new collective. Transcription. There is transcription of the voice. What happens here is a change in kind, from spoken word to written text, for example. Happens in order to transfer something in the original to where it needs to be for different purposes. But there is nothing that guarantees that what was obtained through the act of transcribing the voice is essential. Ok, well there is the analysis. There’s the review. Which way is the best way to produce while you listen? The review can catch something, sure… but doesn’t tell you how to engage with its producing subject. The analysis is one step in the right direction, but… which recording method is the best? Or, what is the optimal chain of recording methods, the one that will get you to a return of the voice? That painter goes from real to photograph to painting. A blueprint looks towards a real that hasn’t been actualized yet, in fantasy, longingly. Which category is most like the score? T’s are soft now. He digs deep into his register, sinking there once he’s found it. There’s another voice crowding his for support. See Doris. “Guild.”

…like you know these paws.

At paws comes the bursting open of a multiple, count of the voice expands from one. Throwing a stick at a swarm of flies gnawing on something. If I try to note it like this:

…like you know these paws- pa-paw-paws.

Or this:

…like you know these pーp-pa-paw-pawーaws.

Both are a little silly. The law thing I was talking about; potential problem with transcription.

…split the residuals.

You see the momentum in each syllable nearly leaking out, as if each could be a downbeat. He comes in now for the finish, for the cadence. There’s something about the voice mispronouncing things. Diction:

Don’t make me take my face off! Show you why I hate soft!

“Guild” again. Earl’s entrance, you know what I mean. He slides in and sits there low, heavy. He’s indenting space behind him. There’s delay, occlusion, he’s lagging behind himself. What is he taking in to be configured like this? The shape of his voice is tucked in but unwieldy. I mean, he’s down, he’s faced downwards. His voice is encased in an embryonic liquid, or layer of pus, then pressed downwards, further. The enunciation of words, flow, is premeditated. Why are his words like that, why is he breathing like that? Now he’s spitting with his mouth open. Hear the spit building up in his mouth, residual noise, inverse tic, the other one sniffs, slurps on a beat, he’s developed a bad habit. You are slowly working your way towards the first project: seeing a voice, imaged. Desiring it for you, securing it, recording, writing it down. In order to produce the recording. The production of recording, the production of production. You’ve circled back, made a loop. Back at desire again. You have said this already. When you are seeing the voice, you are properly listening. In listening. His voice is whittled down to himself again, not rebirthed, but pulverized, beaten to a pulp, fat carved out. Remember him? What do you do to make his voice like this. The stance of it, he needs to be loosened, prepared. Both equally intimidating. Can’t quite touch them here. I mean, what would you hold onto?

[1] Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Oedipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L’Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.


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