William Burroughs – 1976 – 2 (Raudive)

Konstantīns Raudive (1909-1974)

William Burroughs lecture from yesterday continues

WSB: Now to consider Raudive‘s experimental procedure. The experiments were carried out in a soundproof studio. A new blank tape was turned on and allowed to record. Then the tape was played back and then the experimenter, listening through headphones, detected quite recognizable voices and words, that were found to be recorded on the tape. Let me say at once that I have not yet performed this experiment though it’s an obvious extension of the experiments I did perform – Well why not? – Well, it simply didn’t occur to me. A step becomes obvious when someone takes it. Conversely, it did not occur to Raudive to take his recorded words and voices (he could have used copy-tape of course) (and) run them through echo-chambers, overlay, inch, speed-up, slow down, scramble them, and what not. I now intend to perform Raudive’s experiments with a number of variations and I hope that some of you will do the same.

Raudive had recorded one-hundred thousand phrases of these voices. The speech is almost double the usual speed and the sound is pulsed in rhythms like poetry or chanting.These voices are in a number of accents and languages, often quite ungrammatical. Here’s one – “You I friends where stay”. Sounds like a Tangier hustler! – Now, reading through the sample voices in Breakthrough, I was struck by the many instances of a distinctive style reminiscent of schizophrenic speech, certain dream utterances, some of the cut-ups, and delirium voices like the last words of Dutch Schultz. Many of the voices allegedly come from the dead, There’s Hitler, Nietzche, Goethe, Jesus Christ, anybody who is anybody is there, (having undergone a marked deterioration of their mental and artistic faculties – Goethe certainly isn’t what he used to be, and Hitler certainly had a bigger and better mouth when he was alive). On one level the recorded voices’ procedure is a sophisticated electronic table-tapping, and table-tapping is one aspect to the cut-up experiments I’ve described. After all, what better way to contact someone than to cut and rearrange his actual words. Certainly an improvement on the usual scene where Shakespeare’s announced, to be followed by some excruciatingly bad poetry. Now whether there is actual contact with the dead (or not) is an academic question so long as there is no way to prove or disprove it.

An element of precision could be introduced using voice-prints where recordings of someone’s voice exists. (I mean, someone turns up on the tape and pretends to be (Jack) Kerouac, you can check it against Kerouac’s voice-print). Now voice-prints are as individual as fingerprints and they could be compared of course to the voices on tape (of course it is not impossible that a voice-print could be precisely imitated). Messages from the dead or not, the voices frequently refer to the thoughts and preocccupations of those present at the session, or to people connected to those present. Now here is an example from the Handbook of Psychic Discoveries:

“New experiments began with a surprise. The German team lost their way. At the same time one of the group was stricken with a very severe toothache. Meanwhile, Jurgenson decided to try a recording session on his own. Replaying the tape he heard the German words , “Sie kommen bald. Zahrnatz Zahrnatz” (They will arrive soon. Dentist. Dentist)”

Now I’ve pointed out a stylistic similarity between the voices recorded by Raudive, dream speech, schizophrenic speech, words spoken in delirium, and cut-ups, and this does not apply to all of the material in many of these categories, much of which may be quite banal and undistinguished. For example, a frequently recurring phrase in Raudive’s book is “Heat the bathroom. Company is coming”. Well I thought this was some kind of an esoteric code, but it simply refers to a Latvian custom – When they are expecting guests, someone goes into the bathroom and lights the stove. So it’s a question of selecting the material which is stylistically interesting, or which may contain references of personal, or prophetic in some cases, significance, I’ve already given some examples of cut-ups and here are some examples of dream-speech. This first one is from one of my students at New York City College who encountered (Ernest) Hemingway in a dream and asked him how he could be there when he was dead and then Hemingway replied, “We can come out when shadows cover the cracks”.
And these are, mostly, from my own dreams – “You need black money here. We still don’t have the nouns. Do you like to get lost or patrol cars. The symbol of the skull and the symbol of soap turn on the same axis. Can’t you keep any ice? The Inspectorate of Canada is banging on the door. I suppose you think Missouri is a lump. You have an airforce appetite. The lair of the bear is in Chicago, The unconscious imitated by cheesecake. A tin of tomato soup in Arizona. Where naked troubadors shoot snotty baboons, Green is a man to fill is a boy. I can take the hut set anywhere. A book called Advanced Outrage. An astronaut named Platt. First American shot on Mars. Life is a flickering shadow with violence before and after it. A good loser always gives up control for what the situation would be if control wasn’t there to look around in it (if there wasn’t any question of control).”

And here are two examples of dream slang – “An ounce of heroin is a beach, you can lay around in it for a month” and “to camel” is dream-slang for “fuck”.

Unfortunately, I do not have examples of schizoprenic speech, just a few from my memory, and collecting this material would be a very useful project. And I just have two here that I remember – “Doctorhood is being made with me. It’s stylistically similar to the Inspectorate of Canada” – and “Radius radius it is enough”,

And here are a few quotes from the last words of Dutch Schultz. He was shot on, I believe, it was Thursday, in 1935, and he died twenty-four hours later, and I believe there was a police stenographer at his bedside the whole time – about two thousand words, I’m just giving you a very few. And he had a temperature of one-hundred-and-three, he’d been shot through the liver:

“The glove will fit what I say. I wanted to break the ring. I get a month.. He was a cowboy in one of the seven days a week fight. In the olden days they waited and they waited. Let me in the district. Please let me get in and eat. This is something that should not be spoken about.Be instrumental in letting us know. No, it is confused and it says no. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim. (that’s supposed to be the most enigmatic line, I wonder what the police made of it). Please crack down on the Chinaman’s friends and Hitler’s commander. Mother is the best bet and don’t let Satan draw you too fast. They are French people.It was desperate. I am wobbly. I don’t want harmony/I want harmony. Open this up and break it so I can touch you. The baron says these things. Come on open the soap duckets. The chimney-sweeps take to the sword. Let me in the district..French Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.”

Now here are some of the phrases from Raudive’s book (and I have taken these phrases out of what might be called a minimal context, because they weren’t very much in context anyway) for illustrative considerations:.

“Cheers, here are the non-dead. Here are the cunning ones. We are here because of you. We are all longing to go home. Politics, here is death. Take the grave with you. It snows horribly. We see Tibet with the binoculars of the people. Give reinforcement. Diminish the stopper. Sometimes only the native country loves. I am expensive. We are coordinated, the guard is manifold. You belong probably to the cucumbers. Telephone with restraint comrade. It is difficult in Train A. Covering fire. Send orders. Are you without jewelry?.
A lecture is taking place here. We have become accustomed to our sick ones. Get out of the defensive position. Speed is required. Leave it in full gear. Have done with the seemingly apparent. Please to use studio postulated to you. Faustus, good morning. I demand our authorities. This is the aunt’s language. Identity card. Passport. Bind death, obey death. Bring a halibut.You can refuse. It is permitted. A pistol is our man. This is operational. Even the wolves do not stay here. Into battle. The long life flees. We ignite. It is bad here. Here the birds burn. Are you without jewelry? It smells of the operational death. Knowledgeable Goth, the deed of the future. Believe. Separated, Here is eternity. The far away exists. You are the contract. Are you in salt? We have been loooking all over the place for human beings. Oh good the sea. Professor of non-existence, the body is evidence of the spirit. The natural key. We are the language here. The doctor is on the market. Good evening our chap, are you making mummies to standard? It is enough. Reason submitted. Called at a bad time. This is operational even in the middle. With binoculars at the border, you have nevertheless to fetch our clothes. Prepare trousers in the bathroom. Why are you a German? Clean out the earth. The new Germany. Hitler is a good animal-infesting louse. Have you stolen horses with him? Yo siento. Man pricks. Buena cosa man. Draw the spirit to the plata. Hurry to make the flutes. Facts see us. I am practically here. A good crossing. The earth disintegrated.”

It sounds very much like some kind of a code and I tried to interpret some of it.
Now, “We see Tibet with the binoculars of the people” – now this means something to me because in 1970, about the time that these recordings were made, I wrote a story about a Chinese patrol who finds a Tibetan monastery taken over by the CIA to test a radioactive virus. I’ll just read a paragraph from that:

“The scouting party stopped a few hundred yards from the village on the bank of a stream. Yen Lee studied the village through his field glasses – (through “the binoculars of the people”) – while his men sat down and lit cigarettes. The village was built into the side of a mountain. The stream ran through the town and water had been diverted into pools on a series of cultivated terraces that led up to the monastery. There was no sign of life in the steep winding street by the pools. He lowered his glasses, signalling for the men to follow. The men crossed a stone bridge, two at a time covered by the men behind them. If any defenders were going to open fire now would be the time and place to do it. Beyond the bridge, a street twisted up te mountainside. On both sides there were stone huts, many of them fall into ruins.Keeping to the sides and taking cover behind the ruined huts, Yen Lee became increasngly aware of a hideous unknown odor. He motioned the patrol to halt and stood there sniffing – (I think he was smelling the pickle-factory)

“You belong probably to the cucumbers” – I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the term used to designate the CIA, it’s “the pickle-factory”. “He works for the pickle-factory” means he works…he’s a CIA man. I think this designation was mentioned in Time or Newsweek and I’d already heard it from some acquaintances in the CIA. Well, what would be the derivation of the term? – To be “in a pickle” is to be in a quandary and a bbad spot, and what is the CIA manufacturing but bad spots and quandries, so I think it’s quite possible that that is the reference.
“Telephone with restraint comrade” – Watch what you say over the phone – the cucumbers are listening in.”
“Are you without jewelry” – Well this may refer to the laces, the first laces were actually made with rubies, I believe, or whatever the ingredients necessary
“Bind death, obey death” – compare to Dutch Schultz’s last words “I don’t want harmony/I want harmony”
“Are you in salt? We have been loooking all over the place for human beings” – Now salt could refer to any basic commodity. In this case, since the voices are discarnate, the reference is probably to human bodies. Your blood, as you know has the saline content of sea-water (“Oh good, the sea”). Now to say “Are you in blood?” would sort of blow your vampiric cover (that would be a little crude)
“Have you stolen horses with him?” is a German proverb meaning “can you trust him?”
“Draw the spirit to the plata” – Now, Raudive considers this utterance inexplicable. Apparently he did not know that “plata” is a general Spanish slang term for money.
“A good crossing. The earth disintegrated” – Some years ago, scientists drew up a plan for aspaceship to be propelled by an atomic blast – and that would be a motive for blowing up the earth – propulsion to healthier areas.

The publication of Breakthrough in England caused quite a stir, and Peter Bander wrote a book, Voices From the Tapes describing the circumstances surrounding the publication. There were articles in the press, radio and television programs and much discussion pro and con. Some people protested that if these voices come from the dead, they seem to be living not in celestial realms but in a cosmic hell. In consequence the voices may be misleading, interested, even downright ill-intentioned. Well, what did they expect? a chorus of angels with tips on the stock market? Others protested that contact with these voices is dangerous, inciting the use of black magic and invocation of lower astral entities by Nazi leaders. An article written by a psychic researcher, Gordon Turner, [Psychic News, May 15,1971] typifies the “dangerous-for-the-unitiated” line. Turner’s article was written in answer to an article by someone named (R.A.) Cass, in which he, Cass, says, “If a door has been opened between this world and the next then the masses, armed with their cheap transistor sets and five-pound Hong Kong recorders will participate despite Gordon Taylor, the Pope, and the Government”. And here is Turner:

“I believe Breakthrough should not have been published. Does Cass think it is safe for anyone and everyone to open themselves to this kind of influence? Has he the slightest conception of how dangerous this might be?” – Dangerous to who exactly? When people start talking about the danger posed by making psychic knowledge available to the masses, they are generally tryimng to monopolize this knowledge for themselves. In my opinion, the best safeguard against the abuse of such knowledge is wide dissemination. The more people that know about it the better. A large number of independent researchers is the best insurance against monopoly or misuse by power-oriented groups or individuals. The time has come to dump all these secrets on the table, Secret weapons, secret doctrines, the lot. They are less dangerous in the hands of the general public than in the hands of intelligence agencies and the military, and I feel that knowledge belongs to anyone who can use it.

I’d like to stop here for some questions and discussions because we’ve really covered an awful lot of ground in this lecture so far. Questions?

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-six minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-seven minutes in]

(An earlier version of this transcript appeared in Talking Poetics From Naropa Institute – Annals of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics – Volume 1 – (edited by Anne Waldman and Marilyn Webb), Shambhala, 1978)

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