William Burroughs – 1976 – 6

William S Burroughs, Lawrence, Kansas, March 1992. Photo: Allen Ginsberg

continuing from yesterday

WSB: Now to combine the tape-recorder experiments already described with Raudive’s procedure. Raudive’s recordings were made in a soundproof studio because he was concerned with demonstrating that the voices were recorded under controlled conditions and could not be attributed to accidental background sounds or voices, people talking in the street, a radio broadcast next door, or, of course, people talking in the studio. And I think that anyone who examines the evidence will agree that he has, in fact, proved his case.
So I am not interested simply in collecting additional proof, but in the actual phenomenon on tape, whatever it’s source. A soundproof studio is not essential. In fact, the first to pick up on the voices in 1959, was a Swedish painter, Friedrich Juergenson, who was recording bird songs and, on playing back his recordings of bird songs, he heard a quiet he heard a quiet male voice discussing nocturnal bird songs in Norwegian. And Jorgensen was the one who turned Raudive on to the voices.

Now the first step would be to take Raudive’s recordings and process them – speed-up, slow-down, try cut-ups, scrambling, and see what new voices emerge (and I will perform these experiments as soon as I can get the record that he’s put out, a record of the actual recordings).Meanwhile, I’ve done some simple cut-ups on paper and on the recorder using my own voice reading his recorded phrases (that was that cut-up)

Now this is only a beginning. Now, let us say that you are invoking (Arthur) Rimbaud. Instead of working with the whole tape blank, you pre-record on another recorder a few phrases of Rimbaud’s poems and cut them in during the recording, at random. On playback, pay particular attention to the fraction of a second before and after the pre-recordings cut in. You can use the same procedure with any writer living or dead. In the case of musicians or singers, music or singing can be cut in in this way. Or, in cases where recordings of someone’s voice exist, these could be used.

There are many variations. During the recording project a film without the soundtrack and see if there’s any.. if any of the soundtrack finds its way onto the tape. Or you could read silently Shakespeare, Rimbaud, the Bible, Newsweek, and see if there’s any correlation between this silent reading and what is recorded on the tape, And you all know how a tune can stick in your head and play over and over. Would such compulsive sub-vocal playback be picked up on the tape? Now hearing voices is a diagnostic indication of schizophrenia according to the psychiatrist. The question is could these voices be picked up on tape in the vicinity of psychotic patients?(as far as I know, the attempt has never been made, so there are very very many experiments that could be made that have not been made)

Raudive considers three theories to account for the voices – one: they are somehow printed on the tape by electromagnetic energy generated by the unconscious minds of the researchers, or of people connected with them – two: the voices are of extra-terrestrial origins – three: the voices come from the dead (a slip of the typewriter here, or slip of the voice, or slip of the pen.. or the typewriter (such a slip) is always something to pay attention to. It may be what you really meant to say – Instead of “the voices come from the dead”, I wrote, “the voices some from the dead”).

He [Raudive] then crosses out number one, the imprint theory, because, he says, it’s technically impossible. It seems to me that we are operating in an area where technical impossibility, in terms of what we know about magnetic tape and the way in which sounds and voices are imprinted by the usual means, no longer applies, We could make tapes where the participants concentrate on imprinting certain voices. Suppose we take twenty (Jack) Kerouac students who’ve read his voices.. (who have read his novels! – to be sure), heard his voice on tape, seen photos of him at various ages. They all gather in the studio silently concentrating on Kerouac. Would this have any effect on the content of the tape? – Well, I don’t know, but even a high correlation, the recording, for example, of voices purporting to come from Kerouac, would not prove that the voices are imprinted by concentration, conscious or unconscious, of those present, but it would suggest that the voices might be influenced in this way. Remember that your memory bank contains tapes of everything you have ever heard, (including of course your own words). Press a certain button and a news broadcast you heard ten years ago plays back. There’s ample proof of this vertiginous warehouse of data stored in the human nervous system, with no method so far devised for passing it along for disposal. Under hypnosis people have remembered in detail conversations and events that took place many years ago (and this has been confirmed by witnesses). Of course a more precise experiment would be to have the subject remember a tape he heard ten years ago, and then compare the original tape with the tape of his recall.

And hypnotic subjects have been able to recall exactly what doctors and nurses said during an operation, and such recall (particularly, if it has a menacing or derogatory content) can be extremely disturbing- “One thing is sure, he don’t look good” – “A filthy mess..” – “Sew her up, it’s inoperable” – “Clamps, nurse, he’s bleeding like a pig” – “Prepare the patient for a heart shot” – “A round of drinks he dies on the table” – These irresponsible observations and comments are recorded and stored in the patient’s memory bank, enough to convey a permanent patient status. You see, the doctors… the doctors didn’t know that the patient can hear when he’s unconscious (and that the so-called “unconscious” may well consist precisely of what he has heard while he was unconscious from anesthesia, drugs, alcohol, shock, fear, and pain) – That fits right in with (Sigmund) Freud’s theory of the unconscious as something that was so frightening, or so traumatic, that he has forgotten it. So, doctors were not aware of that – well, they know it now. The reference , ”Future Shock”, Esquire, Christmas issue, 1971 – “Doctor Cheek, who carried out hypnotic experiments on post-operative subjects and found they were recording every word and sound in the operating room, recommended that silence be observed during an operation” – because what the patient hears during an operation is filed with all his tapes of pain, fear, helplessness, and hostility – all the horrible, frightening and disgusting things he has ever known, awake or asleep, conscious or unconscious, from his conception.

You know the old joke about the couple who adopted a French baby taking French lessons so they would understand him when he started to talk. Like many jokes, it’s not a joke. Doctor Truby has found that children adopted at birth by parents speaking a different language may be retarded in consequence, since they have heard and stored the mother’s language in the womb.

Well, there are years of tape-recorded tapes, day and night, stored in your memory bank – and film to go with it (talkies, feelies, smellies, tasties) – and any of these tapes can be activated by touching an associational switch – You’re walking down the street and something you see, hear, smell, turns on an old tape that you haven’t heard in twenty years – “Now why did I think of that?” Everyone you have ever known, (however briefly), is there on film and tape. Take a look at these talking films and tapes, you’ll begin to notice that certain words and characters tend to recur. The rude clerk in Hong Kong bore a strong resemblance to the rude clerk in New York and both used the same words to indicate that they did not have what you asked for – “I never heard of it”. And, similarly, the nice clerk in Tangier looked like the nice clerk in London.

The more you look at it the more it looks like a tired old film – nice voices, nasty voices, good guys and bad guys, the old game of war from the Stone Age to eternity – “Are we men or toothless crones? How long will we allow the filthy Zambezi to plunder our fishing territories?” – “As free men, we cannot stand idly by” – “time to get yourself hid good, and the deeper the better” – “and I say to Russia, “Beware the fury of a patient man”” – “A good crossing, the earth disintegrated” – Old war tapes. We all have millions of hours of it  (even if we never fired a gun). War tapes, hate tapes, fear tapes, pain tapes, happy tapes, sad tapes, funny tapes, all stirring around in a cement-mixer of voices.

Raudive dismisses the idea that the voices might be of extra-terrestrial origin because they’re too banal (well, there’s no reason to think that we have a monopoly on banality). Besides, the voices may contain a code,to be extracted by speech-scramblers or other processing (As I have pointed out, some of the communications are in a cryptic code style) Now his reasoning exemplifies the error of either/or thinking. Having categorically crossed out one and two, he’s stuck with number three – the voices come from the dead.

Now I could suggest other possible explanations. For example, the voices are a recording of the memory stored in the memory bank of the experimenters and are played into the tape recorder just as one tape recorder with a lead can record directly onto another. This would account for the fact that no voices are heard during recording but only on playback.
Or why not all three possibilities – and the others he hasn’t thought of  – in various combinations some from the dead, some from other sources).

Now the psychiatrists tell us, with little more evidence than their words, (“informed medical opinion”, they call it) that any voices anyone hears in his head originate there, and thatthey do not, and cannot, have an extraneous origin – “That way witchcraft lies” – The voices are either objective or subjective (whereas (in fact), all sensory phenomena are both). If you look at a lampshade and see a snarling dog head, you are still looking at something, that is, receiving aural in-put. If you scan meanings in English out of an Arab radio broadcast, you are still listening to something, that is, you are receiving aural in-put. Even in sensory deprivation, your body-sounds would be recorded as objective in-put (and by objective, I mean recorded in your memory bank) .

The whole psychiatric dogma that voices are the imaginings of a sick mind has been called in question by voices which are in extraneous origin (objectively and demonstrably, they are on tape, (as they are), on tape, whatever their origin, And that is the basic point of these experiments – voices of extraneous origin, whatever the origin may be, have been recorded on tape. So the psychotic patient may be tuning in to a global, or inter-galactic, network of voices (some using quite sophisticated electronic equipment, that belongs, probably, to “the cucumbers”[CIA/NSA etc])

Fifteen years ago [1961] in Norway, experiments indicated that voices could be projected directly into the brain of the subject by an electromagnetic field around the head. And the experiments were in a formative stage at that time.  And I heard from someone who had a brother or cousin or something-in-law in the Navy who said they’d been in a top-secret project in sending thoughts with lasers. They said they can actually send a thought. We don’t hear about these things, they’re all top secret, classified.

So maybe we are all walking around under a magnetic dome of pre-recorded word and image. Are Raudive and the other experimenters simply plugging into the pre-recording? (the pre-recording, which is always a little ahead of him, because twice as fast – See, the voices that are recorded are about twice as fast as human speech, normal human speech, (though some people talk faster than others), and I think he slowed them down in order to transcribe.

The theory of a pre-recorded universe is venerable and many people have believed it, especially those on the way up believe in their “destiny”, as they call it. The Arab conception of Fate, Mektoub  it is written. It goes back to the Mayan control calander – it is written. And what is it written on ? Well,perhaps some material similar to magnetic tape and infinitely more sophisticated. This attempt to predict by controlling and control by predicting is very old. And it can now [1976] be computerized. Such modern controllers as (William Randolph) Hearst and (Henry) Luce have to be the pre-recorded universe (or as much of it as they can pre-record – Time and Life have whole warehouses of recordings)

(Ludwig) Wittgenstein says that no system may include itself as data. The only thing not pre-recorded in a pre-recorded universe is the pre-recordings themselves. Or, to put it another way, the only thing not pre-determined in a pre-determined universe is the pre-determiner. So, of course we are listening to pre-recordings of pre-recordings to infinity. However, by listening to, and processing, a pre-recording, you nullify its impact as a control instrument. What might have shocked your grandmother into a cataleptic state is dismissed with a weary shrug by teenagers today. Think of my WASP grandmother, the  wife of a circuit-riding Georgia minister, W.C.T.U, Colonial Dame, forced to witness a pornographic film. It would be the end of her!  Well, don’t blame Grandma! In actuality, the change didn’t happen all at once but by a series of gradient steps.

As soon as any data is widely disseminated by the media, it loses its shock impact in time. So then the machine has to feed you their pre-recording above that, and on back on an infinite tapeworm to the final pre-recordings, (which must exist somewhere in some form). “Pre-recordings to the people!” If the recordings that (Raudive has taped) are in any way derivative from the original pre-recordings (and they must be, come to think about it), then the experiment is worth anyone’s time. (Hans) Bender (sicconsiders the voices as important a discovery as nuclear physics.

Could you by cutting, overlaying, scrambling, nullify the pre-recordings of your own future, change it? Could the whole pre-recorded future of the human race be nullified or altered? – I don’t know. Let’s see.. and don’t let any smooth old voices ease you out of it – “There are certain things, my son, that human beings are not permitted to know” –“Like what we are doing!” – “Son, you’d fall dead from one whiff of the pickle factory and other similar factories in other countries” – “Scramble him like an egg before he hatches” – “What is this? His hand is one of the unbearable mysteries and the other players can’t see his cards, as he rakes in the chips, and then says that the chips are his cards, a billion on the board.”
Now that we know that words can be wiped out from a magnetic tape by a magnetic field. Now suppose some sophisticated magnetic device could wipe out all the bad tapes in everybody’s memory bank – “Our chap will run on the clean-slate ticket”
Now I’ll stop for some questions and discussion.

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventeen-and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-nine-and-a-half minutes in]

An earlier and slightly altered 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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