The lengthy and minute explorations of electro-magnetic recording technology presented here may seem excessive and somewhat inappropriate in a critical and philosophical paper on sound and mediation. Nevertheless, it is within these microscopic details of field lines and resistor-capacitor time constants that the micro-temporal object-oriented ontological cassette recorder begins to develop. A cassette recorder that emerges through the presented philosophical and technical perspectives as a source of insight into not only sound mediation and storage, but also the fragile and inconsistent nature of the objects we surround us with. In this context the awareness of the Rift is revealed through an artistic practice (the switch of carpentry) that requires a specifically technical insight in order to intervene with copper wires, resistors and switches, and through this intervention to develop a broadened understanding of the inaccuracy and imperfectness within and between the objects that define our technological horizon. These philosophical questions posed by carpentry and the micro-temporal analysis thus reveal an alternative reality of the operational tape recorder, a reality that can be claimed – following the thoughts of Wolfgang Ernst – to be in its core a-historical, meaning that the specific function of the machine is in some way outside history, and to some extent outside human discourse. However, this reality is not outside the discourse of cassette tape itself, an understanding that shifts the perspective towards a conceptualization that the technological moment is comprised of media, not humans, and this media is not dead, but operating (Ernst 2013: 183). Thus, an interweaving of object-oriented ontology and media archaeology emerges, bringing an awareness to the moment when media themselves become an active “archaeologist of knowledge” (Ernst 2011: 239). The exposition of magnetic saturation points towards the duration of media, instead of the history of media, thus introducing the sonicistic conceptualization developed by Wolfgang Ernst. In this conceptualization time and technology meet, not history and technology, a proposition that attempts to differentiate the sonic from the acoustic, thus focusing on the inaudible vibrational events within the technological apparatus.
From a media archaeological point of view, it is only technical media that are able to register physical real signals, and so does the cassette tape preserve not only the memory of human cultural semantics, but also the knowledge of how the cassette recorder manipulates and makes a magnetic imprint on the domains of the ferrous coating of the running tape. This knowledge is embodied in the operational technology exposed by its use in an artistic performative context and reconfigured into a philosophical practice by the notion of carpentry, which enables the exposition of physical material saturation, and questions our understanding of documented time. Through object-oriented ontology, this notion of time pours out of objects, not only from the Rift between essence and appearance, but also in the relations between objects, thus creating new translations in the inexhaustible chain that sound undergoes in its life. Objects are born when one object deforms the objects around it, new translations appearing as a Rift, and die when the Rift closes, thus reducing the object to pure appearance (Morton 2013: 110-124). The Rift can then be contextualized as the medium or mediation between the essence of the sound and the appearance of the sound, which is meaningful in relation to how the speed of sound changes in relation to the material by which it is mediated. For instance, sound travels faster in water – and even faster in iron – than it does in air. Returning to the understanding that it is impossible to locate the Rift is evidently meaningful, because it is just as impossible to grasp the essence of a sound without its mediation, thus pointing towards the fact that it is impossible for the sound object to exist without its mediation, because it would then be reduced to appearance only. Whether this mediation occurs in air, making sound acoustically audible to humans, or in the field lines strength within the tape recorder, is in this context secondary: the important issue is the awareness regarding this Rift within the sound object and its defining properties for the sounding object. Therefore I would like to use this opportunity to stress the importance of paying more attention to the riven micro-temporal moments of the operational machine, otherwise we risk reducing the field of sound studies to appearance only, something that would end the sounding object.
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