Monday, February 25, 2013

Meister Eckhart: His Missunderstood Doctrine

 Eckhart was not only a scholar, a preacher, a spiritual leader, but also a man who believed in the importance of the individual experience. 

His doctrine was about academic freedom which invited individuals to not being constrained in their knowledge by educational institutions. Knowledge for him goes beyond written words and books. He tells his readers in the prologue of one of his major works, the "Opus Tripartium," not to rest on the apparent sense of his words, but to extent great effort to apprehend the true meaning.
Religious Freedom, in the sense that spiritual experience should be individual, free from human agencies where the only relationship to the outside self is God.
And Pluralistic Society, that invited diversity because "we are one with God, and nothing without him."

McLuhan in The Medium is the Massage quotes Eckhart, and I would argue that this passage does not demonstrates Eckhart's doctrine. The quote goes,

"Only the hand that erases, can write the true thing"

Before I continue I have to say that this quote is taken out of context (form sources that I could not find and therefore wonder if is even Eckhart's). It is important to know the context because in the Medieval times Eckhart was accused and condemned for preaching against the Christian Doctrine and what happened was that he was not understood, they were only taking sentences instead of looking at the whole paragraph.

Going back to the quote. If Eckhart said this (giving McLuhan the benefit of the doubt for not citing his quotes), I think he would most likely mean that the hand, representing the human individually, that "erases" or moves away from preconceived constructions can "write" construct, build, or create the true thing. In other hands, to be able to know the truth, you need to move away form what exists and go beyond that. And the only reason he would promote writing (the true thing) anyways is to teach. Although he differentiated educated from intelligent (meaning that everybody is intelligent and is able to reach pure knowledge), he thought important to teach this "pure" or true knowledge to everyone.

The reason why I think McLuhan is not using this quote appreciating Eckhart's doctrine/ philosophy is because Meister Eckhart would say that the message itself is the most important than the written words, than the text, than the book, than the medium.

The other thing to do is to use Eckhart's work to theorize this quote above in McLuhan's terms.

In that case I would say that In order to "write", construct, and create the true thing (the thing that is validated as important, or becomes the framework of understanding) you need to be able to "erase," delete, or deconstruct. And that is where the media comes handy. You need a powerful tool that can delete constructed/preexisting conceptions in order to be able to create new ones. In that way, the medium massages your brain to get the message by erasing the old and writing the new, or making enough space to add in what it wants to add in.

Even if what I just wrote makes sense, I still wonder if McLuhan understood Eckhart's message, or if he just applied it in a secular way. Part of me wonders if he just knew this popular saying and had to add it on his book because it made sense to what he is saying.

The world will never know. In the mean time I had fun reading tons of sermons by Eckhart trying to find that stupid quote and understand his philosophy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Naturally Human Sound

What is the most naturally human sound? 

I asked this question to 11 Lawrence students and recorded their sound with a digital camera. Their first reaction was captured and I used almost every sound I obtained from them. Here is the the piece:

Naturally Human Sound 
Here is the link to the YouTube Video

        For the video I decided to use my own picture drunk laughing as I walked around Time Square in NYC. That area is all about the visual and the only sound you can hear is that of the people hanging out taking pictures. I did not focus in the visual because my interest is in the sound. Yet it can captures the type of faces I got when people were recording their "human sound".
     In this version I wanted to create a conventional piece of music using human sounds only. Nevertheless, after trying different ways to mix the recorded sounds I realized that human sounds do not have a beat that could be used to create a conventional song unless you distort the sound until it creates a rhythmic beat or unless you add a beat that is conventionally accepted as music (such as what I did in my other version of this piece). 
     I preferred to keep the recorded sounds as close to the original sound as possible. Therefore I put all the sounds together repeating the sounds that were more pleasing to my ear, juxtaposed with sounds that disturbed my hearing.
     This piece does not have a specific rhythm or a conventional musical element but, who can say it is not a piece of music? John Cage said, "everything we do is music." People talking, laughing, screaming, whistling, crying and (why not?) making animal sounds, are sounds that can be considered music.

I added a Garage Band drumbeat to this piece to achieve what I originally wanted to do in my other version: to create a conventional piece of music using human sounds.
Naturally Human Bass 
Here is the link to the YouTube Video

     The image I used in the video is a picture I took in NYC. In this image you can only think of sound coming from cars in the street just as the overwhelming sound of the drumbeats interacts with the human voice.  The water seems to come off the car at the end of the street and made me think of a non-stopping element that originates from an unknown place, time, which comes from a metaphysical construction in the human mind yet is so physical that we can feel it or even see it as the things around us change. The female voice is important for the music just as the woman is in the picture and therefore this picture was perfect for the video.

     The fragmented female voice and the repetitive drum beat work together to create rhythm, a musical tone. These elements create a space where the human voice interacts with the controlling drumbeat throughout the linear continuous time. In other words, it becomes what I would call a conventional piece of music or song. 
     I had to challenge this construction of sound by disturbing the linear composition by inserting a unit of multiple spatial planes that uses layers upon layers of different recorded sounds crammed into a limited time frame. 
    The piece continues with the drumbeat and the repeated word "human" to mock the listener and challenge the individual to think of his or her own understanding of music and his or her role as natural producers of sound and music.

Hope you enjoy or hate both pieces, and I hope it challenges you or takes you to an uncomfortable place.