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ISSUE 41 : Models of Listening
Itaru Ouwan: “Electric Phantom”
May 5th, 2019Type: Sound Scene
Author: Itaru Ouwan, Sheryl Cheung (translator) Editor: Rikey Tenn
Quote From:
Note: Itaru Ouwan is an essayist, noise-collage artist based in Tokyo, Japan. His track "Electric Phantom" was first released under the indie music label equnarecord and subsequently published July 2018 with an accompanying essay in's "Future Tao: Online Scripture." In the text, Itaru responds to lololol's invitation to reflect upon the concept of Future Tao, an ongoing reconsideration of Taoist-informed ideas via experimental mind and body practices in contemporary times. Itaru describes today's era as an age of bio-electronics and discusses past and future narratives of invisible energy.
Image courtesy of Itaru Ouwan

“Electric Phantom” is a piece of musique concrète, especially using sounds of discharge of electricity, to produce the condensed form of raw material and movements of energy invisible.

In western area, these invisible energy applying to one’s body has been treated in many scientific culture and arts, and mainly focused on as electricity. From ancient sage Pliny to T. A. Edison and N. Tesla in modern era, the works of electricity were studied and discovered as invisible, mystic, but powerful energy in nature. Also in contemporary, with names of H. Cavendish, A. Volta, M. Faraday, J.V. Neumann, R. Caton, H. Berger, W. Einthoven, M. Merleau-Ponty, and study of EEG by S. Bozinovski, M. Sestakov, L. Bozinovska, electricity is known as basic energy to activate our muscles, nerves, brains, and our consciousness itself worked by weak current as electro-physiology shows it.

On the other hand, electricity is familiar to us in tales, as laboratory work by Luigi Galvani was transformed in the story of Frankenstein by M. Shelly, that followed by Jules Gabriel Verne and scientific fictions. We could find the spiritual communication by Edison, Tesla, and even De Sade wrote about these things. Also in music and arts, invisible energy is dealt with in a subject, like Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Élémens, and in the methods in major contemporary works, as electro-magnetic sensing. For example, John Cage’s Variations V is described as:

(…) two systems for the sound to be affected by movement (…) that the dancers triggered sounds as they cut the light beams with their movements. A second system used a series of antennas. When a dancer came within four feet of an antenna a sound would result. Ten photocells were wired to activate tape-recorders and short-wave radios”. In this body-sensing systems improvise the sonic field “as it was created by radio antennas responding to the dancers’ movements.

In these works, unseen relationship between body and sensing became as trigger to generate noise – non-visible vibrations of air, by using electro-magnetic technology. It means, in other words, from science to culture in our contemporary era, it is focused on that the relationships of body and unseen energy, we live in bio-electronic age.

In these reference to the electric-body in culture, the idea of self-cultivation will bring us back to the character and relationship of body and mind. So many questions and hypothesis could be asked, especially on mind and its works. For example, what is relationship between body movements and consciousness? What is resemblance between electro-signal in nerves and words? To sense is remade in the circuit tips? And in this computer and robotics age, we could ask more. So, could computer have their consciousness? Could it be copied from one another? Could they will? Could robots hope? Or, will robots dream of dreams of counting 100,000 sheep?

We couldn’t know the answers now anyway, but someday we could see the robots have their consciousness with the clue of current in their metallic body, and smile. In this moments, sensed-electricity circulated in their body and mind stimulate each other and will work as qui(氣), and they will see the pass(道) opened in their circuit of bodies and minds in their way of communication, in internet. And we could dance with them with traditional maneuver.

Maybe that will be named as “future tao”.



The piece which I present here, is representation of that kind of electricity, rather in a row and condensed form. Using 5 discharge of high-voltage currents from 900v to 20,000v recorded in a laboratory as samples, non-effect but amplified only in volumes layered. Electricity with high pressure generated phenomena of arch, which pass between electrode as lights and heat, and sounds with dense vibration with burning air and sparking physically, as you hear.

The process of layering each tracks was really unforgettable, cause tone-cluster-form of electric arch and sparks in sound, generated streams and storms by itself like self-organization, that presented here as time based sculpture. That is, in other words, invisible but could-be-sensed high energetic field, or, which would represent one of the forms that will be appeared in the “future tao”.

See Also
Itaru Ouwan: “Electric Phantom” ,lololol