22 February 2011

Recorded Lecture: Steven Connor, "The Chronopher"

At a talk delivered at the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, April 2009, Steven Connor invokes the "chronopher", the name of the nineteenth-century time-tracking device, to compare with the workings of the voice as a kind of generalised signal-box - a "multidirectional distributor of time".

From this basic concept, however, Connor proceeds to map a complex and poetic Serresean relation between voice, time and body. It is one in which the voice slices into time, introducing for the body a rhythm, texture and anchor in time, yet equally submerges the body into the persistent homogeneity of time's currents. And through this rapport, Connor spreads the multiple tendrils of his analysis further. He presents accent as an accident befalling voice, announcing one of many dense traces affixing the body to its past. Fatigue is positioned as a modality of the voice perpetually under strain and which must always declare itself coloured by the pressures of duress. And the taut tones of the elderly indicate not vocal erosion by age but, rather, signal a body saturated and tracked through with memory.

"When I speak, my body becomes a potential, a projective and a sequential thing, not a given thing, opening itself and me its vehicle, to ongoingness. Without my voice, I am a mere chugging apparatus of oscillations, the palindroms of the breath, the iambic thump of the heart, the peristaltic squeezings of the intestines, left-right, lub-dub, in and out, out and back ... When I start to speak, I have all at once put off abidingness, or enduring, mere being in myself. When I speak, I start going."
"The Chronopher" is one of several archived talks and lectures archived on Steven Connor's website at Birkbeck, along with a selection of essays, broadcasts and reviews.

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