the city talks back

Yorgos Samantas

vox populi vox dei

vox populi vox dei

vox populi vox dei is a study on the rhythmic structure of political slogans in Greece. The inquiry was based on an extensive archive of field recordings of demonstrations and public political commemorations in Athens, during the first half of the last decade. This collection of sounds could be titled “vocal performances of the Greek crisis”. I consider those public manifestations as political rituals as well as sonic events, emphasizing their relation to urban space as a performative field.

The rhythmical patterns of slogans simile, somewhat paradoxically, with the chime of church bells. In both instances, the acoustic space of each sounding source is crucial for the formation of a spatial domain within which the “community” is constituted, as it is demarcated from the Other. What’s more, these sounds represent invitations to participate in a symbolic action, expressions of a collective feeling, or urgent alarms for danger. Slogans and bells “belong” to different and, typically, mutually excluded, hermeneutic and institutional reference frames (in particular, the political and the religious), yet both are sound marks of the Greek national imagination (“resistance”, “tradition”, “religion”), in a continuum that Michael Herzfeld would call “cultural intimacy”.

In vox populi vox dei, human voice is absent, as the composition is based on a series of abstractions and permutations. However, the work seeks to contribute to the discussion on the politics of voice; its metaphysical and ontological aspects and, partly, its social significance. Αs a hermeneutic act, it departs from a series of questions, just as it evokes new ones: What is the relation of voice with the bodies that emit it and the logos (discourse or reason) it carries? What are the politics engendered in the technologies that mediate it? What are the limits of an appropriate re-contextualization of voice within artistic production, institutional scopes and party-political strategies? And what effects can this re-contextualization have, on one hand for the voicing subjects and their scopes, and on the other for the institutions that encourage and foster it?

Βιβλιογραφία | References

Adrianna Cavarero, For more than one voice – towards a philosophy of vocal expression, Stanford University Press, 2005

Alain Corbin, Village Bells – Sound and Meaning in the Nineteenth-century French Countryside, Columbia University Press, 1998

Παναγιώτης Πανόπουλος & Ελπίδα Ρίκου (επιμ./eds.), Φωνές / Fonés P.Panopoulos & E.Rikou), Εκδόσεις Νήσος, 2016

Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy – Social Poetics and the real life of states, societies and institutions, Routledge, 1997

Pierre Schaffer, Treatise on Musical Objects, University of California Press, 2017 [1966]