Hum bureau (Bureaucratic frequencies) — Bureaucracktic Bedtime Stories

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Hum bureau (Bureaucratic frequencies)

Notes on humming and bureaucratic modes of perception/counter-perception gathered during the Bureaucracksy event and discussed further in the accompanying sound file.

hummingbird clock, Lawrence Abu Hamdan

For over 10 years the UK government has been using the humming sound of the electrical mains as a surveillance tool and forensic clock to authenticate recordings — to determine their time and date, and whether they have been edited or otherwise altered. They call this technique, invented by Dr Catalin Grigoras, “electrical frequency network (ENF) analysis.” It can be effectively used as a time stamp for almost any recording made within earshot of electricity, which is always — almost silently — humming. This use of the sound of the electrical grid as a fingerprint of the nation's time has only ever been used by the police as a tool of state level surveillance, and yet everyone has access to this same buzz... As the secondhand turns around The Hummingbird Clock like a seismograph it draws the line of the UK's fluctuating mains current and this pattern of fluctuation is being recorded and archived every second 24/7... Digital recordings almost always have mains hum on them, either because the device was plugged in to the mains or because it inducts it off nearby cables, lights and appliances in a room. The Hummingbird Clock is able to automatically match the fingerprint of the mains hum on a given recording with it's database of the buzzing mains, and therefore tell you exactly when the recorded event occurred or if the recording itself has been tampered with and edited. The archiving of the mains power supply begins on the 7th July 2016 so we can only analyse recorded events made from this date forward.
-- buzzing mains as humming, (forensic) frequencies
-- time(stamp) element of this frequency
-- hum perceived as constant yet unique and indexical, as in some senses with bureaucracy
-- Technical - Frequency related (top item - Hummingbird clock): To find a cable in the wall, you use a coil or an inductor, which is amplified to the sound realm. To be able to find the utility frequency of 50 hz. Electricity flowing becomes sound.

bureaucratic frequencies, hummings
the waiting room clock, ticking and ticking
steps in corridors, shufflings, tappings, small ongoing echoes, reverberations
typing, pens and ballpoints scrawling, rolling over surfaces of inscription, sounds of bureacratic input
the oral “hmmmm” of a bureaucrat taking forward and examining one's case/query/answer
heightened senses to such sounds and sensory inputs in extended and enforced forms of waiting within bureaucratic spaces
the ongoing din of electricity, lights, generators, cicadas... punctuated by moments of bureaucratic activity and execution - e.g. the stamp of approval/denial, opening/shutting of a door, calling of a name

Tina Campt on serial bureaucratic grammar + quiet frequencies
...The albums serialize and aggregate the criminal body through photographs that standardize individuals and assign them a number. Organized externally and internally by the date of the photo session, each page of the album assigns a criminal identity and visual uniformity indexed through the following information:

serial number
sequential date of photo

A fifth haptic temporality is the temporality of my own archival contact with the images and the albums. The albums have a sensuousness that, to me, felt almost illicit. It felt wrong to have access to intimate details of bodily markings, illnesses, whippings, closest relatives, attempted and successful escapes. It was overwhelming to track these men from one ledger to the next and resist the seductions of the data and descriptions the albums contained. In fact, it was frustratingly easy to succumb to the original intent of the archive: to reduce the individuals to statistics. And it was literally dizzying to shift back and forth between the four tables Ericka had assigned me, on which I had placed the three ledgers corresponding to the photos of inmates in each album. As I wheeled myself on a rolling chair from one table to the next to connect each black or brown face with the compromised details of an identity assigned to him through the categories of the ledgers, this haptic encounter forced me to encounter them through a different sensory modality in an attempt to resist the silencing effects of the serial bureaucratic grammar of the archive. It forced me to attend to the quiet frequencies of austere images that reverberate between images, statistical data, and state practices of social regulation.
-- reverberations, encountering through different sensory modalities, quiet soundings and frequencies that have been flattened out through imposed and enforced bureaucratic standardizations/violences -- figure/ground nature of such frequencies

humming as blocking out
“We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet it informs every aspect of our existence. It's as if, as a planetary civilization, we have decided to clap our hands over our ears and start humming whenever the topic comes up.”* (David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, p.5)
--humming as denial

humming along
--humming along when things work, keeping things humming along, when operations and procedures being carried out experienced as working and agreeable for doing so, humming with the “utopia of rules... the regularity and predictability of bureaucratic procedures, and the routiniza­tion of force” (Graeber), happy humming bureaucrat when bereaucratic apparatus operating as should (Kafka execution machine operator), a “stable” hum of a machine executing as it should without much noticeable audible stress on the machine
--but see also humming as blocking out, humming so as not to think too much about what the procedure is actually achieving, nervous humming, pensive, willingly oblivious or from simple habit having carried out the procedure so many times
--sigh of relief after a successful negotiation through a bureaucratic encounter - sigh as contrast to humming
--my driving instructor humming songs to himself whenever i was doing something wrong during driving lessons
--humming along to music, work, etc. attunement with the rhyhtms
--physicality of humming and sound(waves) - bones in the ear, rattling of skull while humming, physical encounters with objects - humming while feet walking across the hospital corridor, while operating a physical machine/object

Elin Már Øyen Vister (
“The deep frequency of the oceanic hum is shaped by the acoustic realities it is born out of; the geology below the surface and the global weather systems. The hum enters our bodies as sonic vibrations; through our ears (unless we are hearing-impaired) and through our bones. The low frequency hum even massages our guts. Our guts are even making sound themselves. A complex, ever-changing organic hum carries potentials for healing. Mammals, such as us humans, are born into a thirty-seven degrees Celsius ocean and begin to listen to the soundscape that surround them in their mother's womb when their ears become 'ripe' around the fourth month. Their soundscape includes filtered sound from the 'outside', and inner 'noise', such as the hum of the bloodstream and their mother's digestive system, as well as the heartbeat and breath.”
--ryhthms of a bureaucracy humming, heartbeats, bloodstreams, breaths, digestions, guts... how these hums enter bodies in bureaucratic encounters and their acoustic realities
--Pauline Oliveros deep listening in relation to humming... deep humming
--“Oliveros was born in Houston, Texas, on May 30 1932. Her mother was a piano teacher and songwriter, her father a dancer. Her most vivid memories of her upbringing were acoustic --- the crackle of her father's short wave radio, birdsong in the suburban trees, the blending of her parents' voices with the hum of the engine during car journeys.”

ASMR hums
ASMR 4 bureaucrats

figure/ground, signal/noise: bureaucracy + breakdown
--bureaucracy and breakdown, same with writing on *black box and also infrastructural breakdown
--Graeber on bureaucracy telling no stories except when not working:
“As a corollary:
in fantasy, as in heroic societies, political life is largely about the creation of stories. Narratives are embedded inside narratives; the storyline of a typi­cal fantasy is often itself about the process of telling stories, interpreting stories, and creating material for new ones. This is in dramatic contrast with the me­chanical nature of bureaucratic operations. Administrative procedures are very much not about the creation of stories; in a bureaucratic setting, stories ap­pear when something goes wrong. When things run smoothly, there's no narrative arc of any sort at all.”
--the process of telling stories,
the (non-heroic) machine designed not to tell its own stories, annotator and accountant rather than storyteller
--ground becoming figure (not quite) in extended enforced waiting or negotiation with bureaucracy
--Shahram Khosravi on waiting, being
out of time with standard waiting and living times, “belatedness”, the oppressiveness of the hum that ignores and denies*

Eric Snodgrass

Wednesday, 22nd December 2021

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