Two Resonance Experiments
In 1796 Samuel Thomas Soemmerring try to discover the anatomic place of the organ of the soul. His ideas were summarized in his writing “Über das Organ der Seele” (About the Organ of the Soul) including a letter he received from Kant. Soemmerring found the place of the soul in the brain liquid of cerebral cavities and developed a theory of the interaction between the nerve endings and the organ of soul through resonance. His theory based of an analogy in the acoustic fields: Chladni’s figure of sound bodies (Klangfiguren).
Continue reading Schamun: Two Resonance Experiments (Session 7)
I must have first become aware of Siegert’s book around 2005 when I was working on my own Reason and Resonance. At that point I had written the first couple of chapters on theories of hearing from Descartes through the Enlightenment, basically arguing that these theories focused on acoustic resonance as the central mechanism governing pitch perception. Of course, this shift toward mechanics put paid to centuries of theorizing about harmony in geometric-arithmetic, i.e. Pythagorean terms. Philosophically speaking, this shift also corresponded to the emergence of the Cartesian episteme of representation. By the time I got to the pivotal moment of “around 1800” – that is, to Siegert’s “Riss” – I noticed that yet another, rather profound shift had occurred in how leading figures in a wide variety of disciplines began to think about sensation, biology, the human body and of course what it means to think in the first place. The cast of characters is similar to Siegert’s: Chladni, Ritter, Sömmering, Kant, Oersted etc. Because little had been written at the time about Ritter – although the latter had long fascinated Walter Benjamin (more about that further below) and more recently Bettine Menke had discussed him in her monumental Prosopopeiia – Siegert’s placing of Ritter within a theory of emergent media was certainly most welcome. Chladni’s work too had been sorely neglected and what little had appeared at the time was more of a biographical character or alternatively, was discussed from the perspective of social history such as in Myles Jackson’s Harmonic Triads.
Continue reading Erlmann: The missing ear (Session 7)