1922 __ « Graue Magie »
‣ Comment : In 1916, three years before Rilke's Primal Sound, Salomo Friedlaender delineated the new constellation of eroticism, literature and phonography. More than any other writer of his time Friedlaender, better known under his pseudonym Mynona, a palindrome of anonym (anonymous), changed media history back into stories. In 1922 he published the novel Gray Magic that anticipates a technological future in which women are turned into celluloid (and men, incidentally, into typewriters). In 1916 he wrote a short story that conjures up the technological past in the shape of Germany's ur-author in order to predict the transformation of literature into sound. (Friedrich Kittler)
‣ German comment : In “Graue Magie” (1922) geht es um die "heraufgrauende Magie der Zukunft", die weder Gott (Weiß) noch Teufel (Schwarz) nötig hat, ein Verschieben von Gedanken. Die Magie der Vernunft soll das Leben zum Besseren wenden. Was hier geheimnisvoll verpackt wird, erinnert an die Äthertheorie Kants und die Theorie der natürlichen Magie Ernst Marcus'. Sie werden vorgestellt in einer Mischung aus Science-fiction, Groteske, Märchen und Krimi. Der "Berliner Nachschlüsselroman" (Untertitel) spielt im Alltag der Weimarer Republik und macht bekannte Persönlichkeiten der Zwanziger Jahre, wie Hinrichsen (Hellseher Hanussen) oder Kassandrus (Geschichtsphilosoph Oswald Spengler) zu Romanfiguren. Humorige Helden dieses Buches sind der Philosoph Sucram (Marcus) und sein Gegenspieler Morvitius, der Verbrecher, der immer davonkommt. Sie verkörpern die (vergebliche ?) Suche nach einer verbindenden Moral in einer neuen Welt. Damit verwebt der Roman technische Aspekte seiner Entstehungszeit, wie den industriellen Aufbruch, den frühen Film, Radio und Telefon. Er bietet eine (von heute gesehen) realitätsnahe Zukunftsschau, in der bereits Skepsis gegenüber dem Industriezeitalter anklingt. Graue Magie bietet weise-skurrile Texte. (Compiled from various sources)
‣ Original excerpt : « "What a pity," remarked Anna Pomke, a timid middle-class girl, "that the phonograph wasn't already invented in 1800 !" "Why?" asked Professor Abnossah Pschorr. "Dear Pomke, it is a pity that Eve didn't present it to Adam as part of her dowry for their common-law marriage; there is a lot to feel pity for, dear Pomke." "Oh Professor, I would have loved to listen to Goethe's voice! He is said to have had such a beautiful organ, and everything he said was so meaningful. Oh, if he only he could have spoken into a phonograph! Oh! Oh!" Long after Pomke had left, Abnossah, who had a weakness for her squeaky chubbiness, still heard her groans. Professor Pschorr, inventor of the telestylus, immersed himself in his customary inventive thoughts. Was it possible to retroactively trick that Goethe (Abnossah was ridiculously jealous) out of his voice? Whenever Goethe spoke, his voice produced vibrations as harmonious as, for example, the soft voice of your wife, dear reader. These vibrations encounter obstacles and are reflected, resulting in a to and fro which becomes weaker in the passage of time but which does not actually cease. So the vibrations produced by Goethe are still in existence, you only need the proper receiver to record them and a microphone to amplify their, by now, diminished effects to bring forth Goethe's voice. The difficult part was the construction of the receiver. How could it be adjusted to the specific vibrations of Goethe's voice without having the latter at one's disposal? What a fascinating idea! Abnossah determined that it was necessary to conduct a thorough study of Goethe's throat. He scrutinized busts and portraits, but they provided a very vague impression at best. He was on the verge of giving up when he suddenly remembered that Goethe was still around, if only in the shape of a corpse. He immediately sent a petition to Weimar asking for permission to briefly inspect Goethe's remains for the purpose of certain measurements. The petition was rejected. What now ? Furnished with a small suitcase filled with the most delicate measuring and burglary equipment, Abnossah Pschorr proceeded to dear old Weimar; incidentally, in the first-class waiting-room he happened to come across the locally known sister of the globally known brother in graceful conversation with some old Highness of Rudolfstadt. Abnossah heard her say: "Our Fritz always had a military posture, and yet he was gentle, with others he was of truly Christian tenderness--how he would have welcomed this war! And the beautiful, sacred book by Max Scheler!" Abnossah was so shocked he fell flat on his back. He pulled himself up with difficulty and found lodgings in the "Elephant." In his room he carefully examined the instruments. Then he placed a chair in front of the mirror and tried on nothing less than a surprisingly portrait-like mask of the old Goethe. He tied it to his face and exclaimed: "Verily, you know I am a genius, I may well be Goethe himself! Step aside, buffoon! Else I call Schiller and my prince Karl August for help, you oaf, you substitute!" He rehearsed the phrase with a deep sonorous voice. Late at night he proceeded to the royal tomb. Modern burglars, all of whom I desire as my readers, will smile at those other readers who believe that it is impossible to break into the well-guarded Weimar royal tomb. Please remember that as a burglar Professor Pschorr is ahead of even the most adept professional burglar. Pschorr is not only a most proficient engineer, he is also a psychophysiologist, a hypnotist, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst. In general, it is a pity that there are so few educated criminals: if all crimes were successful, they would finally belong to the natural order of things and incur the same punishment as any other natural event: Who takes lightning to task for melting Mr Meier's safe? Burglars such as Pschorr are superior to lightning because they are not diverted by rods. In a single moment, Pschorr was able to give rise to horror and then immobilize those frozen in terror by using hypnosis. Imagine yourself guarding the royal tomb at midnight: suddenly the old Goethe appears and casts a spell on you that only leaves your head alive. Pschorr turned the whole guard into heads attached to trunks in suspended animation. He had about two hours before the cramp loosened, and he made good use of them. He descended into the tomb, switched on a flashlight and soon found Goethe's sarcophagus. After a short while he was acquainted with the corpse. Piety is for those who have no other worries. It should not be held against Pschorr that he subjected Goethe's cadaver to some practical treatment; in addition, he made some wax moulds and finally ensured that everything was restored to its previous state. Educated amateur criminals may be more radical than professionals, but the radicalness of their meticulous accomplishments furnishes their crimes with the aesthetic charm of a perfectly solved mathematical equation. After leaving the tomb Pschorr added further elegance to his precision by deliberately freeing a guard from his spell and scolding him in the aforementioned manner. Then he tore the mask off his face and returned to the "Elephant" in the most leisurely fashion. He was satisfied, he had what he wanted. Early next morning he returned home. A most active period of work began. As you know, a body can be reconstructed by using its skeleton; or at least Pschorr was able to do so. The exact reproduction of Goethe's air passage down to the vocal cords and lungs no longer posed any insurmountable difficulties. Timbre and strength of the sounds produced by these organs could be determined with utmost precision--you merely had to let a stream of air corresponding to the measurement of Goethe's lungs pass through. After a short while Goethe spoke the way he must have spoken during his lifetime. But since it was not only a matter of recreating his voice, but also of having this voice repeat the words it uttered a hundred years ago, it was necessary to place Goethe's dummy in a room in which those words had frequently been spoken. Abnossah invited Pomke. She came and laughed at him delightfully. "Do you want to hear him speak?" "Whom ?" "That Goethe of yours." "Of mine ? Well I never ! Professor!" "So you do !" Abnossah cranked the phonograph and a voice appeared: "Friends, oh flee the darkened chamber..." etc. Pomke was strangely moved. "Yes," she said hastily," that is exactly how I imagined his organ. It is so enchanting !" "Well now," cried Pschorr, "I do not want to deceive you, my dear. Yes, it is Goethe, his voice, his words. But it is not an actual replay of words he actually spoke. What you heard was the repetition of a possibility, not of a reality. I am, however, determined to fulfil your wish in its entirety and therefore propose a joint excursion to Weimar." The locally known sister of the globally known brother was again sitting in the waiting-room whispering to an elderly lady: "There still remains a final work by my late brother, but it will not be published until the year 2000. The world is not yet mature enough. My brother inherited his ancestor's pious reverence. But our world is frivolous and would not see the difference between a satyr and this saint. The little people in Italy saw a saint in him." Pomke would have keeled over if Pschorr had not caught her. He blushed oddly and she gave him a charming smile. They drove straight to the Goethehaus. Hofrat Professor Böffel did the honours. Pschorr presented his request. Böffel became suspicious. "You have brought along a dummy of Goethe's larynx, a mechanical apparatu s? Is that what you are saying ?" "And I request permission to install it in Goethe's study." "Of course. But for what reason ? What do you want ? What is this supposed to mean ? The newspapers are full of something curious, nobody knows what to make of it. The guards claim to have seen the old Goethe, he even roared at one of them. The others were so dazed by the apparition they were in need of medical attention. The incident was reported to the Archduke himself." Anna Pomke scrutinized Pschorr. Abnossah, however, was astonished. "But what has this got to do with my request ? Granted, it is very strange--maybe some actor allowed himself a joke." "Ah! You are right, that is an explanation worth exploring. I couldn't help but think... But how were you able to imitate Goethe's larynx, since you could not have possibly modelled it after nature ?" "That is what I would have preferred to do, but I was unfortunately not given the permission." "I assume that it would not have been very helpful anyway." "Why ?" "To the best of my knowledge Goethe is dead." "I assure you, the skeleton, in particular the skull, would suffice to assemble a precise model; at least it would suffice for me." "Your skill is well known, Professor. But what do you need the larynx for, if I may ask ?" "I want to reproduce the timbre of the Goethean organ as deceptively close to nature as possible." "And you have the model ?" "Here !" Abnossah snapped open a case. Böffel uttered an odd scream. Pomke smiled proudly. "But you could not have modelled this larynx on the skeleton?" cried Böffel. "Almost ! It is based on certain life-size and life-like busts and pictures; I am very skilled in these matters" "As we all know! But why do you want to set up this model in Goethe's former study ?" "He conceivably articulated certain interesting things there; and because the acoustic vibration of his words, though naturally in an extremely diminished state, are still to be found there--" "You believe so ?" "It's not a question of belief, it's a fact." "Yes ?" "Yes !" "So what do you want to do ?" "I want to suck those vibrations through the larynx." "Pardon me ?" "What I just told you !" "What an idea--I apologize, but you can hardly expect me to take this seriously." "Which is why I have to insist all the more forcibly that you give me the opportunity to convince you of the seriousness of this matter. I am at a loss to understand your resistance, after all, this harmless machine won't cause any damage !" "I'm sure it won't. I am not at all resisting you, but I am officially obliged to ask you a number of questions. I do hope you won't hold it against me ?" "Heaven forbid !" In the presence of Anna Pomke, Professor Böffel, a couple of curious assistants and servants, the following scene unfolded in Goethe's study: Pschorr placed his model on a tripod ensuring that the mouth occupied the same position as Goethe's had when he was sitting. Then Pschorr pulled a kind of rubber air cushion out of his pocket and closed the nose and mouth of the model with one of its ends. He unfolded the cushion and spread it like a blanket over a small table he had pulled up to the tripod. On this, as it were, blanket he placed a most enchanting miniature phonograph complete with microphone that he had removed from his case. He now carefully wrapped the blanket around the phonograph, leaving a second opening, facing the mouth, in the shape of an end into which he screwed a pair of bellows. These, he explained, were not to blow air into but to suck it out of the mouth. When I, as it were, let the nasopharyngeal cavity exhale as it does during speech, Pschorr lectured, this specifically Goethean larynx functions like a sieve that only lets through the acoustic vibrations of Goethe's voice, if there are any; and there are bound to be. The machine is equipped with an amplifier should they be weak. The buzz of the recording phonograph could be heard inside the rubber cushion. And then an inescapable feeling of horror upon hearing an indistinct, hardly audible whispering. "Oh my God !" Pomke said, holding her delicate ear against the rubber skin. She started. A rasping murmur came from the inside: "As I have said, my dear Eckermann, this Newton was blind with his seeing eyes. How often, my friend, do we catch sight of this when faced with something that appears to be so obvious! Therefore it is in particular the eye and its perceptions which demand the fullest attention of our critical faculties. Without these we cannot arrive at any sensible conclusion. Yet the world mocks judgement, it mocks reason. What it, in truth, desires is uncritical sensation. Many a time have I painfully experienced this, yet I have not grown tired of contradicting the world and, in my own way, setting my words against Newton's." Pomke heard this with jubilant horror. She trembled and said: "Divine ! Divine ! Professor, I owe to you the most beautiful moment of my life." "Did you hear something ?" "Certainly. Quiet, but very distinct !" Pschorr nodded contentedly. He worked the bellows for a little while und then said: "That should be enough for now." He put all the instruments back into his case with the exception of the phonograph. All those present were eager and excited. Böffel asked: "Professor, do you honestly believe that you have actually captured words once spoken by Goethe? Real echoes from Goethe's own mouth?" "I do not only believe so, I am certain of it. I will now replay the phonograph with the microphone and predict that you will have to agree with me." The familiar hissing, hemming and squeezing. Then the sound of a remarkable voice which electrified everybody, including Abnossah. They listened to the words quoted above. Then it continued: "Oh ho! So, he, Newton, saw it! Did he indeed? The continuous colour spectrum? I, dear friend, I shall reiterate that he was deceived: that he was witness to an optical illusion and accepted it uncritically, glad to resume his counting and measuring and splitting of hairs. To hell with his monism, his continuity; it is precisely the contrast of colours which makes them appear in the first place! Eckermann! Eckermann! Hold your horses! White--neither does it yield any colour nor do other colours add up to white. Rather, in order to obtain grey white must be mechanically combined with black, and it has to be chemically united with grey to produce the varied grey of the other colours. You will never obtain white by neutralizing colours. It merely serves to restore the original contrast of black and white: and of course white is the only one that can be seen in all its brightness. But I, dear friend, I see darkness just as clearly, and if Newton only hit upon white, I, most esteemed comrade, also hit upon black. I should think that a former archer like yourself would greatly appreciate such a feat! That is the way it is, and so be it! From me our distant grand-children and great grand-children populating this absurd world will learn to laugh at Newton!" Böffel had sat down while everybody was cheering. The servants trampled with delight, like students in the fiery lectures of that upright and demonic graybeard, the smashingly revolutionary, lordly Reucken. But Abnossah sternly said: "Gentlemen! You are interrupting Goethe! He isn't finished yet!" Silence resumed and the voice continued: "No, Sir, no and again no! Of course you could have if you had so desired! It is the will, the will of these Newtonians, that is pernicious; and a faulty will is a corruptive faculty, an active inability that I abhor even though I catch sight of it everywhere and should be accustomed to it. You may consider it harmless, but the will is the true contriver of all things great and small; it is not the divine power but the will, the divine will, which thwarts man and proves his inadequacy. If you were able to desire in a god-like way, dear friend, the ability would be necessary and not just easy to come by, and a lot of what now dare not show its face for fear of meeting hostility or ridicule would become everyday experience. Consider young Schopenhauer, a lad of supreme promise, full of the most magnificent desires, but afflicted by the rot of abundance, by his own insatiability. In the theory of colours he was blinded by the sun to the extent that he did not accept the night as another sun, but rather deemed it null and void; likewise, he was captivated by the lustre of life in its wholeness, in contrast to which human life struck him as worthless. Behold, Sir, that the purest, most divine will is in danger of failure if it is bent on persisting at all cost; if it is not prepared to wisely and gracefully take into account the exterior conditions as well as the limitations of its own means! Indeed: the will is indeed a magician! Is there anything it cannot do? But the human will is not a will, it is a bad will. Ha! haha! hee! hee!" Goethe laughed mysteriously and continued in a whisper: "Very well then, my dearest friend, I shall entrust, indeed reveal something to you. You will judge it a fairy-tale, but to me it has attained the utmost clarity. Your own will can vanquish fate, it can make fate its servant provided -- and now listen closely -- it does not presume that the tremendous and divinely tense creative intent and exertion within should also be clearly manifest without, especially in a most intense display of muscular strain. Behold earth as it is turned and driven! What mundane industry! What ceaseless motion! But mark my words, Eckermann! It is no more than mundane diligence, nothing but a fatally mechanical driving -- while the vibrating, magical will of the sun rests within itself and by virtue of this supreme self-sufficiency gives rise to the electromagnetism which humbles the whole army of planets, moons and comets into servile submission at its feet. Oh friend, to understand, to experience and be, in the most serenely spiritual sense of the word, that sublime culprit!--Enough, let us leave it at that. I was accustomed to discipline myself whenever I heard others, and sometimes even Schiller, rhapsodize freely, out of love for such a divine activity, in the face of which one should be silent, because all discourse would not only be useless and superfluous, but indeed harmful and obstructive by creating a ridiculously profane understanding, if not a the most decisive misunderstanding. Remember this, my friend, and keep it in your heart without attempting to unravel the mystery! Trust that, in time, it will unravel itself, and this evening go to the theatre with Little Wolf, who is eager to go, and do not treat Kotzebue too harshly, even though he disgusts us!" "Oh God," Pomke said, while the others eagerly congratulated Abnossah, "oh God! If only I could listen forever! How much Eckermann withheld from us! " After a long while a snoring emanated from the machine, then nothing! "Gentlemen!" Abnossah said, "as you can hear, Goethe is obviously asleep. It makes little sense to wait around; there is nothing to expect for a couple of hours, if not for an entire day. Staying around is useless. As you no doubt realize, the apparatus adheres closely to real time. In the most fortunate case we might hear something should Eckermann have returned to Goethe following the performance. I, for one, do not have the time to wait around for that to happen." "How is it," the slightly skeptical Böffel asked, "that, of all speeches, we were able to listen to this one?" "Pure chance," Pschorr responded. "The conditions, in particular the make-up of the machine and its positioning, happened to correspond to these and no other sound vibrations. I only took into account the fact that Goethe was sitting and the location of his chair." "Oh please, please! Abnossah!" (Pomke, almost maenadic, was as if in a trance; for the first time she called him by his first name.) "Try it somewhere else! I can't hear enough of it--and even if it is only snoring!" Abnossah put away the machine and locked the suitcase. He had become very pale: "My dear Anna--Madame," he corrected himself: "-- another time." (Jealousy of the old Goethe was eating him up inside.) "How about Schiller's skull?" Böffel asked. "It would decide the dispute whether it is the real one." "Indeed," Abnossah responded, "for if we heard Schiller, the Suebian, say in a broad Hessian accent `How about a glass of wine?' it wouldn't be Schiller's skull.--I am wondering whether the invention could be refined. Maybe I could manufacture a generic larynx that could be adjusted like an opera glass in order to be aligned with all kinds of possible vibrations. We could listen to antiquity and the Middle Ages and determine the correct pronunciation of old idioms. And respected fellow citizens who say indecent things out loud could be handed over to the police." Abnossah offered Pomke his arm and they returned to the station. They cautiously entered the waiting room, but the locally known one had already left. "What if she let me have the larynx of her famous brother? But she won't do it, she'll claim the people aren't mature enough and that the literati lack the reverence of the people, and that nothing can be done. Beloved! Beloved! For (oh!) That! That is! That is what you are!" But Pomke wasn't listening. She appeared to be dreaming. "How he stresses the Rs!" she whispered apprehensively. Abnossah angrily blew his nose; Anna started and asked him distractedly: "You were saying, dear Pschorr!? I am neglecting the master for his work! But the world subsides when I hear Goethe's own voice!" They boarded the coach for their return journey. Pomke said nothing, Abnossah was brooding silently. After they had passed Halle, he threw the little suitcase with Goethe's larynx out of the window in front of an approaching train. "What have you done?" Pomke shrieked. "Loved," Pschorr sighed, "and soon I will have lived--and destroyed my victorious rival, Goethe's larynx." Pomke blushed furiously and, laughing, she vigorously threw herself into Abnossah's tightly embracing arms. At that moment the conductor entered and requested the tickets. "God! Nossah!" murmured Pomke. "You have to get me a new larynx of Goethe, you have to--or else--" "No or else! Après les noces, my dove!" Prof. Dr. Abnossah Pschorr, Anna Pschorr, née Pomke, Just married, Currently at the "Elephant" in Weimar. »
‣ Source : Friedlaender, Salomo (1922), “Graue Magie”, Berliner Nachschlüsselroman, Mit 6 Zeichnungen von Lothar Homeyer, Rudolf Kaemmerer, Dresden 1922; and also, Neuausgabe: Ullstein 1998.
‣ Source : Kittler, Friedrich A. (1986), “Grammophon Film Typewriter”, Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose; and also, “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter”, translated by Geoff Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
‣ Urls : http://www.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Kittler/GramFilmTypwriter/Kittler_Gramophone.html (last visited )
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