Gramophone, Gramophone

In Friedrich Kittler’s “Gramophone”, one of the statements that stood out to me the most was, “Only that which reminds us of something else makes an impression” (pg. 30).  The argument that the phonograph, a medium through which we can record our voices and have them be played back out to us, is analogous to the brain was by far the most fascinating for me.  After having read about Braudillard’s idea of the simulacrum, Kittler’s idea that that which reminds of something else is what impresses us was a very logical argument. 

The idea that our brains are like phonograms, or better yet, that phonograms are like our brains is very indicative of the idea of the simulacrum. In Kittler’s Gramophone, he discusses the argument that our brains might work like how phonograms do when he states, “Invisible lines are incessentaly carved into the brain cells, which provide a channel for nerve streams. If, after some time, the stream encounters a channel it has already passed through, it will once again proceed along the same path. The cells vibrate in the same way they vibrated the first time: psychologically, these similar vibrations correspond to an emotion or a thought analogous to the forgotten emotion.”  Therefore, the phonogram is like our brains in that the inscriptions made by our voices can be played back when they’re traced over with a needle is similar to how our thoughts follow paths that have been formed by memory. However, one of the main aspects of the simulacrum is that it destroys it’s original model and becomes the new original. Does this then mean that the phonogram completely obscures how one thinks of the brain? Have we become so used to different mediums through which we convey emotion and ideas that our brains are no longer seen as the mechanisms through which we operate? When Kittler says, “an unimaginable closeness of sound technology and self-awareness, a simulacrum of a feedback loop relaying sender and receiver. A song sings to a listening ear, telling it to sing,” one is reminded of the fact that were it not for the playback of the song, we would never have had the song in our brains to begin with. What does this say about the importance of our interpretation of the song, or does our interpretation even mean anything anymore considering it’s what the phonogram is playing back that allows us to perceive the song to begin with?

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