The voice, in relation to silence, is like writing (in the graphic sense) on blank paper. Listening to the voice inaugurates the relation to the Other: the voice by which we recognize others (like writing on an envelope) indicates to us their way of being, their joy or their pain, their condition; it bears an image of their body and, beyond, a whole psychology (as when we speak of a worm voice, a white voice, etc). Sometimes an interlocutor’s voice strikes us more than the content of his discourse, and we catch ourselves listening to the modulations and harmonics of that voice without hearing what it is saying to us. This dissociation is no doubt partly responsible for the feeling of strangeness (sometimes of anitpathy) which each of us feels on hearing his own voice: reaching us after traversing the masses and cavities of our own anatomy, it affords us a distorted image of ourselves, as if we were to glimpse our profile in a three-way mirror.
The singing voice, that very specific space in which a tongue encounters a voice and permits those who know how to listen to it to hear what we can call its “grain” – the singing voice is not the breath but indeed the materiality of the body emerging from the throat, a site where the phonic metal hardens and takes shape.
Corporality of speech, the voice is located at the articulation of body and discourse, and it is in this interspace that listening’s back-and-forth movement might be made. “To listen to someone, to hear his voice, requires on the listener’s part an attention open to the interspace of body and discourse and which contracts neither at the impression of the voice nor at the expression of the discourse. What such listening offers is precisely what the speaking subject does not say: the unconscious texture which associates his body-as-site with his discourse: an active texture which reactualises in the subject’s speech, the totality of his history.