Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts

Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts

Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts

Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts

Synopsis

Earth Sound Earth Signal is a study of energies in aesthetics and the arts, from the birth of modern communications in the nineteenth century to the global transmissions of the present day. Douglas Kahn begins by evoking the Aeolian sphere music that Henry David Thoreau heard blowing along telegraph lines and the Aelectrosonic sounds of natural radio that Thomas Watson heard through the first telephone; he then traces the histories of science, media, music, and the arts to the 1960s and beyond. Earth Sound Earth Signal rethinks energy at a global scale, from brainwaves to outer space, through detailed discussions of musicians, artists and scientists such as Alvin Lucier, Edmond Dewan, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, James Turrell, Robert Barry, Joyce Hinterding, and many others.

Excerpt

Radio was heard before it was invented

Radio was heard before it was invented. It was heard before anyone knew it existed. It was heard in the first wireless technology: the telephone. the telephone served two major purposes: it was a scientific instrument used to investigate environmental energy, and it was an aesthetic device used to experience the sounds of nature. the telephone would also find success in the field of communications. the first person to listen to radio was Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant. He tuned in during the early hours of the night on a long metal line serving as an antenna before antennas were invented. Other telephone users listened to radio for two decades before Guglielmo Marconi or anyone else invented it. Some heard music and others heard sounds that were out of this world. As time passed, radio fled into the wilderness, a place where nature once existed, and was forced from technology, a place where nature could not be found. Scientists, soldiers, and generals listened until the 1960s, when musicians, artists, and their audiences rediscovered radio. and now, as the wireless of old meets the wireless of new, many people listen.

If the story told in the previous paragraph seems unnatural, it is because the radio is natural. Radio is not always a technological control device supplied with energy from a battery or a plug in the wall; sometimes it is the energy. Unlike other forms of nineteenth-century media that developed upon a tried-and-true base of writing and storage, the sphere of telecommunications technologies of telegraphy, telephony, and wireless resonated with energetic environments and received signals from terrestrial and extraterrestrial sources. Thus, receiving radio may mean that someone is listening but not always that anyone is sending. Communications technologies change old ways and provide tantalizing glimpses into the future . . .

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