10 October 2011
Douglas Kahn: Listening Session
1966: Natural Electromagnetic Sounds, From Brainwaves to Outer Space
A special evening at STEIM, organised by Sonic Acts, DNK and STEIM.
Douglas Kahn, author of the acclaimed Noise, Water, Meat, a History of Sound in the Arts, and co-editor of the brand new Source, Music of the Avant-garde, 1966–1973, guides us through the fascinating history of art which use natural radio, electromagnetic sound and brainwaves. It's a listening session including many audio recordings and video material, some of them very rare.
In a 1966 preparatory note for Variations VII, John Cage wrote to David Tudor that they should include sounds of brainwaves and a radio astronomy telescope, and that they "give credit to Lucier for brain and outer space." Alvin Lucier had already performed his "brainwave piece", Music for Solo Performer (1965) and Whistlers (1966), based on natural ionospheric and magnetopheric radio. For Lucier, both compositions used forms of "natural electromagnetic sound" and, in combination, they described a new type of spatial environment. Also, in 1966 the Swedish composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl created Altisonans, a nationally broadcasted television composition relating natural radio and satellite telemetry sounds to those of birds. These activities involved physicists, Rudy Kompfner, Billy Klüver, Edmond Dewan, Millett Morgan, and Ludwik Liszka to varying degrees, from non-cooperation to close collaboration.
Douglas Kahn is a Research Professor at the National Institute of Experimental Arts (NIEA), College of Fine Arts, at University of New South Wales. His forthcoming book Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts precludes his major project Earth Sound Earth Signal, the product of a decade of research into natural electromagnetic and acoustical phenomena occurring at a geophysical scale in the arts, media, science and military from the late 19th century to the present, and includes an attempt to theorize media in terms of nature.
Time: 20:30 Entrance: €5