[Stolen from the STEIM mailing list]
‘Douglas Kahn: Listening Session
1966: Natural Electromagnetic Sounds, From Brainwaves to Outer Space
Date: Monday, October 10
Venue: STEIM, Utrechtsedwarsstraat 134, Amsterdam
Time: 20.30 hrs.
Charge: 5 euros
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 uses natural radio, electromagnetic sound and brainwaves. It’s a listening session, so it includes many audio recordings and video material, some of it 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 magnetospheric 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. This session will include ! these audio and visual compositions, as well as background recordings from the period, some of them very rare.
Douglas Kahn is a Research Professor at the National Institute of Experimental Arts (NIEA), College of Fine Arts, at University of New South Wales, in Sydney. He is a historian and theoretician of the media arts and music, with a focus on sound, electromagnetism, and natural media. His books include Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999), the newly published Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973, a rich documentary source of experimental music, edited with Larry Austin, and the forthcoming Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins. His major project, Earth Sound Earth Signal, is 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.’