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

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9780520257801: Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts

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.

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"Earth Sound Earth Signal is a mind-expanding, ear-opening book, at once a history of electromagnetism in the arts and a provocation to rethink the relationship between media and nature. With erudition and wit, Kahn tells the stories of artists, scientists, and engineers who have made audible the way our planet buzzes, crackles, hums, and whistles, from the ionosphere to the deepest depths of the oceans. The result is a strikingly original work about sound, aesthetics, politics, and the envinronment, from Henry David Thoreau to the Cold War to the age of global warming. It will haunt you--in a good way--long after you read it." --David Suisman, author of Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

"Douglas Kahn's Earth Sound Earth Signal delivers a dazzlingly innovative study of how avant-garde music and art have made the planet itself audible over the last 200 years: the soil, the air, the atmosphere, electromagnetic radiation, and wireless communications become objects of playful scientific inquiry and aesthetic enjoyment in works from Henry David Thoreau to Alvin Lucier, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Robert Barry, and Joyce Hinterding. Earth Sound Earth Signal unfolds new histories of communication, of technology, of science, and of experimental aesthetics in a unique fusion of sharp-eyed scholarship with manifesto-style punch lines. At stake is not just aesthetics or history, but a new idea of planetary nature: Earth perceived through global and local waves, radiations, and energy flows that humans cannnot see but that become audible through media from rocks and winds to electronic circuitry. At a time when older notions of nature no longer grasp the new global technonatures and biocultures of the twenty-first century, Kahn's brilliantly insightful manifesto of 'Aelectrosonics' makes nature resonate anew in an entirely different key and at a different scale: It shows how Earth sings and the atmosphere makes music. This planetary techno-music is a must-hear for anyone interested in experimental aesthetics, environmentalism, or globalization." --Ursula K. Heise, author of Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global

"It is rare that the history of the arts and techno-sciences are so successfully blended as in Douglas Kahn's magisterial survey of how the perception of natural electromagnetic phenomena entered the scientific, artistic and popular imagination. Kahn documents the inquiries of Thomas Watson, Thoreau, scientists and amateurs in the 19th and 20th centuries and moves on to Alvin Lucier, John Cage and contemporary composers and scientific inquiry. This is a fundamental text for all collaborations between the arts and sciences today." --Roger Malina, Professor of Art and Technology and Professor Of Physics, University of Texas at Dallas

"A fascinating tour through previously untold episodes in media arts history. From its theoretical moves to 'think energy' and attend to its lively presence in communications and the arts, to its fresh historical detail on experimental works by artists such as Alvin Lucier and Pauline Oliveros, Earth Sound Earth Signal should appeal broadly to scholars, artists, and enthusiasts of media and sound." --Tara Rodgers, composer and author of Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound

"Douglas Kahn is one of the most inspiring scholars dealing with sound and art. He's able to accurately track historically compelling behind-the-scenes facts, while retrieving and connecting visionary trajectories across aesthetics and (especially) scientific domains. This long awaited book is an excellent collection of author's writings and is truly interdisciplinary, ranging equally proficiently over science, telecommunications history, sound and art.... The significance of experiments undertaken during the period from the end of 19th century until now, compose a detailed and extensively explored picture of primal forces coded and decoded as data and meaning carriers (in a way they are "media"), making this book another unmissable text in sound art research." --Alessandro Ludovico, Neural Magazine

"In Douglas Kahn's Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts, the premise is holistic. Signals are everywhere, running through us, the earth, the sky, bouncing off the ionosphere, and the best way to tune into them is by listening. By the time you've finished reading this book you feel like you've tapped into a magnificent universal circuit. It's almost religious... The book offers vast amounts of fascinating information ranging from background stories around the creation of artworks to mythic descriptions of natural phenomena, such as auroras and static storms at high altitude, which are utterly enthralling. However the dominant achievement is that Kahn manages to rough-up the binary of nature and technology. As he extrapolates on his theory of the Aelectrosonic--the sounds of the electromagnetic world--he repositions nature at the centre of electronic music and indeed of media arts. It all starts with the signals that have been waiting for us to invent ways to hear them... Most of all, the book offers a comprehensive and mind-altering understanding of the connectedness between ourselves, the Earth and all of these shimmering energetic properties. Douglas Kahn invites us to tune in to this awesome totality." --Gail Priest, RealTime

About the Author:

Douglas Kahn is Professor of Media and Innovation at the National Institute for Experimental Arts at the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is author or editor of several books, including Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts and, most recently, Source: Music of the Avant-Garde and Mainframe Experimentalism.

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