“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, September 28, 2012

SLSA Liveblog 1: Douglas Kahn et al.

Ah at last, an internet connection. I'm at the panel The Nonhumanity of Sound.

Douglas Kahn, “For More New Signals.”
This is part of his new book Earth Sounds. Looking at things from the standpoint of sound and electromagnetism.
Telescope. Used for astronomy, stargazing, long distance communication in optical telegraphy.
Mechanics/acoustics + electromagnetism: natural radio first heard by Thomas Watson.
Line functioned as an unwitting long wave antenna. Two decades before Marconi.
Some sounds discussed in musical terms and by end of C19 called musical atmospherics.
Musical, or quasi-musical, or non-musical sound.
Starting with telegraphy and telephony so called noise was eliminated, throwing out nature with the noisy bathwater.
But even unintended noises would be heard aesthetically.
Watson thought he heard storms on the Sun, which had been studied using telegraphy.
Thoreau listening to the wind on the telegraph lines, calling it a harp.
The Aeolian. Aelectrosonic.
Aelectrosonic: implications for history of music. Any history of electronic music shows a procession of devices with no nature.
Nature is used provocatively here because of its exclusion from histories of electronic music.
First generation of electronic musicians concerned with control not energies being controlled.
There was talk of ether, but this was cosmological, metaphysical.
The only unallowed statement about nature was Thomas Patterson.
Alfred Goldsmith 1938, in journal Modern Music: electrically produced music partakes in nature. Pretty much the only time this happens. It's not further from normal human needs than music produced by mechanical means.
Technical control of the signal is what one needs. Split in history of electronic music of avant garde and engineering. Rift was in Bell Labs itself.
Theremin criticized for producing the classical repertoire. Or for sound effects!
Theories of music based on an all-sound plenitude. Codified through John Cage.
"For More New Sounds" (1942) Cage sought engineering evidence for sonic plenitude. Homer Dudley's vocoder. Edited Knudsen's favoring of programmatic sounds to provide a background of unpitched or adventitious sound behind music.
Then Cage switched from utterance to audition. 1950s: don't produce sound that is musical, just be willing to listen. Tight tech control of sonic plenitude >> indeterminacy. You can't let things be themselves if you're running them through tight mechanisms.
Tenney at Bell Labs. Using cellists to determine the signal differently of nuclear bombs.
Wilhelm Reich began to be popular.
The idea of a total transducer. Idea that we have heard or could hear all sounds.
"Electronic music has evolved not to create new sounds ... but to go beyond sounds."
There are no new sounds. Total transducer that involves all human experience.
Metabolic Music, 1965. An enteroceptive piece influenced by Reich. Incorporated brainwaves.
Close control >> removal of constraints.
Reich: removing armor and getting in an energetic relationship with global ambient energy.
Lucier: brain waves plus whistlers. Whistlers go through the vacuum of space. Constitute an electromagnetic spatiality.

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