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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 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.

"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


University of California Press

Published date

September, 2013

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