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Douglas Kahn Radio Was Discovered Before It Was Invented

Public Programs

Douglas Kahn
Radio Was Discovered Before It Was Invented

Wed, May 3, 2006 4:30 PM

The founding director of the Program in Technocultural Studies at the University of California, Davis, Douglas Kahn writes on the history and theory of sound in the arts. In today's talk, he discusses the interest of artists and experimental composers in the natural phenomenon of very low frequency (VLF) sound.
Eerie VLF sounds range from whispery, spectral glissandi to a crackle that has been described as the sound of electronic bacon frying. In listening to these sounds via a half-mile-long iron test line, Alexander Graham Bell's assistant Thomas Watson "discovered" radio before Guglielmo Marconi invented it in 1895. Kahn's books include Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999) and Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-garde (MIT Press, 1992), which he coedited.