Douglas Kahn – Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts


University of California Press, ISBN-13: 978-0520257559, English, 344 pages, 2012, USA

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, telecommunication history, sound and art. The role of energy, for example, (in any form, from brainwaves to lightning-generated whistlers) is central and emerges in different forms through the work of renowned artists and scientists (Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, James Turrell and Joyce Hinterding to name a few). Specifically, Khan’s ‘manifesto’ of Aelectrosonic, or the music and aesthetics of natural electromagnet activities, is unravelled over twenty chapters, mostly focused on the approach of specific artists, contextualizing them with rigorous research. Readers will enjoy the natural “recognizable invisibleness” of the sounds described – the audibility of the planet metaphorically “resonates” in the pages, with seamless intersections between scientific details and descriptions of 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