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Earth Sound Earth SignalEnergies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts$
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Douglas Kahn

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780520257801

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257801.001.0001

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From Brainwaves to Outer Space

From Brainwaves to Outer Space

John Cage and Karl Jansky

(p.115) 9 From Brainwaves to Outer Space
Earth Sound Earth Signal

Douglas Kahn

University of California Press

The natural electromagnetic sound compositions Music for Solo Performer and Whistlers gained Alvin Lucier a reputation in experimental music for working “from brainwaves to outer space,” including in John Cage’s composition Variations VII for 9 Evenings, the event associated with Experiments in Art and Technology. Variations VII is discussed in terms of transmission, reception, and ubiquity of radio waves. For “outer space” sounds, Cage unsuccessfully sought a live feed from a Bell Labs radio astronomy antenna. This attempt is related to the 1933 national radio broadcast of a live feed from the first Bell Labs radio astronomy antenna during an interview with its engineer, Karl Jansky. Cage’s fallback use of a Geiger counter for outer space sounds is described.

Keywords:   John Cage, Karl Jansky, Variations VII, radio astronomy, radio astronomy sounds, experimental music, outer space sounds, Alvin Lucier, Bell Labs, 9 Evenings, Experiments in Art and Technology

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