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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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Microphonic Imagination

Microphonic Imagination

(p.34) 2 Microphonic Imagination
Earth Sound Earth Signal

Douglas Kahn

University of California Press

Thomas Watson’s speculation on the origin of natural radio sounds was akin to actual, speculative, and imaginary sounds associated with an aspect of telephone technology: the microphone. The eruption of the “microphonic imagination” during the time was exemplified by the elaborations upon the sounds of a fly’s footsteps associated with the demonstration of D.E. Hughes’s microphone. That Hughes’s microphone was built upon what was otherwise a defect suggested to others that defects in telephone lines might have the capacity to amplify the sounds of the terrain they traversed. Likewise, it was speculated that the technological capacity to hear a new infinitesimal universe presaged the audition of other sounds in a hitherto inaudible cosmos, amplified through the technology of kosmophonics.

Keywords:   microphone history, telephone history, D.E. Hughes, auditory imagination, microphonic imagination, insect sounds, imaginary sounds, amplification, kosmophonics

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