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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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Inductive Radio and Whistling Currents

Inductive Radio and Whistling Currents

(p.69) 5 Inductive Radio and Whistling Currents
Earth Sound Earth Signal

Douglas Kahn

University of California Press

Sounds in telephone lines were heard “wirelessly” by inductive “leakage” from one line to another and through circuits returned through the earth, as well as by the reception of electromagnetic waves when lines functioned as unwitting antennas. Examples of “inductive radio” are given, including transmissions of Elisha Gray’s early “musical telephone” heard on telegraph lines other than the ones intended, and similar telephone concerts using Bell’s device. Among the noises routinely heard on the telephone were forms of whistlers and other “musical atmospherics” that were studied scientifically after signal corps operators heard them during World War 1 in field telephones and direction-finding antennas. The musical aesthetics of whistler research to the 1960s are discussed.

Keywords:   radio history, history of wireless, telephone history, telephone sounds, telephone music, nature music, science and music, Elisha Gray, Alexander Graham Bell, direction-finding antennas

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