The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Sonic Acts proudly present 'An Afternoon With: Douglas Kahn'. Supported by: Kontraste


The Stedelijk Museum presents the debut of “An Afternoon With,” the newest addition to its Public Program. “An Afternoon With” (or, in some cases, “An Evening With”) extends an open invitation to noted scholars in the field of modern and contemporary art history and critical theory to present their current research in an informal lecture and discussion format, with the aim of actively contributing to a lively academic environment in the Netherlands. On October 9, renowned sound art historian Douglas Kahn will describe how his new media theory, based historically on 19th Century telecommunications, can be used to understand the ways in which artists and composers since the 1960s have used the sounds of physical forces at the scale of the earth as their natural raw material.

Communications technologies have never just been about communications. They have also been used to scientifically and aesthetically sense natural energetic systems, the wind and radio, on a planetary scale. Ancient music was heard in telegraph lines as they became unwitting Aeolian harps playing what Henry David Thoreau called “Sphere Music.” The electrical equivalent of the Aeolian, the Aelectrosonic, and its new electrical sounds and music of nature, was first heard by Thomas Watson when the first telephone line acted as an unwitting antenna. Here are the acoustical roots of artists and composers who, beginning in the 1960s, conceived of physical forces at the scale of the earth as raw material. Contemporary artists and musicians increasingly work this way, now that climate change means that what we used to call Nature begins at the global level.

More information about the speaker:

Douglas Kahn is a Research Professor at the National Institute of Experimental Arts (NIEA), College of Fine Arts, at University of New South Wales, in Sydney. He is a historian and theoretician of the media arts and music, with a focus on sound, electromagnetism, and natural media. His books include Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999), the newly published Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973, a rich documentary source of experimental music, edited with Larry Austin, and the forthcoming Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins. His major project, Earth Sound Earth Signal, is the product of a decade of research into natural electromagnetic and acoustical phenomena occurring at a geophysical scale in the arts, media, science, and military from the late 19th century to the present, and includes an attempt to theorize media in terms of nature.

For more information about Sonic Acts, please visit

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