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Forces in Music - From music to sound to energy to music: a deeper ecology

22 February 2019
3:00am - 5:00pm
Robert Webster Building
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Hazy black and white photo of light and a hand, with orange stripe

If John Cage argued that all sound can be music, and if sound is but one form of energy among others, then what of energies and music?

In this lecture Douglas Kahn investigates how composers and artists have engaged the sounds of natural radio; the electromagnetic energies of the Earth first heard twenty years before Marconi. Kahn discusses the concept of energy music as it applies to contemporary music; including sonic arts, contemporary classical, and free jazz. This provocative lecture raises questions regarding the nature of performance, composition and musical practice.

Direct links are also formed between the nature of sounds and energies, and the health of our planet. The lecture will be followed by a performance by Peter Blamey that explores the transformation of electromagnetic energy into sound. To conclude Alister Spence will interview Dougals Kahn and Peter Blamey seeking to link this field of sonic exploration to conventional musical practices. There will be time for audience questions.


Douglas Kahn is Professor of Media and Innovation, National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW Art & Design. He is an historian and theorist of media arts, sound and music in the arts, energy in the arts, and science in the arts from the late-19th Century to the present, with an emphasis on the traditions of the avant-garde, and experimentalism.

Peter Blamey is a Sydney-based artist and musician. His practice is accomplished with a minimum of means, exploring the interconnected themes of energies and residues: reimagining and recasting our everyday encounters with technologies and the physical world.

Interviewer: Dr Alister Spence, Lecturer at UNSW, School of Arts and Media. Composer and improviser.

Venue:  Robert Webster Building (G14), Studio 334, UNSW,Sydney, Kensington