9 Jul 2013

Everything Audible in the World Becomes Material

From These Hopeful Machines, 8:00 pm on 9 July 2013
The Philips Pavillion at Expo 58 in Brussels.

The Philips Pavillion at Expo 58 in Brussels. Photo: Wouter Hagens CC3.0

Recording and electricity crack open the world of sound.

We start at the Brussels World’s Fair, Expo ’58 where a number of threads in the story were to converge and thence to radiate.

Then we go back in time to Rabelais who wrote presciently about frozen sounds back in the 16th Century.

We look at a variety of very early technologies and concepts that were to play an important role in the development of electronic music: Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s Phonautograph; Thomas Edison’s phonograph and Emile Berliner’s gramophone; John Cage’s CREDO manifesto; Luigi Russolo’s intonarumori – mechanical noise instruments; Percy Grainger’s and Conlon Nancarrow’s work with player pianos; early electronic instruments the Theremin and Ondes Martenot; the mind-boggling work done by Russian film-makers, laboriously piecing together optical soundtracks; and much more.

These Hopeful Machines - Episode 1

Explore more of These Hopeful Machines

Written and presented by James Gardner, produced by Tim Dodd and James Gardner for Radio New Zealand.

Scroll down for handy links, a bibliography and the playlist for this episode.

Grateful thanks in the production of this programme go to:

Mark Brend;
Warren Burt, for the Percy Grainger ‘Sea Song’ recording;
Luciano Chessa, for the intonarumori recording;
Patrick Feaster, for the Emile Berliner recording and information on early recordings;
Jonathan Golove, for the Theremin Cello recording;
Clinton Green, for the Jack Ellitt recording;
Ian Helliwell;
Roger Horrocks;
Leta Miller;
National Public Radio USA, for the recording of Bob Moog playing the Theremin;
Pathé News, for footage of Maurice Martenot;
Andrey Smirnov, for the Russian “Graphical Sound” examples;
Jeff Stadelman;
Dave Tompkins, for the Bell Labs vocoder demonstrations.



Patrick Feaster
Pictures of Sound: One Thousand Years of Educed Audio: 980–1980
Dust-to-Digital 2013

Evan Eisenberg
The Recording Angel: Music Records and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa (2nd ed.)
Yale University Press 2005

Mark Katz
Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music (revised ed.)
University of California Press 2010

Luciano Chessa
Luigi Russolo, Futurist: Noise, Visual Arts and the Occult
University of California Press 2012

Andrey Smirnov
Sound in Z: Experiments in sound and electronic music in early 20th-century Russia
Walther Koenig 2013

Albert Glinsky
Theremin: Ether music and Espionage
University of Illinois Press 2000

Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner (eds)
Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music
Continuum 2004

Dave Tompkins
How to Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop: The Machine Speaks
StopSmiling Books/Melville House Publishing 2011

Mark Brend
The Sound Of Tomorrow: How Electronic Music Was Smuggled Into the Mainstream
Bloomsbury 2012