Electronic music has since its inception maintained a special relationship to outer space. It first met a mass audience through Louis and Bebe Barron’s 1956 soundtrack to a film about space: Forbidden Planet. The use of eerie high-pitched tones, glissandi, laser sounds and other sound effects in established an enduring link between the unidentifiable sounds of synthesis and tape manipulation, and the new visual landscape being documented by cinema and news reports. Later on, avant-garde artists such as Alvin Lucier and John Cage became interested, not in representing the sounds of space, but in using them as an explicit sound material. Lucier’s 1981 piece, Spherics, is a recording of natural atmospheric signals occurring at audio frequencies, captured in the mountains of Colorado. My own piece, Dust, is a combination of both approaches: a homage to electronic music’s space infatuation. Neither representing extraterrestrial sounds, nor documenting terrestrial ones, it is a recording of a feedback system that emulates the broadband electromagnetic bursts that occur on the radio spectrum when lightning disperses across the magnetosphere.
Christopher Haworth is from Manchester, UK, and is a 2013-15 Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholar in Network Music Performance and Composition at University of Calgary. He is an artist, audio researcher, and scholar working at the intersection of sound art, perception, and digital media. Much of his creative and scholarly work draws inspiration from a longstanding interest in sound technology and hearing science research, and the way the two intertwine. Christopher also writes about issues related to sonic arts, and has published on various topics, including: the legacy of Iannis Xenakis’ sound technologies, ‘extreme’ computer music and noise, and the use of psychoacoustic phenomena as a musical material. Christopher has presented his works at international festivals such as ICMC and EMS, and published his research in such outlets as Leonardo and Computer Music Journal.