Sound art is considered as an interdisciplinary art practice in several forms, each providing new opportunities for sounds to create and sustain new narrative strategies.


Sound art is sometimes broadly cited as an overarching framework for creative works created in real time and combining "sound, music, speech, and image, color and gesture" (Zurbrugg, 1989).

More specifically, sound art considers sound(s) as a medium for creativity and communication. A diverse catalog of sounds are available to the sound artist, from a number of different sources. As a result, works of sound art can be interdisciplinary and take several forms: documentary, electroacoustic music, experimental / locative narrative, found sound, field recordings, noise, phonography, sound poetry, soundscapes, and spoken word.

I prefer not to include radio-audio drama, radio art, or transmission art under sound art's umbrella. I think each is a more specific endeavor with sound as I explain in other inquiries. To me, sound art focuses on sounds conveyed in installations, exhibitions, festivals, and concerts, all often site specific. This inquiry follows this orientation.

Art of Noises

L'arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), by Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) is considered one of the most influential texts regarding musical aesthetics of the 20th century and the start of sound art because of its insistence on the musical value of environment sound(s).

Russolo was inspired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's (1876-1944) "Zang Tumb Tumb. Adrianopoli, Ottobre 1912 [Zang Tumb Tumb. Adrianople, October 1912]" (Milan: Edizioni Futuriste de "Poesia," 1914), an account of the sounds and noises of the battle of Adrianopolis (Turkey) in 1912 during the Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912), Marinetti provides poetic and literary impressions of mechanized warfare, artillery shelling, bombs, and explosions in a variety of typefaces.

In his 1913 letter / Futurist manifesto to friend and Futurist composer Francesco Balilla Pratella, Russolo says contemporary music no longer excites or inspires its audience. He urges musicians to explore the city and listen carefully to noises taken for granted but potentially musical in nature. Such sounds might include explosions, whistling, hissing, puffing, whispering, murmuring, gurgling, screeching, scraping, creaking, crackling, sounds created by beating on metal, wood, stone, pottery, and sounds of humans and animals. Future technology, he says, will allow for the manipulation of the pitch and timbre of these sounds in ways that cannot be accomplished with contemporary musical instruments. [1]

To experiment with his ideas about noises and sounds, Russolo, with painter Ugo Piatti, built several noise-generating devices called intonarumori (noise intoners). They were oblong wooden boxes with metal megaphones to amplify the sounds produced mechanically inside. Hand cranks turned wooden or metal wheels which in turn vibrated metal or cat gut strings connected to vibrating membranes. Levers moderated tensions on the strings, producing pitches. Sounds produced were transmitted by the speakers. Some intonarumori used bellows to create wind and breathing noises.

Intonarumori were designed to produce twenty-seven "families" (varieties) of sounds including: whistles, hisses, and puffs, whispers, murmurs, and grumbles, screeches, creaks, and rustles, percussive noises, and imitations of animal and human vocalizations. The intonarumori had names like buzzer, crackler, croaker, gurgler, hooter, and exploder.

The first public performance of an intonarumori was in 1913 at Teatro Storchi, a Modena, Italy, opera house, where Russolo presented an exploder. Russolo's first concert with an entire orchestra of intonarumori was 21 April 1914 at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan, Italy. Russolo and Filippo Tommaso Martinetti presided. The program was four "networks of noises" entitled "Meeting of cars and aeroplanes," "Dining on the terrace of the Casino," "Skirmish in the oasis," and "Risveglio di una citta [Awakening of a City]." [2]

The audience, disturbed by this departure from traditional music, threw rotten fruit and vegetables at the performers throughout the concert. After, Martinetti and Russolo were arrested for inciting a riot.

Following this introduction, Russolo gave concerts in Genoa (at Politeama), and in June 1914, Russolo and Marinetti presented a series of twelve concerts in the London Coliseum. In 1921, Russolo presented three concerts in Paris (Théatre des Champs-Elysées) and, in 1922, participated in Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's play Il tamburo di fuoco with some musical backgrounds made with the intonarumori. [3]

All Russolo's intonarumori and music scores were lost during World War II, and only a few low fidelity recordings of their performance were made between 1913 and 1921. The only known surviving recording is from a 1921 phonograph record by Russolo and his brother, Antonio Russolo, a Futurist composer. The phonograph record, Antonio Russolo: Corale & Serenata (Voce del Padrone 6919, 78 RPM, 1921), featured two works, "Corale" [4]

and "Serenata." [5]

Efforts to recreate Russolo's Intonarumori began in the 1970s and have continued with contemporary efforts using tape recorders and computers. This recreation of "Awakening of a City," which paid homage to the tumult, speed, and noise of a modern city, by Daniel Lombardi using multitracked recordings of reconstructed Intonarumori is an example. [6]

Frame Lock

Many people find it hard to imagine sound(s) (musical, noise, mechanical, environmental, and other) rather than human voice creating immersive contexts rich with aural and acousmatic narrative opportunities. Charles Bernstein calls this "frame lock" and says it denotes how a focus on one particular aspect within any frame of reference diverts attention from others. Bernstein, following Erving Goffman's idea of "frame analysis", calls these overlooked features the "disattend track" and notes, "within text-bound literary studies, the disattend track may include such features as the visual representation of the language as well as its acoustic structure [emphasis added]." [7]

Sound Art

Sound art considers sound, listening, and hearing as real and concrete participatory practices across a wide range of contemporary theory and practice. For example, transmission arts presupposes close, attentive listening, or as sound artist Francisco López suggests, "profound listening," to denote listening without constraints in order to explore and affirm all the information inside any sound. [8] Results might include detaching listening experiences from a place of listening and moving them to the sites where the narratives actually take place. [9] The sound artist is one who uses sound to make art. Examples, resources, and listening opportunities follow.

Resources > General
Anonymous. Sound Art.
An introduction to sound art and works that have been exhibited at the Tate Modern, London, England.

Butler, Shane. 2015. The Ancient Phonograph. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Considers the human voice in resonant worlds before the invention of recording technologies.

Kahn, Douglas. 2001. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Papenburg, Jens Gerrit and Holger Schulze, eds. 2016. Sound As Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Chapters by international sound arts discuss conceptual and research interests, analyze case studies of listening in different sound cultures, and consider ways of contemporary sound generation.

Weibel, Peter. 2016. Sound Art: Sound as a Medium of Art. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
A definitive history of sound as media art by ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, CEO Weibel. International essays examine sound art research and practice.

Appropriation / Remix / Sampling

Jon Leidecker (aka Wobbly) created an engaging and insightful seven-part history of appropriative collage in music, that is, compositions made using recordings of older ones. This history begins in 1908 and continues to the 1990s. Each part, or "variation" is one hour in length. A common theme throughout is communal influence musicians and composers have on each other. Background information, playlists, transcripts, and listening files available here.

Field Recording / Phonography

Field recording refers to audio recordings produced outside the controlled environment of a sound studio. Such recordings might be musicians in familiar or casual surroundings. Ethnomusicology and/or live performance recordings are good examples. Field recordings might also be environmental sounds. In both cases, recordings might be made with portable, but high quality audio recording equipment. Both the results and the practice are considered art forms. A good example is Framework Radio.

Phonography (literally, "sound writing") refers to recording environmental / mechanical sounds using portable audio recording equipment outside the controlled environment of sound studios. Phonography might be considered an art form where the recording of the sound is privileged over its production, reflecting a bias toward discovery rather than invention.

Features a number of phonographies, as well as information about recording gear, and links to other resources, sounds, and recording labels.

Frameworkradio.net is dedicated to field recording of sonic sources and their use in compositions. As the tagline says, phonography ::: field recording ::: the art of sound-hunting ::: open your ears and listen. Learn more.

Wandering Ear
Field recording-oriented sound from around the world, available for free download.

The Last Quiet Places
From the Radio show/podcast "On Being," hosted by Krista Tippett, this is an interview with Gordon Hempton who argues that silence is an endangered species. Quiet places are "the think tank of the soul."

Sounds Outside: The Art of Field Recording
Provided by Ableton, this resource offers lots of resources for field recording.

Found Sound

Found sound describes audio objects created from undisguised, but often modified, sound files that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a non-art function. A good example is home recorded tapes or messages from telephone answering machines that often turn up in garage sales and thrift stores. Much of the identity of found sound as an art form comes from the designation placed upon it by the individual artist and the opportunity for both the artist and the audience to contemplate the original sound file(s), as well as their recombination. FoundSounds Podcast, by Ben Wolf is a good example. Wolf combined samples from cassette tapes, talking books, and audio visual learning programs to create twenty six episodes, all available at the Internet Archive website.

Here is another example, "Ghost Story," which I created using found home recorded cassette tapes.

Documentary Sound
A partial discography and guide to resources for unedited, unprocessed, publicly available field recordings and found sound. Very interesting sounds here.

Eavesdrop: A Wealth of Found Sound
A collection of anonymous recordings taken from audio diaries, tape letters, telephone messages, and other sources, all curated by Jacob Smigel. The work includes track notes, transcripts, background information, and a collage of found photographs. Eavesdrop only available as a CD. Other work available at Bandcamp website.

Sweet Thunder
An archive for "found home recordings and other cassette deck oddities." Finds are contributed weekly by guests, or the curator. Check out the "Links" section for several interesting applications of found sound. For example, "The Voicemail Project" presents "a collection of weird/sentimental/interesting voice mails left on other people's phones.

The personal website for Patrick McGinley (aka murmer), sound, performance, and radio artist, who, since 1996 has been building a collection of found sounds and using them as the basis of his work. One project is framework radio (see above). Other projects and resources are detailed in this website. See especially the "Links" section.

Sound Installation / Performance

Jacki Apple

Created an 8-track stereo mix audio tape soundtrack to accompany the 1979 Super-8 film The Mexican Tapes. The movie, with its soundtrack, was shown in the United States, Canada, and Ireland. The Mexican Tapes is a combination of archival recordings, fictional investigation, and spoken word combined as a multi-layered narrative (Jacki Apple—The Mexican Tapes by blogger Continuo). Male and female voices read from Inside the Company—CIA Diary (Phillip Agee, 1975), The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, 1974), The Labyrinth of Solitude (Octavio Paz, 1950), The Pleasure of the Text (Roland Barthes, 1975), The Children of the Sun (Martin Green, 1976), Guide to Ancient Mexican Ruins (C. Bruce Hunter, 1977), Many Mexicos (Lesley Byrd Simpson, Facts on File Annual News Index, 1966-1978), and Manchester Guardian Weekly (July, August 1978). Under this narrative is heard ambient whistling, percussion, and flute sounds, and various sound effects. The cast included Jacki Apple, Joseph Armillos, Eric Bogosian, Jude Dozier, Henry Korn, Peter Stroud, and Zephryn.

In 1980, One Ten Records (New York) released an LP record (catalog #OX 003) of the soundtrack. The work comprises both sides of the record album. Side one: 24:54. Side two: 26:20. Total time: 51:14.

From the album notes regarding the movie's plot . . .
"Parallels are drawn between politics and sports, the mapping of events and individual lives, the form of the game vs. its underlying goal, international diplomacy vs. covert action / the disparity between that which is presented (surface) and that which is intended (meaning). Idealogies become ambiguous, indistinguishable, as they disintegrate into patterns of behavior. 'The only survivors are the systems, the fictions . . .'"

Also from the album notes, regarding the multilayered sounds of the work. . .
"The music tracks use synthesizer, electric keyboard, percussion, and vocals, polyrhythmic repetitive phrasing, references to Mayan, Aztec, and Peruvian ritual music, and environmental sound. The recording process itself is used as an instrument.

"The text is layered, track upon track. The scoring is based on music structure, each voice track functioning as a different instrument. The narrative is fragmented, deconstructed, rearranged, repeated, recontextualized. It is comprised of strips of information, a fictional narrative based on actual events, dialogues, factual data dealing with political and historical events, myths, personal histories, attitudes and procedures, implied relationships, juxtapositions of actions, emotions, and ideas in fractured time, held together by a network of underlying structural patterns and relationships. The text incorporates material on the clandestine mentality and the 'cult of intelligence,' the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Trotsky's assassination in Mexico, the rules and significance of the ancient Meso-American ballgame, quotes from [John F.] Kennedy, [Henry] Kissinger, [Richard] Nixon, [Gerald] Ford, and [William] Colby, and news broadcasts."

John Cage

John Cage is noted as the most influential composer of the twentieth century. [10] Of particular note is his series of works entitled "Imaginary Landscapes."

It's not a physical landscape. It's a term reserved for the new technologies. It's a landscape in the future. It's as though you used technology to take you off the ground and go like Alice through the looking glass. [11]

"Imaginary Landscape No. 1"
Written and premiered on March 24, 1939 at Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington, by John Cage, Xenia Cage, Doris Dennison, and Margaret Jansen. Instrumentation called for two variable-speed turntables, frequency recordings (a Victor frequency record (84522B) and a constant note record (nr.24) are played on the first turntable; on the second, another Victor frequency record (84522A) is played), muted piano, and cymbal. [12]

"Imaginary Landscape No. 2"
Premiered 7 May 1940, Seattle, Washington, at Cornish College of the Arts(?). Recorded in a radio station with four players, two assistants, and a technician using test-tone recordings (2 players, changing the turntable-speed between 33 1/3 and 78 rpm), prepared piano (one player), and percussion (one player, employing tam-tam and large Chinese cymbal). The assistants picked up the sounds of the players (2 players each), and the technician recorded everything. Cage later withdrew this work and used its title for another work (see below).

"Imaginary Landscape No. 2"
(March No. 1) (1942)
Premiered 7 May 1942, San Francisco, California, as "Fourth Construction." Renamed, after the first performance, by Cage, to its present title. Instrumentation called for tin cans, conch shell, ratchet, bass drum, buzzers, water gong, metal wastebasket, lion's roar and amplified coil of wire. [13]

"Imaginary Landscape No. 3"
Premiered 1 March 1942, Chicago, Illinois. Instrumentation called for tin cans, muted gongs, audio frequency oscillators, variable speed turntables with frequency recordings and recordings of generator whines, amplified coil of wire, amplified marimbula (a Caribbean instrument similar to the African thumb piano), and electric buzzer. [14]

"Imaginary Landscape No. 4"
(March No. 2) (1951)
Instrumentation called for twenty four performers, two each at twelve radios, one controlling the tuning, the other controlling amplitude and timbre, and a conductor. Instructions for tuning provided by the score. The idea was to tune the twelve radios independently. The work itself would consist of whatever sounds the radio stations produced at the moment of their particular tuning. [15]

"Imaginary Landscape No. 4"
(Premiere dress rehearsal)
This recording of a dress rehearsal in preparation for the 10 May 1951 premiere in New York is the only recording of this work directly associated with Cage. It is possible that he was present. This dress rehearsal performance began after midnight, after many radio stations had ceased broadcasting for the day. Consequently, there is more sound from the audience than the radios, not exactly what Cage imagined.

"Imaginary Landscape No. 5"
Premiered 18 January 1952, New York. This piece is a collage of fragments from any forty two long-playing phonograph records recorded on magnetic tape. The score was realized as a magnetic tape recording. [16]

Tarikh Korula

"Chop 10"
Korula explores sound through improvisation, field recording, and handmade electronics. Recalling John Cage's "Imaginary Landscape No. 4" (1951), Korula's "Chop 10" (2005) utilizes ten identical radios to scan New York City radio stations, much like the scan feature on automobile radio. As the samples of each station played become shorter and shorter, radio broadcasts become abstract textures and noise. The result is that all the stations scanned sound the same. This is the point of Korula's installation: commercial radio has lost any individual identity, and is driven by fundamentally identical formulas applied to management and content. "Chop 10" remixes live radio streams as a commentary on the current state of regulated radio.

Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson

"Last Transmissions"
A sound work including sign-off broadcasts from former radio stations, last addresses of public figures, and last radio contacts with planes, ships, and satellites. These transmissions mark times of crises and cultural importance and they often register as more significant than all previous transmissions. "Last Transmissions" was first exhibited in 2005 at Airborne II: Transmissions, a show co-curated by the New Museum and free103point9. Another sound work by Dubbin and Davidson was also part of the show: "Lost Transmissions," a collection of messages received but intended for someone other than the recipient. By broadcasting these lost messages, the artists hoped they might reach their intended audience.

Contents of "Last Transmissions" (in order of appearance) . . .
Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1946
Bikini Atoll consists of 23 islands surrounding a 229 square mile central lagoon. It is one of 29 atolls and five islands that compose the Republic of the Marshall Islands, scattered over 357,000 square miles north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. Because of its remote location, Bikini Atoll was chosen as the site to test the effects of atomic bomb explosions on American warships following the end of World War II. The first test, called Operation Crossroads, began in March 1946 when the nearly 170 inhabitants of Bikini Atoll were moved to Rangerik Atoll, 125 miles to the east. Operation Crossroads consisted of two atomic bomb blasts on the island of Bikini: The first, called Able, on 1 July 1946, the second, Baker, on 25 July 1946. Both blasts were well documented, both on film and radio. This last transmission is part of that effort. A total of 23 atmospheric atomic bomb tests were conducted at Bikini Atoll from 1946 to 1958. On 1 August 2010, The World Heritage Committee included Bikini Atoll on the World Heritage List in recognition of the role it served in shaping global culture in the second half of the 20th Century.

Bill Baily, WKLO Louisville, KY, 1969

Sputnik, 1957
Launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite placed into Earth orbit. The success of Sputnik 1 caught the United States by surprise and precipitated the Space Race, part of the larger Cold War. The launch of Sputnik 1 also marked the start of the Space Age. Sputnik 1 orbited the Earth every 96.2 minutes, broadcasting pulsing, beeping radio signals heard by amateur radio operators around the world. The signals stopped on 26 October 1957, 22 days after launch, when the transmitter batteries were exhausted. Sputnik 1 fell from orbit on 4 January 1958 and burned up as it entered Earth's atmosphere. This recording is featured on the NASA Sputnik history webpage and is noted in the Wikipedia Sputnik entry as a recording on an unknown spacecraft, not the Sputnik broadcast signal. Authentic recordings are featured on this same Wikipedia page.

Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (FSRC)
Santa Cruz, California, 2004
Howard Zinn, activist-scholar

. . . supposed resolution that the historian should speak out against the war in "Vietnam, well, there's kind of shock. 'We're historians. We're supposed to be here to . . ."

Zinn's remarks concern filmmaker Michael Moore who used his March 2003 receipt of an Oscar for his film Bowling for Columbine to denounce the United States attack on Irag, saying, "Shame on you, Mr. Bush." The quote comes from an interview by David Barsamian in The Sun magazine ("Rise Like Lions: The Role of Artists in A Time of War" July 2004) and was later included in "Resistance and the Role of Artists," a chapter in Original Zinn: Conversations on History and Politics (with David Barsamian. New York: HarperPerennial, 2006. 71-72)

"This rule about not going outside the boundaries of one's profession is of great use to those in power. I have come up against it myself as a historian. I am supposed to talk just about history. When I showed up at the meeting of the American Historical Association in 1970 and proposed that we historians should speak out against the way in Vietnam, there was shock. 'We're histo-rians,' people said 'We're supposed to talk about history and present our papers and leave politics to the politicians.' . . . The people who do break out of that prison, like Michael Moore, deserve an enormous amount of credit. Entertainers have an enormous ability to reach far greater numbers of people than the rest of us do, and if they don't take advantage of it, they deprive us all of an opportunity for far greater communication."

Jeanne Tomlinson, 2000
Jeanne (Coppedge) Tomlinson died of cancer 1 June 2000. Until her death, Tomlinson worked with her husband, Howard, to write the book Hope for Those Who Hurt, which was published posthumously in June 2002. The book's theme was that belief in the word of the Christian god would help anyone overcome whatever trials they might encounter. Her last words speak to this faith.

Richard Nixon, 1974
On Thursday evening, 8 August 1974, Richard Milhaus Nixon, the 37th President of The United States, announced to the nation and world, via radio and television broadcast from the Oval Office in the White House, that he would resign the Presidency effective noon the following day. Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as President at that time and completed the remaining 2.5 years of Nixon's term. Nixon resigned amid scandal surrounding a bungled attempt to place electronic surveillance devices in the Democratic National Headquarters, at the Watergate Hotel and office complex, in Washington, D.C., 17 June 1972. Over the next two years, the cover up of the Watergate break in and related events became more and more closely linked with Nixon's closest White House staff. Although he claimed ignorance and innocence, the question of "how much the President knew and when he knew it" eventually forced Nixon's resignation in response to mounting pressure from public and political leaders.

Bob Dearborn, WCFL Chicago, 1976

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, 1953
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the only American citizens ever executed for espionage. The couple, both proclaimed American Communists, was convicted of passing atomic bomb information to the Soviet Union. Both were electrocuted at the Sing-Sing Correctional Facility at Ossinging, New York, 19 June 1953, Julius first, followed by Ethel. This transmission is taken from an eyewitness newsreel report.

Dwight Eisenhower, 1961
On 17 January 1961, three days before leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, delivered his farewell address from the White House Oval Office. In his speech, Eisenhower warned the nation against the rising danger of "the military-industrial complex," a triangular relationship between the nation's industrial sector, the national armed forces, and legislators. Eisenhower implied this danger could include political corruption as various industries sought to obtain defense contracts through lobbying to support bureaucracies, political contributions, and the passage of beneficial legislation and oversight. The military would benefit, and perhaps be corrupted, through the desire for increased military spending. Legislators would utilize the relationship to support their continued election to office, despite not providing any real benefit to their constituents.

Hal 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey
In this groundbreaking 1968 science fiction film, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark, a spacecraft, Discovery One, with five humans aboard is sent toward Jupiter following an electromagnetic signal from a mysterious black monolith found on the surface of the Moon. Most of the spacecraft operations are controlled by the ship's HAL 9000 computer, which, in order to assure the mission's success, kills everyone except mission scientist Dr. Frank Bowman. As Bowman removes vital storage blocks from the operating core of the HAL 9000 computer, it begs Bowman to stop. With each removal of memory, artificial intelligence of the HAL 9000 computer regresses to earlier programming memories ending with "Daisy Bell," a song composed by Harry Dacre in 1892, and first "sung" by an IBM 7094 computer in 1961 using synthesized vocals programmed by John L. Kelly and Carol Lockbaum. The song's inclusion in the movie is a direct nod to the earlier IBM milestone. [17]

Francis Scoobee, Michael Smith, 1986
Francis Richard "Dick" Scoobee and Michael John Smith were American astronauts killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, 28 January 1986. Scoobee was the flight commander; Smith was the pilot. Scobee's remark, "Roger, go at throttle up" was the last transmission on the air-to-ground communication loop. The last words captured by the onboard flight recorder were Smith's, "Uh, oh."

His last seven words, 2004
The last words of Jesus, from the film The Passion of the Christ (2004). The film, directed by Mel Gibson covers the last twelve hours of Jesus' life. Dialogue is reconstructed in Aramaic and Latin with subtitles. Despite controversies regarding the historical and biblical accuracy, a disputed papal endorsement, allegations of anti-Semitism, and allegations of excessive violence, The Passion of the Christ became the highest grossing non-English film of all time. Jesus, portrayed by James Caviezel, at the moment of his death, says, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

John R. Richbourg, WLAC Nashville, 1973

LZ 129 Hindenberg, 1937
After a 60-hour transatlantic flight, at 7:00 PM, 6 May 1937, just a few feet short of its mooring mast at the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the 811-foot German dirigible LZ 129 Hindenburg, the largest airship ever built, exploded, crashed, and burned in a matter of seconds. Thirty-six people were killed, effectively ending the dirigible's future use as a viable form of transportation. The disaster was recorded by Herb Morrison, a reporter for WLS Radio, Chicago, Illinois, and his engineer, Charlie Nehlsen. The explosion caused the needle to jump off the 16-inch lacquer disks used as the recording medium, and explains the gap heard in this segment of the recording. Witnessing the disaster first hand, Morrison's objective reporting is quickly overwhelmed by subjective emotion. He stops his recording in order to compose himself, returning later with additional information.

Captain Ted Thompson, First Officer William Tansky, 2000
During a 31 January 1980 flight from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco, California, Alaska Airlines flight 261 crashed in the Pacific near Santa Barbara after experiencing a catastrophic mechanical failure. All 88 crew and passengers were killed.

Titanic, 1912
On its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, RMS Titanic, the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time, struck an iceberg late in the evening of 14 April 1912 and sank at 2:20 AM the following morning about 400 miles south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Just after 12:00 AM, 15 April, wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride sent the message "Come at once. We have struck and iceburg" and the international distress signal, "QCD," via wireless radio. The signal was heard by several ships, and a wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada. In addition to the traditional QCD, Philips also used the new "SOS" distress signal. No rescue ships arrived before Titanic sank and 1,514 people, of the 2,224 onboard, died in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters ever.

Charles Holness, 1962
When completed in 1866, the first transatlantic cable connected Ireland and Newfoundland, Canada, and provided a model for other companies wishing to lay their own cables and sell message transmission from North America to Europe. One company was Commercial Cable Company, formed in 1884, who built a station at Hazel Hill, just outside Canso, Nova Scotia, Canada. At the height of its operation, nine thousand miles of undersea cables ran in and out of this building carrying much of the news, events, and communications between Europe and North America. The Hazel Hill Station operated until 1962 when the last superintendent, Charles L. Holmes, sent the final message over the cable and turned the station off. The message Holmes sent was . . .

"It is with feelings of sadness that we watch the lights of the Canso Cable Station go out, and realize that a mere effort that blossomed for the greater part of the century is come to an end. Those members of the Canso staff will be leaving our service today, some of whom have completed fifty years of service, are grateful to you for your kindness and bid farewell, and have asked me to express their earnest hope that the new era now beginning will bring prosperity to the country and happiness to all its employees. My sincere personal regards."

Captain Yon-Chul Park, 1997
On 6 August 1997, Korean Airline flight KAL 801, enroute from Seoul, South Korea, crashed on Nimitz Hill while approaching the Antonia B. Won Pat International Airport on the Pacific island of Guam. Heavy rain reduced visibility and important instrument landing technology was out of service. Captain Yon-Chul Park, a 43-year old former military jet pilot, was in command of the flight, and was attempting an instrument landing, not knowing the airport system was not operating. Park had often referred to the mountainous approach to the airport as a "black hole" and failed to follow a safe approach, descending below minimum safe altitude. Contributing to the crash were Korean Air's lack of flight training and the intentional outage of the instrument landing system. 228 people were killed, making this disaster the third worst on American soil at the time.

Larry Lujack, WLS Chicago, 1987

Dr. Dave Bowman, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Another sample from the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey (see above). Arriving at Jupiter, Bowman leaves Discovery One in a small pod-like spacecraft to approach another monolith found orbiting the planet. He is pulled into a tunnel of colored lights and transported at great speed across vast distances of space. He finds progressively older versions of himself in a Louis XVI-style bedroom. As an older man, lying in bed, Bowman sees a black monolith appear in his room. As he reaches for it, Bowman is transformed into a fetus-like being, enclosed in an orb of light, floating in space, gazing at the Earth nearby.

King Edward VIII, 1936
Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was crowned King of England on 21 January 1936, following the death of his father, King George V. Edward at the time was involved with Mrs. Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, previously divorced and at the time married to Ernest Simpson, a half-British, half-American businessman. On 16 November 1936, Edward announced that he planned to marry Simpson following her divorce from her second husband. The fear of an American divorcee having sway over the monarch caused great concern among the other royals and the national government. Edward proposed that Mrs. Simpson would not become Queen, and that any children resulting from their marriage would not inherit the throne. Both proposals were rejected by the British Cabinet and Edward announced that he would abdicate if he could not marry Mrs. Simpson. On 10 December 1936, Edward formally abdicated his position as King of England, and, on the following day, told the nation in a radio broadcast that he could not . . . "carry the heavy burden of responsibility or discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."

Last Morse code transmission at sea, 1999
On 12 July 1999, Globe Wireless, an 89-year old California communication company, sent from its KPH Marine station at Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco, what it called the last commercial maritime Morse Code message from North America. The message repeated the first words transmitted by the inventor of the telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse, 155 years earlier: "What hath God wrought?" and included a traditional sign off: "We wish you fair winds and following seas." Before the sign off, KPH Marine relayed a last message from the National Liberty Ship Memorial, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, in San Francisco Bay, to President Bill Clinton. The message was translated from Morse Code by company official Tim Gorman and then transmitted to the White House via email. The message read . . . "Dear President, Please accept this final radio telegraph message as a token of this historic event."

Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane, 1941
Citizen Kane, a 1941 American film directed by and starring Orson Welles, is considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made and is praised for its innovative cinematography, music, and narrative structure. Told through a series of flashbacks, the film is about a newspaper reporter's efforts to solve the mystery of a newspaper magnate's (Welles) dying word, "Rosebud."

Tammy Faye Bakker, last time singing in public, 1989
Tamara Faye LaValley Bakker (Messner) was an American Christian singer, evangelist, and televsition personality married to televangelist and later convicted felon Jim Bakker. Together they hosted The PTL [Praise The Lord] Club (later called The Jim and Tammy Show) television show which raised millions of dollars for Bakker's lavish ministry and lifestyle, which collapsed in 1987 following revelations of Bakker's financial and sexual scandals. Tammy Faye often sang during The PTL Club broadcasts, which ended in 1989 with the bankruptcy and attempted takeover of PTL by controversial evangelist Jerry Falwell. In 1992, while Bakker was in prison, Tammy Faye filed for divorce, remarried, and remained in the public eye through a series of books, movies, and television appearances. She died of cancer on 20 July 2007.

Cousin Bruce Conner, WNBC New York, 1977

Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy, WABC New York, 1982

WWDJ, Hackensack, NJ, 1974

Tom Donohue, WWKB, Buffalo, New York, 1988

Betty Ong, 2001
Betty Ann Ong, 45, was a flight attendant on board American Airlines flight 11 enroute to Los Angeles, California, from Boston, Massachusetts, when it was hijacked and flown deliberately into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, 11 September 2001. Her calm, rational telephone call from on board the flight (sampled here) first alerted American Airlines officials of problems aboard the flight, and led to air traffic controllers landing every plane over United States airspace. See also The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air and Final 8 minutes Of Phone Call From Flight 11 On 9/11.

Martin Luther King, 1968
On 3 April 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., American clergyman, activist, and leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, spoke at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. King spoke about economic actions, nonviolent protests, and challenged the United States to live up to its ideals. At the end of his speech, King spoke about threats to his life, saying that death did not concern him.

"because I've been to the mountaintop . . . . And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

The next day, 4 April 1968, King was shot and killed while standing on the balcony in front of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. James Earl Ray confessed to King's assassination and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. King's final speech is know today as his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.

Rosko, WOR FM, New York, 1967

Dan Rather, Bejing, 1989
Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the center of Beijing, China, the third largest city square in the world. Tiananmen Square was the site for several protests, the most recent being pro-democracy protests in or near the square beginning on 15 April 1989. The protests were sparked over mass mourning for the death of Hu Yaobang, a party official purged for his support of party liberalization who died that day. Thousands gathered in Tiananmen Square where students and intellectuals began demonstrations for economic reform and liberalizations that grew into a mass movement for political reform that spread throughout China. The movement captured the world's attention and a great deal of international media attention was focused on the events in and around Tiananmen Square, especially when the military moved to clear the area on 4 June. Protesters and citizens battled with police and military units in the streets surrounding Tiananmen Square and different sources report different numbers of people killed: hundreds or thousands. All international networks were ordered to terminate broadcasts during the military action. In this announcement, Dan Rather, of CBS News (see below), notes the order and the cessation of his network's broadcasts.

Eugene Cernan, 1972
Eugene Cernan commanded Apollo 17, the eleventh and final American moon landing mission. Cernan and Harrison Schmitt landed on the moon's surface 11 December 1972, where they remained for three days while Ronald Evans orbited in the command module overhead. Cernan and Schmitt conducted three moonwalks, collecting rocks and performing experiments. Before entering the lunar module for the last time, Cernan spoke the last words broadcast from the surface of the moon to date.

I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come—but we believe not too long into the future—I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.

WNBC News, New York, 1986

Dan Rather, New York, 2005
Daniel Irvin "Dan" Rather, Jr. is an American journalist and former anchor for the CBS Evening News from 9 March 1981 to 9 March 2005, a period of 24 years, the longest tenure in American television history. At the end of his final broadcast as news anchor, 9 March 2005, Rather said, Good night, and Thank you."

"We've shared a lot in the 24 years we've been meeting here each evening, and before I say 'Good night' this night, I need to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of wonderful professionals at CBS News, past and present, with whom it's been my honor to work over these years. And a deeply felt thanks to all of you, who have let us into your homes night after night; it has been a privilege, and one never taken lightly. Not long after I first came to the anchor chair, I briefly signed off using the word, 'Courage.' I want to return to it now, in a different way: to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially to those who found themselves closest to the events of September 11; to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, in dangerous places; to those who have endured the tsunami, and to all who have suffered natural disasters, and must now find the will to rebuild; to the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle in financial hardship or in failing health; to my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all; and to each of you, Courage. For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night."

Rick Husband, William McCool, 2003
On 1 February 2003, over East Texas as it approached a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Space Shuttle Columbia exploded, killing all seven crew members: Rick D. Husband (commander), William C. McCool (pilot), David M. Brown (mission specialist), Kalpana Chawla (mission specialist), Michael P. Anderson (payload commander), Laurel B. Clark (mission specialist), and Ilan Ramon (payload specialist). Husband and McCool's last transmissions were recorded on the ground-to-air communication loop.

Spiro Agnew, 1973
On 10 October 1973, Vice President Spiro Theodore Agnew, charged with accepting brides while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President of the United States, resigned his office, the second to do so, but the first to resign because of criminal charges. Agnew's resignation speech was broadcast on both radio and television networks.

KHJ, Los Angeles, California
Last sign off.


[1] Russolo's letter/manifesto published as Direction du Mouvement Futuriste, Milan, 11 March 1913.
Published in book form as L'Arte dei Rumori (Corso Venezia, Milan: Italy, 1916).
Text of Russolo's L'Art des bruits [The Art of Noises] available here.

[2] An excellent, and very detailed examination of Russolo's instruments and music is "Intona Rumori" by Hugh Davies.

[3] See Valerio Saggini, "Intonarumori" Thereminvox.com 21 February 2004.

[4] Musica Futurista: The Art of Noises. Cramps Records Collana Multhipla, 5204 002, edited by Daniele Lombardi, two vinyl LP set, 1980.

Cramps Records discography notes Musica Futurista as catalog #5204 002 released with Cramps number and Multhipla label; catalog #5206 308-309 is perhaps a 100 copies box set limited edition

See also MedienKunstNetz website

[5] ibid.

[6] Musica Futurista: The Art of Noises. Cramps Records Collana Multhipla, 5204 002, edited by Daniele Lombardi, two vinyl LP set, 1980.

[7] Bernstein, Charles. "Framelock." College Literature 21.2, June 1994.
See also 1992 Modern Language Association conference as part of a panel entitled "Framing the Frame: Theory and Practice."

[8] Lopez, Francisco. "Profound Listening and Environmental Sound Matter." Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, eds. New York: Continuum, 2004. 82-83.

[9] Consider 38 North 118 West by Jeremy Hight, Jeff Knowlton, and Naomi Spellman.

[10] John Cage Complete Works

[11] Kostelanetz, Richard. "John Cage and Richard Kostelanetz: A Conversation about Radio". The Musical Quarterly72 (2) 1986: 216-227.

[12] John Cage Imaginary Landscapes (Percussion Ensemble directed by Jan Williams) hat ART Switzerland CD 6179 Compact Disk 1995.

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

[16] ibid.

[17] Schoolteacher, pianist, and future computer scientist Christopher Strachey used the Mark II computer built by Alan Turing, to perform the first computer-generated music in 1951. Turing provided instructions when programming his computer that allowed sounds to be sent to a loudspeaker. By varying the instructions, the sound output could be changed. Turing thought of these sounds as indicators of what was going on in the machine. Strachey thought they might be used as music and programmed the Mark II computer to sound out "God Save the Queen." Later in the year, the BBC visited Turing's laboratory and made a recording of a computer performing "God Save the Queen," "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and Glen Miller's "In the Mood," the first recording of music performed on a computer. Learn more. Listen to this recording.

Works Cited

Zurbrugg, Nicholas. 1989. Sound Art, Radio Art, and Post-Radio Performance in Australia. Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture. vol.2(2).


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