For More New Signals


Session Title:

  • Sonics

Presentation Title:

  • For More New Signals




  • The idea of a natural and anthropic plenitude of sound in the arts arose in European avant-garde music during the early twentieth century and became codified in John Cage’s call “for more new sounds.” Concurrently, engineering visions promising to generate any and all sounds, including musical ones, and to create batteries of new sound, took on a new reality with digital signal processing in the 1950’s. These two strains merged in the American experimental music of the 1960’s at the edges of the largesse of Cold War science, in what composer Gordon Mumma called the astro-bio-geo-physical application in live-electronic music, and what composer James Tenney called a generalised signal and possibility for a total transducer of any and all signals. Sounds seemed exhaustible when compared with opening vistas of energetic environments. Sonic plenitude was being superseded by signal plenitude, more new sounds by more new signals.