Experiencing the Beauty of Sound Through Natural Radio- by Leslie Grant

natradio3

Unsurprisingly, as soon as I entered the Sound and Science Symposium I was shown how it would immediately dive into the connectivity of the arts and sciences. My experience began with Alvin Lucier’s presentation on radio and the way it can be used as a form of art. The project is called Reinventing Radio, and it delves into the concept of natural radio, “radio as environment.” The concept of natural radio was completely novel to me, and I went into the topic with no prior information on the topic. I was able to learn some of the basics of natural radio, which is generated from signals of natural origin in the very low frequency spectrum ranging from 400 to 10,000 Hz. The signals are often generated from solar wind dynamics, but sferics generated by lightning are far more common. Their scope is global, and they serve a functional purpose in navigation and communications systems. The question of this new concept goes beyond the functional, however. It delves into the deeper question of whether listening to natural radio provides a different perspective on nature. I suppose the only way to formulate a true opinion on this is to listen to natural radio for oneself, which can be done by visiting this website: http://www.ab9il.net/vlf/vlf1.html. This only provides a short introductory clip of natural radio, but it also has links to frequencies around the world, which makes the scope of this even more fantastic and limitless. 

I would say that upon visiting this website my concept of nature was altered, mostly because it gave me the opportunity to listen to aspects of nature that I never previously imagined. Nature, when represented through sound, is usually idealized and limited to the sounds that are familiar to us through everyday exposure. As a result, I expected to hear something reminiscent of a forest, such as a flowing river, rustling leaves, and chirping birds. The fact that I was greeted with more unconventional sounds instead of the familiar was quite refreshing. According to the accounts of frequent natural radio listeners, the sounds are most moving when they coincide with sunrise and sunset, or any time when storms are brewing. I still find it fascinating that there is a way to appreciate these natural phenomena without direct observation, but rather through a series of sounds that leads to unique visualization. 

This experience is now among the ranks of the other supplements to Art, Science and Technology that I have received during this quarter. Alvin Lucier talked about how natural radio shows the fluidity between theorists, scientists, artists, and activists. After learning the true meaning behind the term and actually experiencing it I can understand the way in which this happens. No one could argue that nature is directly related to both science in the form of classification and observation, or that it is a great influence of many pieces of artwork. However, works involving nature rarely meld the two together in the way that natural radio does, delving into the science of natural wavelengths as a way to provide a pleasurable auditory experience for nature lovers.

Leslie Grant

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