Singing Arcs: Sounding the Early History of Electronic Music

Federico Reuben, Aleks Kolkowski

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Singing Arcs is a performance-presentation made from sounds and texts of early electronically produced music, electronic sound reproduction and radio transmission. It recreates and reimagines the sounds produced by Elisha Gray’s Musical Telegraph (1875), William Duddell’s Singing Arc (1899), the Telharmonium of Thaddeus Cahill (1897) and the earliest binaural listening experience through the Theatrophone of Clément Ader (1881). Pioneering radio transmissions are re-enacted, employing wax cylinder phonographs, (as used by Reginald Fessenden (1906); Charles Apgar (1914) and Guglielmo Marconi) and analogous sound devices such as valve sets and moving-iron horn loudspeakers. Historic recordings from the British Library Sound Archive, the BBC and the Science Museum, among other sources, will be montaged, together with newly-made material by the two composer-presenters. The texts will almost exclusively be drawn from contemporary sources, patents and press reports, newly recorded onto cylinders and discs and reproduced on period machines. A slide presentation with contemporaneous imagery and texts will play simultaneously as part of the performance. Singing Arcs is derived from the research and source materials assembled for the large-scale composition Spiritus Telecommunitas by Federico Reuben, in collaboration with Aleks Kolkowski, commissioned as part of the Online Orchestra project and premiered in Truro Cathedral, July, 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventAlternative Histories of Electronic Music - Sci­ence Museum, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Apr 201616 Apr 2016


ConferenceAlternative Histories of Electronic Music
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Cite this