Douglas Kahn was featured in Craig Baldwin’s documentary/collage film, Sonic Outlaws and is a Professor in the Technocultural Studies, Department of Music, and Art History Programs at the University of California, Davis. He’s the author of Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts, and coeditor of Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-garde.
Produced using a razor blade and reel to reel player, the first version of his collage, Reagan Speaks For Himself (completed before Reagan was elected) opened with the former President being made to say “I want to say I’m President. I want to live in the White House!” After he was elected, the intro was changed to, “For the first time in Man’s history, I uhhh, I’m President!” The first version was issued by Sub-Pop as part of a cassette compilation (#5) in the 1980's (it was track 3, right before Digital Alarm by Steve Fisk) and got some attention on college radio. The second version was published on flexidisc in Raw No. 4, after a small skirmish with Evatone, who wanted the alternative comic magazine to obtain Reagan’s permission. As this would have, of course, been impossible, the record was eventually produced overseas. It was also issued on a folk LP called Reaganomic Blues and included as a dance remix on the Fine Young Cannibals EP, Good Times and Bad.
He’s a frequent speaker on heady subjects such as “the intersections of history, theory and contemporary practice in art, music, literature, media arts, cinema, sound, electromagnetism, science, technology and politics, from the late-19th Century to the present, with an emphasis on the traditions of the avant-garde, experimentalism, bohemian and subcultural activities” and offers free downloads of his audio work at his website.
Without further ado, here’s the SAR Q&A with Douglas Kahn…
*Name: Douglas Kahn
*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: No, just an individual.
*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: They were all tape manipulations, with a 1/4" reel-to-reel, splicing block, razor blade and tape. Two longer tapes, Hotel and the Trompebone of Chris Schiff were digital, using a Mac 512K and approx. 90 floppy discs, cut back into a tape.
*Another genre descriptor: Media ventriloquism. I have also described the genre as "mimikry."
*Why you use this descriptor: See the last chapter in my book, John Heartfield: Art And Mass Media (Tanam Press, 1985).
*Location: I live in San Francisco.
*Original Location: Bremerton, Washington.
*What is your creative/artistic background: MFA in post-studio art from Cal Arts, MA in music composition from Wesleyan University, Ph.D. in art history.
*History: From around 1976 for about 15 years.
*Born: Born and raised in the military town of Bremerton, Washington.
*Motivations: I used to be a woodcarver.
*Philosophy: Politics and comedy.
*How would you like to be remembered: Scattered ashes.
*Web address: douglaskahn.com