On 12 November, I’m delighted to be joining experts on the sasquatch, hermeticism and Gef the Talking Mongoose at the The Fortean Times Unconvention. Jon Ronson will be talking about The Psychopath Test, Jan Bondeson will be discussing some canine intellectuals and Gail-Nina Anderson will be presenting her popular history of the Egyptian mummy.
I’ll explore some of the stranger obsessions of the early adopters of sound recording as I immortalise a voice from the audience by recording it on wax, using an original Edison Standard Phonograph. I’ll also discuss a little-known sound recording method, one which was used to bring popular music into the home, 150 years before the phonograph. And I’ll reveal some outlandish experiments with radio, from the early 1920s, as I play some live aether music on the theremin, accompanied by fellow Spacedog Stephen Hiscock and Hugo, my ventriloquial sidekick.
This must be how it feels to see a unicorn.
Six months ago, I came face to face with a machine I’d read about often but never expected to see. A one-off invention, this oddity had been a dreamlike presence in my life, hovering into my consciousness at unexpected moments, something I imagined but couldn’t fully sketch in my mind. I’d dreamed of it since I was ten, a time when I was obsessing over a cassette tape my dad had given me. On it were some electronic sounds he’d recorded from the radio – sound pieces composed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
I’m taking my theremin, phonograph and robot pal Hugo to Manchester in March for QED, a two day festival of skepticism and popular science. There are some fine speakers on the bill, Maryam Namazie, Steve Jones, Ophelia Benson, David Aaronovitch and Robin Ince among them.
I’ll be exploring some of the stranger obsessions of early adopters of sound recording as I immortalise a voice on wax, using an original Edison phonograph. And I’ll be delving into the archives to reveal a bizarre, long-forgotten recording method that was used to bring music into the home 150 years before the phonograph.
QED Con is a celebration of rational thinking that’s also a fundraiser for Sense about Science and a charity very close to my heart: The National Autistic Society.