PURE SOUND?

The sine wave is one of the main components when conducting audiometry – hearing tests and thereby determining what so-called “normal” hearing is. However, residues of the sine wave are by no means limited to the domain of science. Concepts from acoustics have been implemented in the arts caused, amongst other factors, by the popularisation of acoustics presented in the writings of Hermann von Helmholtz. During the first half of the 20th Century, composers such as John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alvin Lucier, LaMonte Young and others formulated new definitions of musical sound based upon a reappraisal of the sine tone. The sine tone announced a restricted approach to sound which accommodated artists looking toward a new discourse of sound that exceeded the traditional concerns of music.238 Through experimentation with technology that produced electrically generated sine tones, a new sonic aesthetics was cultivated which left
ideals pertaining to melody, harmonics and fixed tuning systems behind. The sine wave was regarded as the exemplary form of “sonic purity” – both physically and aesthetically – and it became a prime example of reduction as a radical form of aesthetic practice.

A few historical examples here:

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