Sound Studies: Listening & Creating between the Material, Medium and Metaphor

Course Description: 

Elective course, University Wide Course (UWC)

In recent years there has been an explosion of work on sound by researchers in the social sciences and humanities. Highly interdisciplinary and often undertaken in cooperation with those outside academia, from musicians to professionals, the field of sound studies is increasingly diverse, daring and exciting. Using sonic frames to think through how technology mediates relations, how cultures of perception are learnt and changed, and how the growth and diversity of mass media informs communication can help us develop fresh approaches to longstanding questions, whatever our disciplinary home. With this in mind, this interdisciplinary and experimental course into the cultural, social, political and material dimensions of sound and listening will challenge students to both rethink their existing ideas and develop new interests.

The aim of this course is two-fold: firstly to interrogate some of the key debates in sound studies, secondly to acquaint students with some of the different skills needed to undertake research through a sonic lens. Touching on some of the most important moments in the development of the field, as well as contemporary debates, 9 of the 12 sessions will be used to help students situate their thinking within a body of scholarship that is seemingly in a constant state of emergence. The remaining 3 sessions (taking place once every 4 weeks) will involve practical learning and hands on engagement within and outside the university. It will push students to experiment with different ways of listening and researching – from soundwalks to podcasting to transduction. Students will develop public facing materials in these sessions, which may be published if of sufficient quality.

Learning Outcomes: 

The aim of this course is two-fold: firstly to interrogate some of the key debates in sound studies, secondly to acquaint students with some of the different skills needed to undertake research through a sonic lens. Touching on some of the most important moments in the development of the field, as well as contemporary debates, 9 of the 12 sessions will be used to help students situate their thinking within a body of scholarship that is seemingly in a constant state of emergence. The remaining 3 sessions (taking place once every 4 weeks) will involve practical learning and hands on engagement within and outside the university. It will push students to experiment with different ways of listening and researching – from soundwalks to podcasting to transduction. Students will develop public facing materials in these sessions, which may be published if of sufficient quality.

Assessment: 
  1. Critical questions or comments (classes 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 & 11): You must send one question or comment before THURSDAY MIDNIGHT of each class. The comment/question must relate to the readings and will be used in class to frame discussions. Questions should be posted in the appropriate forum of the e-learning site. Note on weeks you are presenting a case you do not have to post a question. (10 % of final grade along with attendance)
  2. Presentations (classes 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10 & 11): You must present once on a case linked to (at least) one of the readings on the syllabus. The presenting students should contact the instructor at least three days in advance to discuss the content of the presentation. Please copy in Ian to the correspondence even when he is not the instructor. Please note, there may be more than one of you presenting per week you must coordinate amongst each other to ensure there is no repetition. (10 % of final grade – students will be graded on how well their case relates to the topic(s) of the week, the clarity of their presentation and originality of application or argument)
  3. Class Podcast (classes 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 & 11): You must co-produce one class podcast. In groups you must interview the lecturer directly following the class, asking her/him firstly for the most important lessons from the session, before asking one question each relating to the topic and/or readings. Before the start of next weeks’ class you must edit and upload the 10-15 minute podcast to the e-learning site as an MP3. These will be for all of us to listen throughout (and after) the course. (10 % of final grade pass/fail)
  4. Audio Production: You must produce 3 short audio works
  • a) soundwalk recordings (class 5): You must select a 2-3 minute clip from the recordings made during the class that relates to the theme of the soundwalk (to be communicated in session). The recordings should be both uploaded to shared folder and uploaded to a public map sound archive (TBD) DEADLINE October 29th (10% of final grade – pass/fail)
  • b) podcast interview (class 8): You must record and edit a 10-15 minute interview about a sonic phenomenon that relates to the readings and debates from class. The recordings should be sent to Ian. If of required quality, and if you are not planning to extend the interview for the final assignment, the interviews may be uploaded to CEU’s podcast library. DEADLINE November 19th (10% of final grade – pass/fail)
  • c) sound/image transduction (class 12): You must produce one blog post consisting of the photo and recording made during the class (TBD). DEADLINE December 12th (10% of final grade – pass/fail)

    5. Final assignment: Students can choose which one of the three audio production works they wish to develop for their final assignment.

  • Option One: Using the collaboratively produced pool of soundwalk clips, along with any independently collected recordings, produce a 30 minute audio piece. High quality pieces will be eligible for airing on the London based radio station Resonance FM or Resonance Extra. The piece must be accompanied by a theoretically informed circa 1200 word essay.
  • Option Two: Building on the interview, develop a full podcast. This must include one or more sound clips relating to the topic (of varying lengths); context – circa 800-1000 words of scripted narration that introduces the case study and/or the theoretical or other debate you are addressing (7-10 min); the already recorded interview (10-15 minutes); analysis – circa 500-800 words of scripted argumentation (5 minutes). High quality podcasts will be published within CEU’s podcast library.
  • Option Three: Inspired by transduction blog post, produce an essay on ‘technology and sound’ using the theories, debates and concepts covered in the course. The circa 2500 word essay should include integrated audio and visual material (TBD). High quality essays will be made public through a specially created blog. DEADLINE TBC (40 % of final grade - work will be assessed on understanding of key concepts and theories, the application of theories to a case study, originality of approach and clarity of presentation, including production quality)