Feel the Noise: Sound, Music & Technology

"Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?" - Nigel

Jonathan Sterne's The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (2003) has helped incite a surge of scholarship on listening, hearing, and sound in the humanities in recent years. The 2009 Thinking Hearing: The Auditory Turn in the Humanities conference held at the University of Texas at Austin demonstrates that a strong interest in sound studies is newly emerging in various disciplines. With this turn toward the study of sound, our conceptions of listening, sound, and auditory processes are undergoing a necessary critical reevaluation. However, despite all of the noise that sound has been generating in the academy, many sound-related discourses are still not in conversation with one another. So, rather than initiating a forum based on analysis and critique, on breaking down the subject, we are interested in amplifying, synthesizing, sampling, and remixing the current discourses on sound. We are listening for something new. We hope that putting these discourses in conversation with one another, tweaking the levels as we go, will help foster a nuanced, multi-layered understanding of the role of sound in the humanities and beyond.  

As sound announces itself to different disciplines, it raises a lot of questions. Often technical questions come first:

  • What are the techniques, tips, and best practices for listening to, citing, producing, writing with, teaching with, and distributing audio recordings across the academy? 

After listening to the technical questions, you put on the flip side and hear all the theoretical questions embedded in the technical questions. 

  • Who gets to make noise? 
  • How are bodies moved by sound? 
  • How do we filter information through our ears?

Summer Sound [Large View]

Technical issues like audio quality and fidelity cannot be separated from more theoretical questions about noise, embodiment, and memory. Production choices and technical decisions--many of which are encoded in geographies and discourse communities--may come together to create a style that carries with it certain cultural values. (For example, because turntables and records were more available than pianos in New York City in the 1980s, they became the instruments of hip hop. In order to use them as instruments, DJs learned to play them, creating techniques like cutting, scratching, and sampling records to which they had no legal rights. Hip Hop aficionados re-distributed music via mixtapes.) Like all composition techniques, acts of audio creation carry with them ideological arguments about authorship and ownership, originality and mimesis.

So, like two sides of the same tape, the technical and the theoretical create an album. Our goal is not to create a techne/episteme binary, but to continue to flip the tape until we hear something new.

TAPESW

Let's start by playing the following tracks:

Side A: Techne

Track 1: Sound Travels

Sound-related words like "voice," "tone," and--more recently--"remixing," have migrated through the permeable disciplinary walls of the university. As sound-related concepts travel through the university, how can we use them to develop new pedagogies, practices, research questions, and methodologies? 

Track 2: High Fidelity

The .mp3 is synonymous with the revolution in digital sound. However, it also relies on a lossy compression algorithm that reduces the amount of data in a recording. As we move more and more of our lives online, using various compression techniques for various reasons, we might ask, "What data are we filtering out?" and "How hi-fi do our archives need to be?"

Track 3: Academic Audio

As audio recording reaches its sesquicentennial, it has spread beyond the recording industry, A/V clubs, and schools of communications. In an age when anyone can record anyone, how do we adapt and create audio recording genres that serve the interests of learning? What could/should academic audio sound like? If you use sound in the classroom, (here is one example from Jentery Sayers) what do you do? How do you integrate sound and music into a (humanities) course

Track 4: Technics 

Compared to graphical writing, audio recording is relatively new. Our audile techniques are much less developed than our graphical literacy. How might we develop audile techniques so we can read and write with sound in a way that exceeds language? How does Sound Art figure into this conversation?

 

Side B: Episteme

Track 1: Bring the noise? 

What happens when we start to amplify traditionally quiet spaces in the university? Who decides what is signal and what is noise?  

Track 2: Embodiment

We read facing the page. We write papers with our bodies turned toward pages or screens. This arrangement privileges the eyes. What possibilities are opened up when we resist ocularcentrism and learn to read and write with more than just our eyes? What happens when you hear a poem, not just read it? What does it mean to say: You are a chord?

Track 3: Multiculturalism (the remix) 

In the academy, we often talk about the cultural trinity of race, class, and gender. How can we use sound to remix multiculturalism? How are our listening practices informed by racialized discourse (and vice versa)? Is sound sexualized? Gendered? Does hi-fidelity mean high class? How can we sound out new ways to approach different cultures?  

Track 4: Memories

Technology allows us to capture and record sounds that our auditory system filters out. How does this more complete audio recording complicate memory? How do you preserve sound? What gets included in a national recording preservation project? How are power and memory related in an age of surveillance? What interesting projects have you found that seek to preserve or highlight lost/forgotten sounds?     

We hope you dig these tracks and will join our discussion. What are you listening to now? How do you hear the world or your community? What videos, playlists, experiments, art projects, noises, research projects or other concepts about 'sound' 'noise' or 'hearing' get you excited? Make your own mix and share it with us!

Hosted By: Will BurdetteSean McCarthySteph CerasoAshon CrawleyWilliam Coogan

Invited Guests: Cheryl Ball, Michael Salvo, John Logie, Tara Rodgers, Jentery Sayers, John Gibson and David Haeselin.

stephceraso

embodiment

 

While “embodiment” has become a buzz word in research on sound and listening in the humanities, discussions of actual bodies and bodily processes seem to get the short shrift.  For instance, listening often gets framed as a cultural, theoretical, or philosophical topic as opposed to a physical, bodily act.  Of course it is critical to ask questions about the cultural aspects of sound and listening (as many of our forum hosts do brilliantly), but this approach also elides a different but related set of questions: What happens to bodies when sound impinges upon them?   What happens (in ears, brains, nervous systems) when bodies listen? And how does this shape the way we listen to and (literally) make sense of the world? 

 

If listening involves more than just the ear and the brain -- if listening is a corporeally distributed practice -- then it seems that we should try to understand it beyond solely discursive contexts.  Even if our brains are not aware of the sound waves entering our bodies, our bodily brains are reacting, triggering actions animate -- that affect -- us internally and/or externally.  Thus, the reception of sound (often identified as “hearing”) is a kind of “thinking” as well; it is just not the rational response that we normally associate with cognition.  Rather, we might think of the reception of sound in terms of what Debra Hawhee calls the “mind-body complex” in her discussion of ancient Greek rhetorical education.  As Hawhee writes in Bodily Arts (2004), “Thought does not just happen with the body, it happens as the body” (26).  Though Hawhee doesn’t delve into the biological, the concept of the mind-body complex highlights how modifications in the body (intensities or flows of energy) are always entangled with cognitive processes.  Making sense, then, refers to both the sensory interactions that occur at the level of the body and the cognitive processes that are informed by bodily interactions.  In other words, the body and the brain listen and think communally.

 

So, in addition to cultural and theoretical questions, what would happen if we began to approach sound and listening from this material-corporeal angle?  What might examining bodily, affective processes contribute to our understanding of sound and listening in the humanities?  What potentially new lines of inquiry might emerge from the fusion of research on sound and listening in the hard sciences and humanities (I'd love to hear from some science people here)?  And, perhaps most relevant to this forum, what could exploring the connections between sound, minds, and bodies contribute to digital media studies?

 

FionaB

autotune

Hi Steph, thanks for your post! Throughout the development of this forum, I've had one thought on my mind: AUTO-TUNE! The recent explosion of this synth-human-robo-voice-instrument is both fascinating and hilarious (like Autotune the News.) Autotune was apparently developed to correct pitch problems, but of course now the correction has become the 'sound' itself. As Sasha Frere-Jones explains, "pitch correction has also taken on a second life, as an effect." It seems like autotune is just on *this* side of the uncanny valley of the voice: it's recognizable as human with a difference, but isn't too "creepy" yet because we can still hear the difference between the 'fake' and the 'pure human' voice. 

Do you or any of the other folks here have thoughts on the explosion of autotune? 

(by the way, apparently the Cher song "Believe" is recognized as the first widely-recognized auto-tuned song! Poor T-Pain, upstaged by Cher!)

This I Love You video by Cassius is currently making the rounds: the video is totally explicit about the use of auto-tune and vocal synthesizers - the singing is coming out of various iPhone mouths, some of which seem to be vaguely matched to the person, and others which are completely separate or multiplied. You can also see the apparatus - fingers change the mouth on the iPhone when the auto-tune pitch changes. All of which of course leads to... the Cassius iphone mouth app. Commerce and embodiment, together again.

stephceraso

the edges of the uncanny valley

Great body-sound-technology connection, Fiona! I also find the autotune explosion to be fascinating and hilarious. I especially love how autotune has become more of a composing technique or effect, as opposed to something that merely corrects human error. Your point about the level of creepiness is interesting. As autotuning becomes increasingly seamless and it does become difficult to distinguish between human voices and "fake" voices, will people think it is unethical or creepier? It seems like context is really significant here. For instance, people in the music industry are constantly manipulating sound levels, voice quality, tempo, and other musical features to make songs sound better without informing the listeners about what has been tinkered with or not. I'm wondering how important transparency is when it comes to autotuning. When and where is this technique OK to use or not, and what does the answer to that question expose about how we evaluate or critique organic and inorganic bodily sounds? I'd love to hear some thoughts from sound engineers or musicians on this subject... 

Will Burdette

Auto tune

I've been thinking about this a bunch lately too. My students and I talked about it last year when T-Pain auto tuned the prez. As a stylistic choice, I think it gets at the alienation (cyborgianation?) that comes from having machines that promise to perfect us. The result of that "perfection" is, as you pointed out, usually uncanny. But it is interesting how the tool gets re-used in different ways, from Cher to T-Pain to Bon Iver to Kanye. Bon Iver did some interesting things with auto tune on "Woods," and then Kanye did some interesting things with "Woods" on Lost in the World. The Bon Iver vs Aphex Twin (remix) is also interesting. With each successive use, the auto-tuned voice takes on new dimensions. Like first it was a pop thing, then it was a hip-hop thing, then it was an indie rock thing. Now I think it's, ironically, just a human thing. It's like photoshop. Sure, you can use it to airbrush magazine covers into the uncanny valley. But you can also take it a step further and do what Maggie Taylor does with it. That said, I'm really curious about whether it will go the way of the undistored wah pedal.

Ashon

"correction" and "correctness"

just a short note, really in response, to say that the notion of "pitch correction," of course for me, is already a fraught idea.  what does it mean to "correct" pitch and what are the assumptions regarding scale, tonality, harmonics, music and sound bound up with the desire for correction?  i find it intriguing the myriad uses to which Auto-Tune has been put lately only insofar as, for me, it lays bare the fact that all tones - in musics (not in ambient sound...yet?) - are subject to caprice and change.  there are no "correct" tones or notes when considering the constructedness of scale and harmonic value.  there's a great book aout the relation of western musical notation and harmony to imperialism and expansion, Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World, that helps me think through these relations.  

Nick Seaver

"skill play" or, auto-tune as drag

Thanks, all, for the interesting discussion so far! This thread about Auto-Tune, and the idea of "correctness" in particular, brought back to mind some fiddling around I did last year trying to make sense of people's distaste for Auto-Tune through the logic of drag Butler outlines in _Gender Trouble_. Basically, I suggest that discomfort with Auto-Tune might be considered of a type with discomfort towards drag performance: through enacting a stylized version of difference, both drag and (specifically T-Pain/Cher-style obvious) Auto-Tune call out the contingency of the bodily practices they imitate. Performers like Lil Wayne, through his particular cadence and use of Auto-Tune, engage in "skill play," highlighting the very contingency of what Ashon rightly demarcates with quotation marks as "correct" pitch. The slightly fuller blog post is here: http://noiseforairports.com/post/147647000/nothing-natural-about-vocal-s... (apologies if the formatting is a little wacky, rich text input wasn't working for me.)

analogtara

more thoughts on Autotune

Hi everyone!

Thanks to Fiona for inviting me to participate, and what great posts and elaborations there are so far.

I tend to agree re: Will's comment about Autotune going the way of the undistorted wah pedal. I do hear it as one of those audible artifacts that will be forever associated with a particular period, like the gated reverb effect on drums used by Phil Collins and others in '80s pop; perhaps going in and out of music-production fashion, like many other things, every couple of decades.

What's especially interesting to me is how the "uncanny valley" that Fiona mentions--the way we hear a difference between "human" and "fake"--is a kind of audible gap that is deeply cultural and historical, changing over time. When I was researching the history of the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer from the 1950s, I learned that Harry Olson and colleagues did numerous listening tests where people listened for the difference between the "real" acoustic instrument (or orchestra) and the synthesized version. (Right around the time of the Turing Test...) Listeners in the 1950s tended not only to be certain that the synthesized version was indeed the "real" one, but to be enthusiastic about how realistic it sounded. Yet when we listen to these recordings now (mp3s available via the link above), they sound so clearly and even ridiculously unlike a "real" piano, for example--because our ears have been acculturated to a much narrower gap between fake and real. Over the years, piano simulations have become much more "realistic." I think of this kind of like the gap or interval of "real time"--how the temporal processes of computing have become faster with each new generation of technologies, but actual time still unfolds in a way that exceeds the pace of those "real time" processes, though the gap between them gets smaller and smaller. There's a nice built-in critique here of discourses of technological progress. As Georgina Born's work has shown, institutions that see themselves as inventing "new" technologies or advancing avant-garde musical aesthetics are often, quite frankly, inventing versions of the same thing over and over again. In other words, audio technologists have been and will always be striving to invent more "realistic" piano sounds, forever trying to close that gap...

So then I wonder, what is it about the particular kind of artifice embodied (as it were) in Autotune that resonates with listeners right now--either as a kind of quintessential pop vocal and/or as something irritating that we wish would soon fall out of fashion? Autotune voices are surely taken up as part of a larger field of automated or synthesized voices that are increasingly ubiquitous companions in our social world. In an interview I did with the artist Pamela Z in Pink Noises, she talked about how it's become emotionally confusing to interact with some of the automated prompts on the telephone--they seem capable of such emotional nuance that we come to expect a more fulfilling interaction than we can actually get. Or, on a recent visit back to the Bay Area where I used to live, I was greeted by the synthesized voices in the BART system, George and Gracie (named, of course, after famous radio voices - newer media inheriting the old). It was like running into old friends in the neighborhood, their voices were such a familiar marker of place and routine. And what to make of the proliferation of text-to-movie/do-it-yourself cartoons that circulate on social networking cites, where animated figures with synthesized voices stand in to speak uncomfortable truths about, say, getting a PhD in the humanities? All this to say, it's interesting to think about Autotune as part of this broader tableau of synthesized voices at this cultural moment.

One final note that fits in here - another interesting tidbit from my RCA research is that the synthesizer inventor Harry Olson considered synthesized sound as a technique of animation, and analogized it to animated cartoons. This connection is, I think, understudied thus far in sound studies. Literature on sound reproduction often addresses relations of original and copy, in a sense reframing central concerns in studies of film and photography. I'm interested in how the logic of synthesis, which is about relations of component parts and wholes, has a different set of cultural roots and connections--e.g., to animation, to chemistry and food sciences, to relations of organs and organisms in the life sciences... etc.

Over and out!

cheers,

Tara.

 

 

Will Burdette

More Synthesized Voices Speaking Uncomfortable Truths

Tara,

Your line about synthesized voices being used to speak uncomfortable truths really resonated with me. (Another example above.)

When I made a CFP/promotional video for TheJUMP I used the screen reading feature of my mac. I wanted to invoke Radiohead's "fitter happier" because that song really articulated the tension in the things we do for their own sake or for self-improvement. The robot voice really says something about all the "shoulds" that have been programmed into our heads. I was trying to both perform the task the prompt was calling for and answer the question "why should I submit my work, for free, to this new journal?" I didn't really have a good answer, so I came up with the sort of Deleuzian answer of "well, just jump in." But at the same time, the robotic voiceover is giving this who spiel about how submitting to TheJUMP will bring you fame and fortune. The robot voice allowed me to perform this irony. Doing things because a robot voice tells you to is probably safe, literally, ("Please stand clear of the closing doors") and can help you orient yourself, as you noted, in a neighborhood:

BART train announcement by willburdette But on questions like "Why should I work in the humanities" or "why should I play the game" or "why should I dance," the robot voice just highlights the fact that any "preprogrammed" answer is going to be insufficient. It's going to get obsolete really fast. I was working with footage from the 50s from the Prelinger Archives. And there was all this really strange stuff about gender roles and suburban values programmed into this cartoon about economic opportunities. I'm not sure if it did its job or not, but I think the irony came through.

Will Burdette

HASTAC Hearts/Fears Auto tune

Well, someone had to do it:

Ashon

hahahaha

hilarious!  and great too!

Will Burdette
seth.perlow

You Play to Win the Game

 

My primary posture in relation to auto-tune remains one of perplexed delight, so for the time being I don't have much to say on this aspect of the “noise” topic. Still, it's been delightful to see a little canon of auto-tuned “texts” begin to accrue under this section of the discussion. Without saying much about it, I hope I can add something to this collection. Especially in relation to “Auto-tune the News,” which Fiona mentioned, I think DJ Steve Porter's “You Play to Win the Game” is a watershed moment for auto-tune culture and should not be excluded from our little canon. I'm particularly interested in the video's ambivalent musicality. I'm not much of a football fan, and still its primary interest lies in the aestheticization of a particular genre of the spoken word--the rants of angry coaches--rather than the DJ's ability to lay down a fat beat. I would heartily welcome anyone else to produce a more thorough reading of this piece. What might it mean, in relation to auto-tune culture and the problematics of “noise” more generally, that you play to win the game?

 

sean_mc

The material-corporeal angle

Hey Steph, 

I think the way you are thinking sound as an embodied form of thinking is vitally important, and as you rightly observe, offers us ways of (re)connecting with the sciences to feel a new way into thinking/feeling sound. I'm wondering how recent developments in neuroplasticity help us bridge that connection (Nick Carr's recent book, The Shallows, looks at this topic extensively, if somewhat problematically, as Cathy Davidson notes). This emerging field, which sees the brain as a dynamic, constantly changing and adaptive organ, has given rise to a range of brain-mapping techniques that help us to see neurological activity to bodily responses and effects. I'm wondering how these neurological mapping techniques offer us a means to observing how the brain responds to sound? In an interesting twist, this brings us back into the realm of the visual in order to interpret the audile, but the key difference here, I think, is that it is a form of witnessing, rather than one of critique, which is the mode we are most familiar with in the humanities.

stephceraso

sounds and brains

Thanks for your comment, Sean. I think neuroscience is and will continue to be an extremely important area for exploring sound. There is a really interesting documentary, The Music Instinct: Science & Song, that deals with many of the issues you raise in your post, and Daniel Levitin's This Is Your Brain on Music might be a useful primer for people who are curious about sound and the brain. There are also a lot of studies on sound and literacy development happening right now. I recently talked with an audiologist about a currently unpublished study in which researchers monitored the brain activity of people reading silently. They found that the most intense activity was occurring in the same regions of the brain that are used in sound processing. It seems like it's only a matter of time before neuroscience research will inform and respond to discourses in the humanities and vice versa. Exciting stuff.   

Will Burdette

Mind-body collaboration in digital environments

Steph,

I followed the link to your post about listening being a corporeally distributed practice. At one point, you write about manipulating waveforms with our hands via digital technologies:

Interacting with digital audio technologies makes this kind of mind-body collaboration especially apparent.  For example, we physically manipulate the visual representations of sound waves in audio software programs with our fingers.  When we listen to the composition (bit by bit as the various parts are being assembled), the sound waves enter our bodies in the form of vibrations, producing affective responses.  Our bodies respond, and our reactions affect the way we listen-think about these sounds, which also affects how we choose to revise or edit them.  This is a recursive rather than a linear process.  Listening, hearing, thinking, touching, feeling, and seeing overlap and often occur simultaneously.  It's called multimodal composing for a reason, right?

The apparentness of the mind-body collaboration in interacting with digital technologies is most accessible to me through Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Anyone who has spent the last decade in front of a computer--especially doing something like digital audio (or any kind of) editing--is probably familiar with the neck, back, arm, and wrist pain that is an occupational hazard of the digital realm. This always makes me think about the virtual/actual divide. Like, I used to imagine that digital life was somehow only symbolic or dealt only in representations. But there is a materiality to all those pixels. We have to actually, physically push those pixels around. And that work does a job on our bodies. ("Our bodies respond," as you put it, to that work.) The physical manifestations--in the form of pleasure or pain--of that work also change how we listen-think-respond. It is totally recursive. It can be a negative feedback loop: "Ouch! My mouse arm hurts! I don't want to work anymore! Leave me alone!" But sound can enter, and alter, the process in positive ways, too. Of course we can listen to relaxing music or a cheesy biofeedback track; we can get therapeutic sound through the ears. But there is also sound that we can't hear--ultrasound--that can be used to physically manipulate our muscle tissue to manage pain from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Sound, in this instance, can actually penetrate more deeply than touch. So I think it is important to not only think about how we can edit sound with DAWs, but also how we can use sound to edit the bodies that are connected to the DAWs.  

 

Ashon

hard sciences and bodies that matter

hi steph,

great post.  i want to respond particularly to this set of questions: What potentially new lines of inquiry might emerge from the fusion of research on sound and listening in the hard sciences and humanities (I'd love to hear from some science people here)?  with another set of questions, or try to think some attendant ideas.

i'd love to think about the question of sound and listening practices with Judith Butler's Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex in mind.  as sound is everywhere present and absolute silence is a ruse, it appears that sounds and listening practices are not merely corporeal, they do not simply bespeak the materiality of bodies.  rather, like bodies that matter and materialize through and as discourse, that which is "heard" (rather than that which is relegated to the background and goes unheard) seems to be likewise the matter and materializing by way of discourse, linked to notions of race, gender, class, sexuality, ability.  i'd also like to think about the materiality of sound and listening by way of Anne Fausto-Sterling's Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality.  in this work, too, we are called to think about the constructedness of even the biological, the scientific.  that to say that even the "hard sciences" misrecognize by way of their social and moral episteme.  Heidegger speaks about how science understands a jug as "empty" if it has no liquid in it, but this emptiness is "putative" because the jug is filled with air, it is filled with the capacity of that which is displaced when liquid is poured in.  

i would love, with you, to examine not simply the body, but bodies that listen and are positioned to listen to certain things; to attend to bodies that have the luxury to be inattentive to other sounds.  i think this will help us think through the relation of bodies that matter and materialize and the listening practices of such material realities.

 

stephceraso

gender, bones, sound

Hi Ashon. Super response. I also think gender theory has a lot to offer sound and listening studies. Approaches like Butler's can definitely help us think through how discourses about sound and listening shape material realities.  And I think you're on to something big with the Fausto-Sterling connection. Her most recent work on how bones (which are usually thought of as mere biological matter) are largely shaped by social and cultural forces (diet, physical labor, etc.) comes to mind here. Your question about "bodies that listen and are positioned to listen to certain things" seems like a similar invitation to consider both the discursive and non-discursive (affective, sensory, biological) ways in which bodies are constructed and transformed by sound. Clearly these interior and exterior forces inform listening practices. Since we tend to cling to the discursive in the humanities, I'm really interested to see how far we can go with non-discursive lines of inquiry...     

Will Burdette

mixtape

As I was helping craft the forum prompt, I kept fighting this urge to make an actual mix-tape to act as a sort of soundtrack to the categories. Rather than fight the urge to bring the noise, I decided to offer it as my initial comment for the forum. What follows is an annotated mash-up of texts, songs, and videos inspired by the prompt.

Side A:

Track 1: Madness in the Method  by Blue Oyster Cult (Sound Travels)

Track 2: High Fidelity by Elvis Costello (High Fidelity)

Track 3: My Rights Versus Yours by The New Pornographers (Academic Audio)

Track 4: ABCs by K'Naan (Technics)

Side B:

Track 1: Bring Tha Noise by Anthrax and Public Enemy (Bring The Noise)

Track 2: Bodyrock by Moby (Embodiment)

Track 3: U.N.I.T.Y. by Queen Latifah ( Multiculturalism (The Remix))

Track 4: Memories by Weezer (Memories)

Liner Notes: 

These liner notes juxtapose popular and academic cultures in an attempt to enrich both. They are not meant to set the parameters of the discussion. 

Side A:

Track 1: Madness in the Method (Sound Travels)

The incorporation of sound into quiet disciplines is sure to make madness of methodologies. But even though we have become accustomed to, for example, reading great literature silently. There is little reason why a close reading is preferable to a close listen, or a visual analysis of the same text. But perhaps "we need madness in the method." As sound travels from one discipline to another, methods and methodologies will inevitably mix, allowing us to discover new modes of inquiry and new types of questions. 

Track 2: High Fidelity by Elvis Costello (High Fidelity)

"Can you hear me?" "Even though you're nowhere near me?" "Even though the signal's indistinct?" As we use digital technologies to talk across distances, as we throw our voices with audio recording, we have to ask if fidelity matters (or if it is even possible). Since Edison's phonograph, audio equipment has been packaged with promises (marketing) of high fidelity. In 1927, an Edison Phonograph ad claimed "It has reached perfection." Yet we almost always opt for less storage space over sound quality. (Which value won in this progression: phonograph cylinder > gramophone record > 8-track > cassette tape > CD > .mp3 ?) Despite the lip-service we pay to fidelity, we are always just chasing the traces of another. The so-called authenticity of mediated communication always only lasts, at best, a generation. Maybe Jurassic 5's performance of "High Fidelity" is a better choice: "Your style is post mortem / No decorum / Style borin / We explorin’ / You ignorin’ / I’m the foreman / Longshoreman / And I’m sure when you touring / That you whack and you boring."

Track 3: My Rights Versus Yours by The New Pornographers (Academic Audio)

Shortly after Saint Augustine marveled at Saint Ambrose's ability to read silently, silent reading became the norm. The university in particular--and the library specifically--became a quiet, tranquil place. When things are read aloud, the expectation (more often than not) is that the audience will be silent and the speaker will not be amplified. Classrooms are expected to be quiet. If you don't believe this, try playing gangsta rap in your classroom (at the volume suggested by the so-called "boombox." Refer to this for boombox nostalgia.) and see how long it takes before someone pokes their head into the room and asks you to turn it down. If we are going to record, produce, and play audio recordings in the humanities, we will almost certainly run into contested spaces where the right to make noise is at odds with the right to read silently or talk quietly.

Track 4: ABC's by K'Naan (Technics)

The transition from the verse to the chorus of ABC's by K'Naan goes like this: "They only teach us the things guns do / They don't teach us the ABCs." That is, the lyrics set up an inverse relationship between literacy and violence. Implied in the space between the end of the verse and the beginning of the chorus is the idea that teaching literacy would help avoid violence. Without literacy, as the chorus goes, "all we got is life on the streets." While the lyrics set up a binary between violence and literacy, the performance of the song itself offers a third alternative: the sonic literacy learned in the streets. (cf. Chuck D.) Perhaps within education, our audile techniques, our multiliteracy, can be enhanced by listening to techniques developed in the streets.

Side B:

Track 1: Bring Tha Noise by Anthrax and Public Enemy (noise)

Arguably the track that started the rap/rock crossover, "Bring Tha Noise" demonstrates a blurring of genres. But it also is the soundtrack to a moment. It sounds like something coming apart in the late 80s, like the whole decade could not hold together. Michael Jackson is waning. Pop music is in a sorry state. No one is sure what would come next, but if it would have to be loud to compete with the popular culture of that moment. Street noises like sirens punctuate Chuck D.'s rapid-fire lyrics and Charlie Benante's patented double-kick drum technique. Robert Christgau called it "merely the greatest piece of rock and roll released in 1987." In The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise, Garret Keizer writes "I am not so much interested in what noise causes as in what noise announces. Where there's smoke there's fire, and where there's noise, there's often a complex of social, economic, and environmental disadvantages, the eradication of any one of which would likely reduce the effects of the others" (35). The flipside of that is also true. The introduction of social, economic, and environmental changes can create noise that acts as a feedback loop, introducing more social, economic, and environmental changes. "Bring Tha Noise" introduced rap to metal fans, and vice versa, breaking down social barriers. What are we announcing when we bring the noise to academia, a traditionally quiet space? What social, economic, and environmental changes are we heralding? What values are we amplifying, echoing, and drowning out?

Track 2: Bodyrock by Moby (embodiment)

One might argue that Moby sold out more than a decade ago with this album "Play." Still he is worth considering again at this moment for his post-sell-out generosity, which has practical applications for students and professionals working with new media. Issues of taste and practicality aside, it is hard to hear this particular song without thinking about embodiment. Furthermore, the videos for "Bodyrock" draw attention to the relationship between sound, bodies, and movement. (There's the magic glasses versionthe water, wind, fire street dancing version, and the audition version.) It might seem jarring to juxtapose Moby's "Bodyrock" videos with Kenneth Burke's idea of terministic screens, but something really interesting happens when you start to think about the sounds in the videos--beats, loops, samples--as "terms." If, to quote Burke, "we can't say anything without the use of terms," and if Moby is indeed saying something, then Moby is using terms. These terms, then, "necessarily constitute a corresponding kind of screen; and any such screen necessarily directs the attention to one field rather than another." Furthermore, terminologies operate at the level of the body. It's no mistake that Burke uses the term "embody" when he writes that "terminologies must implicitly or explicitly embody choices between the principle of continuity and discontinuity" (50). That is, terminologies determine what we pay attention to, what we turn towards, and what we turn away from. The videos, then, can be read as "different screens, each with its ways of directing the attention and shaping the range of observations implicit in the given terminology" (50). For example, the magic glasses version might push us to ask questions like: How our perception is distorted by sights and sounds? What is the interplay between seeing and hearing? Are the humanities ocularcentric? The water, wind, fire version might make us wonder: What are the environmental factors that affect the way we hear, write, and move? Who is most in control of those environmental factors? How do we use our ears to navigate our bodies through different spaces. What blind spots does an audiocentric worldview reveal? The audition video brings to mind questions like: How do we use our ears to tell our bodies how to perform for others? Who is evaluating the performance and by what criteria? How does that evaluation account for the body, the way it moves, the way it hears?

Track 3: U.N.I.T.Y. by Queen Latifah

With multimodality on the rise, I think we are seeing another wave of multiculturalism, too. As we mix cultures and modalities, it behooves us to keep in mind how words change meanings when we move from one interpretive community to the next. In her discussion of the 'b' word, Queen Latifah explains how this works: "You gotta let 'em know / you ain't a bitch or a ho. [...] Now everybody knows there's exceptions to this rule / Now don't be gettin mad, when we playin', it's cool." Cornel West's "The 'b' Word" (from his album Street Knowledge) is the perfect companion piece to U.N.I.T.Y. Already at the crossroads of academia and popular culture, West weaves his way through thorny things with nuance. He grounds academic discussion at the street level and moves the discourse of the street into new realms. With fellow public scholars Michael Eric Dyson, Marcia Dyson, and Tavis Smiley, West raps about socially and politically charged words like the "b" word and the "n" word. These words are special cases, nodes packed with meaning. But, as William S. Burroughs reminds us in First Thought, Best Thought, all words operate this way. As Burroughs says, "When you cut and rearrange words [...] new words emerge [...] and words change meaning." But it is not only that words change meaning arbitrarily, as in Burroughs' cut-ups. We change the meaning of words by deploying them in new ways and in new settings. In "Empowering Self, Making Choices, Creating Spaces" (.pdf, excerpted from the book That's the Joint!) Cheryl L. Keyes writes about how fly girls are "'flippin da script' (deconstructing dominant ideology)" (310). As the scare quotes indicate, flipping da script is not yet comfortably in the scholarly vernacular, but it's nice to see language like "deconstructing the dominant ideology" get parenthesized for a change. Maybe flippin da script--a playful, performative act--is the new "deconstruction."

Track 4: Memories by Weezer (memory)

I could have picked the maudlin "Memories" from Cats. I could have picked the equally maudlin "Painted From Memory" by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. In fact, because of the way sound and memory are linked in our brain, I could have picked just about any song or sound to kick of the discussion of sound, memory, and writing. Certain neurons govern our auditory processing, and (as Daniel Levitin explains in This Is Your Brain On Music) memories arise from connections made by these neurons. Our memories are wrapped up in complex webs of sound. Through the connections our neurons make, we learn to associate sounds with emotions. So memories are not just sentimental longings for better times. In fact, Weezer's "Memories"--due in no small part to its association with Jackass 3D--reminds us that, when we made those memories "we didn't know what we were doing half of the time." Like Wordsworth's Idiot Boy, we often form memories by galloping headlong into adventure. Avital Ronell calls "Idiot Boy" "the last wild ride on poetic license" (259). She writes that the poem is Wordsworth's own "idiot child." Whether serious or silly, our memories have a soundtrack. These tracks bring back to mind our own little idiot selves who--in the midst of not knowing--formed them.

Cheryl Ball

contested spaces

Will, first, I was surprised when all your music links for the tracks above went to YouTube videos ;) I was kinda hoping to just, you know, listen. (But where on the Web could we have gotten hold of all these fab tracks? Uh-huh.)

But I want to respond to something else you said, with an anecdote (that admittedly, I love to tell) that exemplifies this contestation of sound (and, really, multimodality) in the traditional academic classroom, which you mention here:

"Classrooms are expected to be quiet. If you don't believe this, try playing gangsta rap in your classroom (at the volume suggested by the so-called "boombox." Refer to this for boombox nostalgia.) and see how long it takes before someone pokes their head into the room and asks you to turn it down. If we are going to record, produce, and play audio recordings in the humanities, we will almost certainly run into contested spaces where the right to make noise is at odds with the right to read silently or talk quietly."

For several years, I had such a good multimedia project that a grad student had created that I used it (or portions of it) in several talks I gave about teaching or assessing multimodal projects and/or scholarship. I began by using it as an example of the possibilities of multimodal assignments, and when I showed the video (which included three appropriate punk and pop songs as its soundtrack -- in ways that extended the entire text's meaning), audiences loved it and would ask me for a copy of the video. They loved the possibilities of asking students to create open-ended, digital, multimedia texts.

A year or two after I started using it as an example, I began to give workshops that moved away from teaching these texts to evaluating these texts as scholarship. No longer was I talking about the "safe space" of the classroom. Instead, I began to intrude (as the story goes) on the Humanities' so-called scholarly values. I was called out for this intrusion in the following way: Just like always, I began the presentation by telling the audience that I was going to play a 10-minute video and that we'd talk about it afterwards. We were in a small conference room at a large, research-intensive, midwestern university where I presented on a laptop and some crappy laptop speakers. I began the video, which starts with a blank screen and the song "New Noise" by Refused playing. The whole point to the song was to be abrupt -- to "wake up" us academics into listening and watching the argument (about accommodating multimodality in writing classrooms) -- so, yes, it was loud. No more than 12 beats into the song, some guy in (literally) a tweed jacket was banging on the door, interrupted us by coming in, and said "TURN THAT DOWN!!!"

We were startled, and stunned. It was Friday afternoon at 6pm in an otherwise empty building on campus. We turned it down a little, but the sound was important, so I didn't turn it all the way down. The impact, however, had been made, and the audience did not respond to any of the prompts in the video that audiences usually laughed at, got riled up about, or otherwise responded to. They just sat there. Afterwards, when no one was saying much about the video (and audiences usually have *plenty*, both good and bad, to say about it), I pointed out this disparity to them. They agreed that the interruption (of the guy, not the music) had completely distracted them and made them not willing to participate in listening to the video anymore.

For my purposes, it was OK, because it prompted a whole discussion that was still related to the topic at hand: Who is allowed to speak and how in the university - as well as how the Who and What changes depending on whether we're talking about the "safe spaces" of classrooms versus the "public (but gated) spaces" of our discipline's scholarship.

Hmm... ;)

Will Burdette

Living With Music

I love stories like this. Really this is what institutional change is all about. Ralph Ellison's piece Living With Music is really good meditation on this particular issue because it bridges the literature/noise gap.  He writes, "In those days it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live." He lived among "the neighborhood, assorted drunks, and a singer." In order to live with music, rather than die with noise, he began building a sound system for his apartment. He and the singer would have noise wars in which she would sing too loudly and he would put on a record of the same song and crank it up even louder. At some point, a sonic equilibrium was kind of worked out. In the end, the singer would ask where he got a particular recording. In turn, he credits her with turning him onto his new hi-fi hobby: "We are indebted to the singer and the old environment for forcing us to discover one of the most deeply satisfying aspects of our living" (13). Even the town drunks recognized the value of the hi-fi: "[W]hen we played a recording on our system even the drunks on the wall could recognize its quality" (11). The sound system, for Ellison, started off as a  solution to a problem. But it ended up being a passion. I think the same type of scenario is possible within the academy. Most of us are turning to sound because it solves a series of problems. But it is unlikely to be implemented in the classrooms without creating other problems. I think stories and anecdotes are one way of mediating the noise issues.

steel

Reading Out, Loudly

Will's Side-A-Track-Three comment on St. Augustine and St. Ambrose raises the larger question of the times and places for reading aloud.  In 1782, author Hannah More mentioned in a letter to her sister that she read Gibbon's History of the Lower Empire "aloud every day from dinner to tea" (138).  Diaries, letters and memoirs reveal that reading out loud was a common form of education and entertainment in the eighteenth century British Empire.  Readings of poetry were commonly featured at parties, as were live musical performances.  Coffee houses, which today are filled with patrons shielded by earphones from the noises of strangers, were once a notorious place for impromptu speeches and public readings of newspapers, poetry and political pamphlets.           

Short of dragging students to the nearest Starbuck's and forcing them to recite their essays while standing on a table, how can reading out loud enrich the university classroom today?  After all, multimedia gives students multiple sensory inputs, but doesn't necessarily ensure output.  Here are some of the basic techniques that I have been experimenting with in my undergraduate rhetoric courses to help students connect writing and reading.  First, reading aloud can help students understand their assignment prompts.  Have students read the assignment prompt silently.  Then, ask a volunteer to read the same prompt out loud while students follow along highlighting any parts that they missed.  Students are always surprised to realize that they missed words, phrases and entire lines of the prompt.  Second, reading aloud can be an effective tool for peer review and peer editing sessions.  In one exercise, students read their partner's work aloud to mark grammar errors and missing punctuation.  Students are not used to cacophony and will lapse into silence about half way through the first page.  Simply laugh when that happens and say, "out LOUD, everybody," to help them back on track.  When they are done, ask them to return to their partners and discuss areas that need editing for clarity and to explain what their editing marks mean.  In another peer review exercise, students read papers back to the original authors, who take notes.  Hearing one's own words pronounced by another person gives a student feedback on how an audience is understanding and interpreting their essay.  

Finally, consider making reading out loud part of daily classroom activity by selecting "volunteers" to read short passages aloud from the texts presented in class.  Rotating volunteers and calling on students by name helps them get used to hearing and identifying each other's voices.  This can also be a practical way to keep sleepy afternoon students awake, or to encourage shy students to participate in a low stakes way.  Students often learn to pronounce new vocabulary words during this process.  Reading out loud has the added benefit of making sure that all the students get to "read" at the same pace by following the text with both their eyes and ears before beginning discussion and analysis.                                 

HalaHerbly

Communities of Sound

Seconding the point above, this post also made me think of the reading tours Charles Dickens undertook in the mid nineteenth century. Traveling through Britain, he would read excerpts from his novels to enthralled audiences--a practice that contributed no doubt to his roaring popularity throughout the country. One of his contemporaries, Thomas Carlyle, called him "an entire theatre company...under one hat." The sensual and affective resonances of these readings cannot be denied; his famous readings of the Sikes and Nancy scene from Oliver Twist, in which Nancy, a young street girl, is brutally murdered, was notorious for making audience members faint on the spot. Reading accounts of his performances makes me think of the community that must have gathered to see Dickens read--a community defined by its interest, and indeed participation in, the popular narratives of the time. What must it have been like to be in that audience?

On a related note, this morning here at UT saw a well-publicized protest occur on the west mall of the campus. Students protesting impending and potentially crippling budget cuts to liberal arts and humanities programs at the University gathered together to voice their dissent. As they made their way past the English building, where I was staffing the computer lab, they shouted in unison their slogans, which changed seemingly spontaneously from "take the power out of the tower" to "walk out now" to "they say cut back, we say fight back." I have to admit that hearing their raucous noise gave me a surge of energy and made me want to join them. Their chanting both powered the protest and made them visible (and audible) to everyone around them. It had never struck me before how important sound, particularly spontaneous and communal sound, might be for political mobilization, but from what I saw this morning, it seems indispensable.   

steel

THE STUDENTS SPEAK

The energy and sound of this morning's budget protest was brilliantly punctuated by the monthly siren test, implying the emergency created by the cuts.  And UT's famous bell tower played it's daily concert shortly thereafter, creating a vibrant soundscape on campus today.  The students organizing the protest started a Facebook group that emphasizes their goals to be heard.  They call themselves "THE STUDENTS SPEAK- Students Saving Identity Studies." 

HalaHerbly

Communities of Sound

Seconding the point above, this post also made me think of the reading tours Charles Dickens undertook in the mid nineteenth century. Traveling through Britain, he would read excerpts from his novels to enthralled audiences--a practice that contributed no doubt to his roaring popularity throughout the country. One of his contemporaries, Thomas Carlyle, called him "an entire theatre company...under one hat." The sensual and affective resonances of these readings cannot be denied; his famous readings of the Sikes and Nancy scene from Oliver Twist, in which Nancy, a young street girl, is brutally murdered, was notorious for making audience members faint on the spot. Reading accounts of his performances makes me think of the community that must have gathered to see Dickens read--a community defined by its interest, and indeed participation in, the popular narratives of the time. What must it have been like to be in that audience?

On a related note, this morning here at UT saw a well-publicized protest occur on the west mall of the campus. Students protesting impending and potentially crippling budget cuts to liberal arts and humanities programs at the University gathered together to voice their dissent. As they made their way past the English building, where I was staffing the computer lab, they shouted in unison their slogans, which changed seemingly spontaneously from "take the power out of the tower" to "walk out now" to "they say cut back, we say fight back." I have to admit that hearing their raucous noise gave me a surge of energy and made me want to join them. Their chanting both powered the protest and made them visible (and audible) to everyone around them. It had never struck me before how important sound, particularly spontaneous and communal sound, might be for political mobilization, but from what I saw this morning, it seems indispensable.  

Ashon

sound, the social, and sentiment

I am presently teaching a course at duke titled Writing Sound and Sound Writing: Hearing Race. In the course, we are trying to think through the relationship between sound and race, not to displace the ways the visual go into the making of race, but to think through the relationship between visual and sonic performance, about how that which is seen is, what Fred Moten might say, “cut and augmented” by that which is heard, how the visual domain is given more fullness and bodiedness by way of sound.  We work from the assumption about and theorize the ways in which listening practices inform and are informed by racializing discourse.  In the course, we have spent a great deal of time discussing different vocal and non-vocal sounds prevalent in what has historically been determined "black music."  We spent a week on each of the following topics: moans, screams, falsetto, hand clapping/foot stomping.

With each of these sonic strategies - sound technologies, if you will – we have tried to be attentive to the ways in which the sonic is an organizing principle, how it shares an intense relationship with the one creating the sound but this is not a biologically determined relationship (a longwinded argument against the sort of "black people sing loudly and scream a lot" sort of reductionist and ... corny argumentation).   And if the sonic is an organizing principle, it is likewise that which elucidates how principles, ideas, emotions, politics, theologies are organized.  We have tried to ask: what is the social world in which the creator of the sounds to which we are attendant is a part?  The notion of social world is a very important aspect to the meaning and meaningfulness of sound in particular communities.

One experience, I think, elucidates and highlights some of the main concerns of the course regarding sound, the social, and sentiment.  We had a listening and writing assignment last week wherein we read the introduction to Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History and I had them respond to some possible sounds they would have heard on the ship.  These are the sounds we heard, each one layered atop the other – with one minute intervals separating each start – until they all played at the same time:

After 25 minutes, we ended each clip in declining order until we were, again, listening to nothing or until the relative silence commenced.  I know one of the things that made me uncomfortable in that silence afterward was the anticipation: what would be said next, how would everyone respond, etc.  Some students sat stunned.  Others smiled, uncomfortable with the silence made audible by the sounds of the lights overhead, their heartbeats and breathing. 

Previous to the class, I was concerned with the sensationalist edge behind this sort of listening.  I wanted us to take seriously the idea that these are, undoubtedly, sounds that would have been heard during Middle Passage.  I was not trying to shield or protect my students from the sounds but wanted them to engage them on multiple registers: 

  • Imagine yourself with all of the details of your life ruptured with sounds like these
  • What would listening to these sounds separately mean; how did the layering of the sounds demonstrate what we have been discussing in class as the "social situation" or the construction of race, gender, class, sexuality; how were the sounds together illustrative of a social world
  • How does meaning come to us by relationality with the other sounds
  • What position would you have been in to talk freely; understanding the language - Dutch, French, English, etc. - is not important; what was important was the knowledge that the language sounds themselves registered difference and, thus, social location
  • What position would one have been in to breathe heavily continually 

Samuel Delany in a piece titled "About 5,750 Words" wrote about how the introduction of new words in sentences give readers access to the voice and tone of the writer as well as how each new word “The”; “The red”; “The red sun”; “The red sun is”; “The red sun is high," revises or “corrects” what has come before it.  The words are fundamentally social and need each other for their context, for their meaning.  We performed a similar thing by adding layers of sound until completely overwhelmed.  How to write about that experience was important but difficult.  How to think about intentionality – tone and voice – when there is no, or no single, author of the sonic text?

This is not to say that this is the only way one can go about organizing the intense materiality of thought, but that the production of sounds – by layering, looping and revising – was one such occasion and event of that organization.  This one experience is related to my more general concerns about how the social world works in reciprocal relation with and, at time asymmetrical to, sonic/sound productions.  So during enslavement in the US, for example, Harriet Jacobs was hiding in the swamp until she heard a ship blow its whistle a certain kind of way that literally gave her knowledge that she was clear to move her fugitive body toward freedom as an example of a reciprocal relation.  But she also hid in a crawlspace (9 feet x 7 feet x 3 feet) for seven years and the sound of her children playing outside the crawlspace gave her knowledge of love; her son hearing a cough emanating from the crawlspace (without having knowledge that she was hiding there) gave him knowledge that something was there that he wanted to protect.

All of this is a longwinded introduction to the ideas that are important to me with relation to sound: how and what do we hear from particular social locations, from social positions?  What do modes of attention and inattention have to do with the ability or desire to hear or let things go unheard?  What sounds matter to whom and why?

 

Jentery Sayers

re: sound, the social, and sentiment

That sounds like a great course, Ashon. I would love to see the syllabus, if you're willing to share it.  And thanks, too, for co-facilitating this forum. 

Given your emphasis here on sound's relational character and its materiality, I'm wondering about your final gesture toward attention and inattention. In your own work (including your writing or teaching), how does a word like "attention" function? I ask because I've been considering how difficult it is to parse sonic from visual cultures (e.g., "how the visual domain is given more fullness and bodiedness by way of sound"), listening from seeing, or images and text from audio. For that reason, I've found attention to be a useful term for best encapsulating the complexity of those relationships (and their material conditions).

However, I sometimes worry about this collapsing of one sensory paradigm onto another. That said, when (if ever) have you found it necessary or more persuasive to distinguish between attention and, say, listening or seeing? Or put differently: what do you think are the stakes of shifting from sonic and visual culture studies to attention studies? 

Thanks as well to Will, Sean, Steph, and William! I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments thus far, and I'm looking forward to reading more! 

 

Ashon

in/attention

apologies for not giving as much attention (pun?  intended) as i should have; i totally missed your great reply Jentery!  

i will share my syllabus soon (as i said to Steph, it is a undone work of un-art...lol...meaning, it has revolved a lot, so i need to actually put what happened on the paper) and would love to dialogue about it.  

when i speak about attention and inattention to materiality, i am thinking of Cathy Davidson here...i worked with her last year for an undergrad course she taught where we spoke about how - given the internet age - there are multiple modes of attention given to things at once.  the ability to text message have several windows open on a laptop and read all call for various forms of engagement (i.e., attention).  we allow some things to be privileged while others recede into the background.  even driving paths one drives all of the time, one notices "difference" when difference sort of pops up; when there is a detour, you notice trees and homes and spaces you haven't given attention to previously.  this is how i think and speak about modes of attention and inattention.

as for parsing the sonic from the visual (from the other senses as well), we realize that senses as "five" distinguished things that allow engagement with the world is a historical construction that is rather modern and recent.  for me, it's not about the collapse of the senses, but allowing the senses to be engaged as fully as possible.  to hear music is literally to be moved by vibrations that touch; to taste is to touch the savory surfaces of other objects and this touch is connected to the sense of smell.  

i was not aware of "attention studies" as a discipline but as an idea that tries to think through the sensual domain as working together rather than separately, i'm all for it...!

stephceraso

inattention

I'm loving this thread, and all of the attention to attention made me wonder about the role of inattention in sonic and/or visual environments. How do sounds and/or images we do not consciously process or attend to affect our bodies?  What role do these unconscious sensory interactions play in shaping the way we understand or react to something?  Is this something either of you spend time talking about in your courses?  Your posts also got me thinking about The World Soundscape Project and Acoustic Design--how environments can be designed to make humans feel and behave in specific ways, even if they are unaware of it...

Ashon

the WSP

of course, i'll need to read more about this, Steph...i'm wondering what assumptions of "the human" are made by such projects and what happens for those wo do not respond in ways that humans are supposed to, when they do not behave according to the norm.  i guess for me what is always interesting is the ways in which these projects tend to normalize that which i think is fundamentally resistant to normative order, normative form.  so i'll read more about the WSP.

when we had the experience of listening to sounds that would have been heard on a slave ship, layered atop the other for 25 minutes, i had my students consider what it meant to both produce sound and hear sound from particular positionality.  so they had to assume the position - mental, emotional, political - of one who was a "heavy breather" whom i described as below the deck, in the ship's hold (i.e., one stolen, one enslaved) and then to assume the position of one of the people speaking Dutch on the deck, speaking freely (i.e., one who is likely a trader).  

to hear the sounds of ship creaking, whips, moans and running - from the position below the deck - was to give a particular sort of narrative flesh: that person would likely be bothered and concerned for the materiality of the sounds.  hearing whips would likely have that person fearful of and anticipatory toward a violence in the future; hearing running could be a cause for celebration if ones above deck (during the exercise period, for example) were resisting, fighting, jumping overboard.  to hear sounds from the position of the Dutch speaker would likely concern economics.  running - if there were resistance - could signal a loss of property and of capital; hearing the whip would be one way to assume and/or exert authority; to talk Dutch - freely - from that position is to illustrate the ways in which sound are connected to freedom, the ability to move, to have and exchange thought without regard.

this exercise was bound up with modes of attention and inattention.  i argued that to be one so enslaved, to hear sounds from below the berth, was likely to have one's sense of sound heightened to the many sounds taking place within the social world of the ship itself.  whereas to be positioned on the deck, to hear sounds from that position, one could likely be inattentive to certain sounds, one would not *have* to hear the heavy panting of the one who is fearful, one would not necessarily have to regard the shrieks of a baby.

that to say that modes of attention and inattention can be bound up with modes of position and with inequitable distributions of power.  one person's noise is another's sociality.

stephceraso

awesome

Thanks for sharing, Ashon. It's a really fascinating exercise. 

David.Haeselin

Attention to Reading Media

With all of this discussion about attention/inattention, I can’t help but try to contextualize the debate about digital technologies supposed deleterious effects on America’s youth. At first glance, making people play attention to sound seems more direct than convincing students to see the value of reading, but I really can’t stress enough the value of the great posts here to extract subvocal, hidden, or even ideological sounds or barriers to hearing those sounds. As I argued in another post, one does not have the agency to opt out of hearing, at least at some level.  Subjects (for the sakes of this discussion, students) have the option of choosing to read or not to read. This may sound familiar to many of you, since I’m repeating the title of the NEA’s 2004 (published in 2007) study on the reading habits of Americans. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the results are scary. As I recall, the average 15-24 year old spends, on average two hours watching TV and only seven minutes reading. Speaking of this study, I had the pleasure of seeing N. Katherine Hayles speak last Friday at Duquesne University, and she suggested that if you were wiling to include other forms of new media, the average youth spends 6-8 hours a day, including school days, on media. While I’d be the first to critique the NEA study’s notion of reading as only being print-based, the dominance of the visual is clearly waning. Contemporary perceptions are multimodal, as many in this forum have nicely suggested.

I’m interested in the idea of “attention studies” that’s being thrown around in this post, which I think we might also be able to call, to take another morsel from Dr. Hayles’ provocative argument,  “comparative media studies.”  Throughout the discussions on this forum, I have seen an implicit divide between human production of media and environmental stimuli that are often being read using the same criteria and perspectives. What a “comparative media studies” could do would retrofit the humanities to appreciate “natural” sound and other forms of mediation that are strictly not based around communication. The call for interdisciplinarity is nothing new, but focusing around media technology and writing technologies could inspire and direct the multivariate strategies of reading that have unearthed so many interesting ideas in this forum.  If we could help provide a critical apparatus for approaching all forms of media, even non-human media, I think our role as humanities scholars and critics could find new life across the academy. Perhaps students really aren’t reading, which is a necessary point of investment for teachers, but carrying on the idea that one can only read books is perhaps just as dangerous a reality. I’m not calling for a return to an idea of the post-structural text as the be-all end-all, but, instead, for thinking about making reading an approach to life, which is exactly the kind of possibility that convinced me that I wanted to follow this path in the first place.

I’m sure many of the people commenting on this forum make their salary by “teaching writing,” but what I want to advocate is that we (and our older colleagues as well) find more ways to teach how to read seeminingly non-textual artifacts.  This reading need not be formalist, linear, or even primarily visual, but if we can advocate reading across the mediascape and the curriculum, I think the humanities can find a way to safeguard itself against the corporate university and even evolve into something altogether new and exciting.

 

Will Burdette

Attention, filters, and the sonorous envelope  

Ashon,
I've been meaning to respond to this, particularly the part about attention and inattention. This seems to be a huge issue (again) right now. I've been wrestling with the best way into it. I think I'll try to come at it by mixing three ideas: infoglut, filtering , and the sonorous envelope. When I think about attention, I think of infoglut. When I think of infoglut, I always think of Lanham's bit about drinking from a firehouse from The Electronic Word:

Dealing with this superabundant flow is sometimes compared to drinking from a firehose. In such a society the scarcest commodity turns out to be not information but the human attention needed to cope with it. Intelligenda longa, vita brevis should be the motto of the Information age—life is short, but long indeed the list of things to be known in it. (227)

So, in this attention economy, I think we are all trying to find ways to deal with infoglut. I like to pair Lanham with O'Donnell's Avatars of the Word.  In that book he writes:

What is perceive as infoglut is mainly infoguilt--a sense that I should be seeking more. Well, we always should, but we make choices, we filter out noise, we select high value information and we make our best combinations (175).

I find this useful because because he writes "we filter out noise" and "we make our best combinations." But I wonder how making the best mix, the best combo is no longer all about filtering out "noise." This brings me to the idea of the sonorous envelope. Sure, we'd all love--at least at times--to wrap ourselves in dulcet tones that don't challenge us. But the negative side of the sonorous envelope is the echo chamber in which all we hear are at the sweet tones that we agree with. 

So when you write "modes of attention," I think that's key. (And I think it's kind of a novel way to talk about the economics of attention.) That is, there is not just one way to pay attention. There is not just one way to listen. We can listen seriously. We can listen cynically, or we can listen using Elbow's methodological believing. I think generating the right mix requires that we employ different kinds of attention, that we mix modes, that we listen multimodally. (Sorry. I'm having a public "aha moment.") So multimodal listening requires both the ability and desire to mix modes, to pay different kinds of attention to different kinds of things. This requires us to be able to switch filters.

So how do we switch filters and how do we teach our students to switch filters? Ability is one thing. As we have talked about, there's this continuum of ability that we are on, and we're always using prosthetics and supplements and implants and replacements to move around on that continuum. So all of that deals with ability, which is surely wrapped up with economics and power (who has access to move around on that continuum of bodily ability?). But there is also, as you mentioned, desire. We could (and do?) desire the womb-like sonorous envelope. But we also, I think, desire the face of the other. ( Or, if we don't, we might try switching filters until we can listen to the other who brings us out of our sonorous envelope.) This, I think, might be where auto tune (or photoshop filters) some in. Rhetorically, filters like this do some work in terms of style. But might filters also do something in terms of universalizing experience so that it can be recognized, heard, seen, immediately grasped by another? Like, whether it is a black man or a white woman or a politician or a baby, we all recognize the robot voice. It is simultaneously wonderful and scary. I'm thinking again about photoshop filters. There are "poster edges" filters and "watercolor" filters. And these things operate by eliminating information in a photo so that it looks like something we are all familiar with: a water color or a gig poster.

So, yeah, filters seem to loom large in this discussion of attention and inattention.

Nick Seaver

Stuart Hall?

Do you think that this idea of filters might be Stuart Hall's "encoding" and "decoding" in a different techno-guise? I'm not sure which metaphor I would prefer (they seem to serve different functions), but filters, I would say, seem to act passively, while decoders reflect an active engagement with meaning-making/extraction.

Will Burdette

Encoding/Decoding

Nick,

That's a really great question. I read Hall's "encoding/decoding" last night to try to understand the relationship between encoding/decoding and filtering. Here's kind of what I came up with:

 

Logic Pro interface

 

Photoshop interface

For me, filtering implies encoding/decoding, albeit preprogrammed encoding/decoding. Filtering, then, is a subset of encoding/decoding. Forgive an elaboration of what I mean by filters: In Photoshop or Logic (which I used in the pitch correction exercise somewhere in this forum) you can apply filters. (Photoshop calls them filters. Logic calls them, variously, "inserts," and "plug-ins," with "filter" being a subset of those "inserts" or "plug-ins." But let's just agree to call them "filters." See images above.) So when you apply one of these filters, part of the encoding/decoding has been done for you. Some might consider this inactive, in that someone else has already done the work (coding), and all the user has to do is poke around in the interface. But the user still has tons of choices to make. Just in the scale that you correct the pitch to you have more than 41 options, just a few of which are represented in the image below: 

Logic pitch correction interface

 

As you learn to navigate the interface, the codes, as Hall might say, become "naturalized" in the form of menus and icons. (This is also true with learning to code or speak a language. At some point, you start to see through the language, right?) The interface becomes, if not transparent, at least navigable by habit. But the process by which the codes (the interface icons and the code beneath them) become naturalized does not necessarily imply passivity. If everyone opened up their DAW and automatically turned on pitch correction and set it to the same settings, then, yeah. That's just as passive as someone going to church and reciting the Doxology. But one has to go to church and muddle through the Doxology enough times to memorize it. That's not necessarily a passive process. (OK. For me it was. But at some point, I had to make a decision whether to recite it or not.) So even with filters, one is faced with decisions.

The question seems to be whether using filters to limit the range of decisions counts as passivity. I'm not sure it does. In fact, I think it's often limiting the range of decisions that allows for "active engagement with meaning-making." And I think that passivity can just as easily come from an overwhelming range of choices (cf. Barry Schwartz and "The Paradox of Choice").

For some reason, All this reminds me of Eco's old bit about the Mac being Catholic and the DOS-based PC being protestant. I don't know? Filters are Catholic? Encoding/Decoding is Protestant?

 

Nick Seaver

Now de Certeau?

Thanks for the examples with images! I think the pressing question here is how we construct the relationship between filter and filter-er: is using a premade thing for your own ends empowering or constricting? (Or, is it possible to really consider our engagement with the world in terms of anything "premade," given that, unlike in the technical realm, our reception must be instantiated over and over again, every time anew?)

This leads me to the next guy, Michel de Certeau, and the next pair of ideas: tactics and strategies. From a tactical perspective, we could see listeners making the most of the tools at hand, for uses that might be at odds with larger normative powers. On the other hand, the "pre-programmed" nature of filters, as you call them, could be seen as a subtle form of domination. Regardless of how many options there are, if they are not made (owned, re-appropriated?) by the user, then they could be seen as restrictive in a fundamental sense. (Again, it may not actually be possible for us social animals to just invent wholesale new filters anyway.) 

But now, it does seem like I've drifted far enough into the abstract that I'm not sure what this has to do with listening anymore at all! 

Will Burdette

filters as subtle domination, interfaces as contact zones

I love how you put that: Filters can be "a subtle form of domination." I think there is little argument about that. The person/entity who controls the interface, through which we interact with the filters, exercises a lot of social and cultural control. Selfe and Selfe (1994 .pdf) sampled Pratt to suggest that the interface is a contact zone. Interfaces are "'social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today' (34)." So asymmetrical relations of power are implied in interfaces (and filters). Interfaces and filters say "Do it this way. Pay attention to these variables. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." As with a text, it is up to us how we use the filter. I don't think we can wholesale invent filters or interfaces. We're always borrowing icons, metaphors, concepts from other places. But we can use filters tactically and strategically; we can fight over them; we can put them to new uses; we can reinvent them.

 

Thanks for the tip on de Certeau. Ima look into him right now.

Ashon

mmm

i need to sit and think about this some more but of course, filters make me think of trumpet mutes.   i'll be back soon.

Ashon

"universalizing experience"

hi will,

thanks for the writing about filtering (as i have very little knowledge of it...what you wrote was very useful!).  i want to pause at "universalizing experience" with regard to the work that filters do or can possibly do for us.  there's a great book titled Bedouin Hornbook by Nathaniel Mackey that makes me wonder what is really underneath the desire toward and claim for universality.  

Things got under way with a fellow from one of the local radio stations clearing his throat to say that while he admitted being "somewhat uninformed" on recent developments in music the trouble he has with our compositions is their tendency to, as he put it, "go off on tangents."  He then said that "a piece of music should gather rather than disperse its component parts" but insisted that he wasn't asking that our music be made easier exactly, "just more centered somehow," etc.

...[Lambert in response] shifted his argument a bit, saying that if our music does have a center, as he could argue it indeed does, how would someone who admits being "somewhat uninformed" recognize it, that maybe the fellow from the radio station wasn't saying anything more than that our music churns out of a center other than his, one he's unfamiliar with..."But if, 'somewhat uninformed,' you refuse to make the journey to that center and instead pontificate on its need to be 'more centered,' then you're asking for nothing if not an easier job, that your work be done by someone else, that our music abandon its center and shuffle over to yours" (10-11).

please pardon my rather lengthy quote (i do, in fact, believe this may be one of the best works of musical fiction i have ever encountered and experienced; in fact, the course i teach could be said to be based on one of the epistles in the work).  what i want to linger in a bit is how Lambert critiques the idea that his group's music was not centered, that it needed to work in order for its experience to be universal, so that others could access the meaning of their music.  

of course, he points out for us how it is erroneous to claim that something is not centered; but what is beneath Lambert's critique, i think, is the idea that "centered" itself is held up to scrutiny.  pressure is applied to the notion that there is a centering of music and sound from which sound comes when he states that the music of his group "churns" out from a different center altogether...and that in order to get it, to understand it, one has to work and move toward that churning.  

filters, from the way you describe them, can actually have the same rhetorical and material effect as "somewhat uninformed" does by way of the assumption that universalizing emerges through reduction and removal of difference.  i want to think about the quartet of being "recognized, heard, seen, immediately grasped by another" by way of people who have historically been misrecognized, misheard, unseen but immediately grasped by another because of the fundamental desire for filtering, by the desire to have them do work, to create something (a new world, even).    

this was a long way to say i'm not sure that universalizing experience has ever been a good thing when it works to reduce difference, to remove resistance, to get rid of noise.  

Will Burdette

Multiversalizing

Hey, Ashon.

I'll agree that filters are created with the intention to universalize. And I'll admit that they can exacerbate the tendency to universalize. And I'll agree that universalizing is WAY problematic. I'm not sure that I would, necessarily, celebrate filters. (Though evidently, I sure enjoy using them and talking about them...yikes.)

 

I think you are onto something when you suggest that filters are kind of inherently, um, well, "bad." Not to universalize, but I think most of us can agree that the first overt example of autotune in recent memory (Cher's "Believe") is probably not our favorite. (I kid, I kid.) First, autotune was used on the sly (bad). Then it was used for schlocky pop (bad). But now it's being used for lots of things (bad-as-in-good). There is something about this whole autotune phenomenon that gives me hope. Even tho it is a fad, it exemplifies humans' abilities to flip scripts and demonstrate the contingency of meaning.

 

Filters are bad insofar as they work toward removing difference, removing resistance, editing out noise. But they can also be used to create noise. They can also be used to critique the original intention behind their creation. Most people doing cool stuff with autotune these days aren't trying to slyly correct pitch in the name of a universal absolute pitch. They are using it, I think, to critique autotune, to increase difference. Now, in addition to having all the myriad "natural" and "computerized" voices that humans can produce, we have this hybrid human/robot voice that has spun off into many different genres of music and video.

It makes me think of Irigaray's understanding of mimesis, wherein stereotypes are adopted, but then not repeated with fidelity. In the process, there is a hybridization that occurs. This hybridization is not without its own problems, but I think it is preferable to the original stereotypes and filters.    

 

Ashon

filtering (pt2)

of course now, i wanna revisit the notion of filtering a bit.  i wonder if filters in whatever digital or analog guise - photoshop, logic, sieves - lay bare the fact that everything is...filtered.  i'm older these days and can't remember how many times i discuss things but there's this great piece about Du Bois and the Negro (as a concept) by Nahum Chandler titled "Of Exorbitance: The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought" and what i find to be quite provocative from Chandler's writing for our discussion is his theorizing how the Negro instantiates a metaphysical problem of difference and purity, that in and around the concept of the Negro:

At its infrastructural core, the eighteenth-century discourse was organized around one titular question: are Negroes human, and, if so, are they “fully” human? On the basis of what criteria should their status in relation to (other) humans be judged? And, is that relation one of fundamental, or relative, sameness or difference? And, of course, the question, what is human? (or, what is man?) is always and everywhere at issue, even if only implicitly. This question was especially articulated as a discourse concerning the humanity of Negro slaves. A privileged heading or topic through which this discourse was played out—which in the sense of the project of philosophy was not one among others—was the question of Negro ability or capacity, especially moral and intellectual (354).

i want to modulate the concerns of Chandler in order to think through the sonic force of such titular questions with regard to filtering (as a concept).  it appears that "filtering" has both assumption and aspirational quality.  filters are assumption of the idea of separation and removal, that some stuff is mixed.  attendant to this assumption is that there is an entity through which materiality passes; this entity - the filter itself - produces the logic of separation, segregation, sedimentation.  for if materiality can be filtered, the stuff that exists on both sides of the process, of the filter can be gathered and/or dispersed, can be held and/or thrown.  i'm thinking, here, of coffee filters as a visual example (but i suppose this is also true for music: consider the mp3 as a filtered sonic material, in which vibrations above 16megahertz has been removed for efficiency, portability and economy, as the (normative) ear cannot "hear" above that anyway).  where does this removed materiality go, one wonders?  coffee grinds - once the water goes through the filter - are thrown away.  what of the above 16megahertz?  does it go to the mysterious beyond (i must admit, i LOVE the concept of a mysterious beyond)?  

ok.  so there is the concept of the filter by way of its assumption that materiality can be separated.  then there is the aspirational quality of the filter as well.  as with the mp3's removal of sound the normative ear cannot process, the filter aspires toward efficiency, portability and economy.  fast downloads and uploads, easy sharing between friends.  put it up, take it down.  the filter makes this possible.  the filter, in my estimation then, though it can aspire toward sharing and dispersing (which is to say, democratizing, i suppose), can equally aspire toward perpetuating the notion that a pure sound exists, that there is a correct voice, that noise can be reduced, removed, recycled.

there is a metaphysical dilemma at the heart of my engagement with (critique of the notion of?) filtering.  what is assumed about sound or image that says it can be filtered, made clean, produced purely?  so i want to take the pressure off the question "are filters good or bad" and ask what is assumed - of sound, of thought - in the desire for filtering itself?  what must be thought in order to think that some sound is filtered and others are not?  if all sounds are filtered by some something (and i think this is the case), does the filter as a concept operate on some sound and not others?  and why is there a desire for this operation on particular kinds of sounds and not others?  

i hope this is making some semblance of sense...

wcoogan

Some thoughts on music and culture:

Cultural borrowing through music is known as appropriation. The practice of appropriation is often cast in a negative light, but it can be constructive. While music itself should determine its own reaction, our personal prejudices distract and hinder our ability to objectively listen. How the composition sounds should be all that matters: if plainchant-Latin jazz-throat singing sounds fantastic that should be the end of the issue. Still, there is a great pressure to justify the use of another culture’s music.

To a large extent, this is caused by the need for context. Certain styles are difficult to imitate without full immersion in a culture and their adaptation is discouraged for that reason. Having heard jazz performances in Europe, I can attest that, while the performers were technically proficient, there was a certain blockiness to their style that was distracting because of my previous experiences with the genre in its country of origin. I know this to be a fault of my own. The music was excellent and I should have enjoyed it… but it was distracting! I have found that I have a certain threshold when it comes to appropriation. While I find the direct use of another style distracting, I find the merging of styles is frequently successful. My favorite examples of this are jazz-influenced African music, with jazz having begun as African influenced Western music.

Other musicians I have spoken to vary widely in their personal thresholds, some considering specific acts of appropriation deeply offensive. I have observed this mostly along lines of cultural power struggles, most specifically when white musicians appropriate what is considered to be black music. Is appropriation the same as exploitation? This infers a degree of intent by the composer, but music can be exploitative regardless of intent. Perhaps this is what can be so distracting about the direct use of another culture’s music. Fusion at the very least implies commentary on a culture whereas direct use is merely a false representative. Still, attempted use of another musical style is a style in itself if it can only be heard as such.

Discussing the issue of appropriation inevitably prompts the question “does the composer have the right to steal from another culture?” Yes! The bottom line is that listening (as opposed to hearing) is a voluntary activity and the act of composition is based on influence of impact, not duration or location. That said, composers need to be mindful of their target audience and the prejudices, justified or not, which that audience may hold.

If we are to assume appropriation to be acceptable, an extenuation of this assumption is that cultural borrowing is also useful as a bridge between cultures. How might we use this as a means of diplomacy? Is it possible to listen without prejudice? Is there a way our personal experiences might contribute beneficially to our listening experiences or vice versa?

David.Haeselin

Long Distance Listening

 

In response to your intriguing questions about prejudice and listening, Will, I think that while hearing is indeed more automatic than other “mediated” responses (such as reading) listening facilitates the act discrimination more rapidly than its perceptual brethren. Tuning out and prioritizing noises or notes as worthy of focus suggests that listening must always be active, or even productive, that is, partially produced by the criteria for listening for what should be heard. In terms of language (spoken and written? I’m unsure) words can sometimes seem like passive transmitters but are clearly always agents of meaning production. But this bring up some complex ironies. How many people have told you that they find the word “moist” revolting? Is it just because it is onomatopoeic?  Could the sonic aspects motivate more prejudice more than the content? How many other words are distrusted because of the way they sound? 

 

For sounds to be heard  - especially sounds produced for an audience, I contend - they must be extracted from the other layers of sound and thus filtered by all kinds layers of cultural meaning and meaning-making. Of course this same practice happens eventually with all media, but it seems to happen earlier in listening.  Even before we can ascertain a sounds’ location, direction or composition, we may have already judged it to be a certain way or of a certain quality. The indirectness of sound makes it, in some ways, more directly perceptible.

 

To get at this question form a theoretical level I want to throw in the recent work of John Guillory from an issue of last winter’s Critical Inquiry. In attempting to perform the herculean task of historicizing when the word media and medium started refer to the technical cultural products (and producers) that we now know them, Guillory explains what he calls distanciation, which “creates the possibility of media which become both means and ends in themselves” (357).  Aurality creates a distinction and forces the listeners back into this distance. Sound creates and undoes communication by increasing the threshold of media. If listeners weren't able to extract preconcieved notions of what sounds (or other primary elements of other media) the perceiver could never approach the production as a medium, and thus only react without the added complexity of intellect.

 

The distinction between listening, hearing, and consuming is also an interesting triad that gets to the difficulties of cultural (and intellectual property) appropriation that you also interrogate, Will. I agree that cultural appropriation is vital to creativity, and nowhere more obvious than in music and sonic composition. Guillory’s concept of distance, however, adds an interesting component to this discussion. How far does a “new” composition have to deviate in order to achieve “new” status? Remember the lawsuit surrounding Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” and Queen/David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”? One note is not enough distance, but the use of a certain type of chord structure, let’s say the blues structure, is what helps our discriminating ears group cultural performances into genres, something that actually helps create, distribute, and read music. Though it might be impossible to listen without prejudice, creativity with noise and sound requires discrimination and exploitation. This doesn't preclude giving attribution to those who've used the ideas before, but it's narrow minded (or closed-eared) to attempt to eradicate these instrumental acts of listening.

Ashon

consumption and capital(isms)

so what i think both you and david (below me) point to, at least with reference to appropriation, are two different - but related - concepts.  on the one hand, how does one encounter "cultural music," appreciate it and incorporate what is learned/experienced/felt into their own musical practices?  on the other hand, what does this mean in terms of an economic system where goods - property, intellectual though it may be - is exchanged?  this latter question, i think, is thought about a bit with the other HASTAC forum regarding privacy and HASTAC constantly stages this set of concerns by way of its collaborative nature.  who ever "owns" a song, or a sound?  are not all songs and sounds - as music - organized with relation to (whether as versioning or dissent) other songs and sounds?

for me, it would be nice to put the question of capital(isms) on pause for a while to think about encounter a bit more.  to wax poetic, life is a series of encounters, each one influencing us, revising our paths, our thoughts, our ideas.  to encounter sounds is to both be taken up into them - to be moved by them - while concurrently moving to the rhythms and arhythms.  we tap our foot to "get into it" with the multiple resonances that phrase has.  we try to push our bodies into the space opened up by sound and song but also use our bodies as conduit for that transport.  i'm getting into the music i already inhabit.  

this is an attendant question - or set of ideas, or complications - to the notion of thresholds.  one of the things about black music (and here, i do not mean black as in [merely] people who are called thus) is its attention and commitment to being unregulated.  i think the precision you hear in the jazz of Europe might be a demonstration of the antithesis of this commitment, where style is reproduced as a withdrawal from the sort of abandon (reckless, even?  maybe?) that animates a jazz (as) tradition.  for me, it's the difference between a Swedish choir or even a university gospel choir singing songs that i'd hear in the pentecostal church in which i grew up: the notes would be precise, there would be a loud sound.  but it was just as often - within these contexts - too "clean," too precise, too "right"...there was a commitment to correction (like Auto-tune) that assumed that the grittiness of pentecostalism wasn't too precise - which is to say, wasn't too intentional or thought out - at all.  these sounds and songs evacuated experience, separated style from substance to present things in a "better" more acceptable, respectable format.  

i've rambled far too much.  this was all to say, if we don't give attention to the economics of such sonic exchange, what emerges by these sort of encounters?  and what do thresholds mean when we think differently about encounter?

wcoogan

Re: long distance listening/consumption and capitalism

Thanks for your feedback David and Ashon! I suppose until now I have mostly noticed appropriation in how it distracted me and thus viewed my personal preconceptions as a hindrance. As David pointed out, my previous experiences with music almost certainly assist my listening experiences the majority of the time without my noticing. Perhaps then it’s more a matter of being able to suppress natural instincts when desired than to eliminate them completely.

As for Ashon’s experience with music being presented as too “clean,” I’m curious as to what your opinion is concerning the way the recording industry is treating music. That grittiness of classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s where not all was in tune or in perfect rhythm seems largely lost in recent records, but people are still listening to and consuming music! Is this a matter of what we’re used to? Is the former example one of excellent music writing that needs to overcome musicianship to be popular, giving the music more staying power?

 

Ashon

cleanliness is next to...normativity

the desire to "clean up" sound is always intriguing.  it is, in my opinion, fraught with assumptions about what is considered grit and what it considered art.  and i'm pretty sure anything the recording industry does as a practice is something i'd feel hesitant about...lol.  

sean_mc

Sounding out literacy

Turning to sound in many ways exposes us to the limits of "literacy". In "The making of ka-knowledge: Digital aurality" in Computers and Composition, Jeff Rice writes about "An aural-based literacy whose foundation in digital culture cannot make claims for literacy at the meta-level the same way print-conventions have dictated because the aural is constantly sounding out (i.e., mixing a variety of positions and claims, none of which achieve totality)." What we have is something other than literacy, what Rice calls "a fluid method of meaning-making."

Is sound simply too slippery to be included within the concept of literacy, as Rice suggests? Or does a renewed interest in aurality help us expand our horizons of what constitutes literacy in the first place? In Rhythm SciencePaul Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid writes about "an endless recontextualizing as a core compositional strategy", and how "some of this generation's most important artists continually remind us that there are innumerable ways to arrange the mix." Composers in sound, it seems, are far more ambivalent about genre than composers in language. But as our conception of literacy shifts as print gives way to the digital, how does exploring, experimenting with, and theorizing sound help us to score contemporary literacy practices? 

 

Scott Trudell

multi-media literacy

Hi Sean: Thanks for your question "does a renewed interest in aurality help us expand our horizons of what constitutes literacy in the first place?": my answer would be an emphatic yes!  In fact, I would suggest that what we call literature has *never* been a fully visual category, though it can be easy to forget this since we tend to link the literary so closely to the silent reading of novels.

To imagine literature as visual, we would need to exclude or sideline drama and poetry (which have never lost an emphatically aural dimension) from the start.  But we would also require short memories to separate the aural even from prose reading: mixtape, above, reminds us of Augustine's famous comments about silent reading practices, but it's worth noting that Augustine makes these comments because silent reading is remarkable and out of the ordinary!  Indeed, with some key exceptions including monastic reading, it seems to have been relatively uncommon to read literary texts silently (as opposed to out loud in a group or even while alone) well into the seventeenth century, when silent reading practices began to take hold more firmly.

Digital culture asks us to revaluate what we mean by literacy by showing us that the printed book is only one of a variety of technologies that mediate literature (from the Kindle to the theater to the open mic to iPods playing Bob Dylan and countless other "literary" poets/musicians!)  But discussions of digital literacy would be wrong to assume that a static visual model of literacy precedes it.

I think it's important to point this out not just as a matter of accuracy, but in order to help us understand the paradigm shift to digital culture more fully.  The visual technology of the printed book has never superseded or canceled out aural, performative, scriptive, gestural, and other literary media: in fact it took over two hundred years before the printed book could boast true precedence in literary culture (more than, say, the theater or the manuscript).  Similarly, digital media is not only itself a mixed experience (pixel, sound, touch), as others have discussed above: it also coexists with and codetermines other technologies including the book.  Even terms like "digital literacy" can be misleadingly media-specific, since "literature" has long been a *multi*-media category.

seth.perlow

sound with literature, "literacy"

I agree with Scott's note that “literacy” itself can always be thought as a multi-sensory affair, and in the context of my own classes, nominally about literature and writing skills, teaching with and through sound has proved surprisingly effective.

 

Last year, I taught a writing-intensive class on digital media and the virtual--which I designed as a cursory introduction to media theory--and the first day I played the students a spooky 1860 recording of some bars of “Au Claire de la Lune,” as inscribed on a phonautograph by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. (The recordings are available on that site.) Though there's some debate about it, a case can be made that this is the earliest extant recording of a human voice and of music, and there's a fascinating story about how the sound was recovered from Martinville's recording--itself not originally intended for audio playback. I do not, however, begin by describing this project or explaining this object to my students. Instead, I simply tell them I have an example that will help us begin to discuss what a “medium” is. I then play the sound for them a few times, and ask them to guess what it is. Their guesses range from “aliens” to “internal organs,” but they are uniformly amazed when they learn what it is. I for one keep coming back to the recording's sheer creepiness. The method of its recuperation keeps the materiality of sound recording quite centered, and its age is quite stunning. I first heard the recording on the radio and was jumpy for the rest of the evening! It makes me think the concept of “aura” can play a big role in helping us to describe recorded sound's particularly visceral and evocative energies. Anyway, it makes a great opening example for teaching students to think in terms of media and mediation, and I'm sure it would be fun to show a more advanced class on exchanges between “old” media and “new.”

 

Later in the same class, we return briefly to the Martinville recording to begin a unit on the relation between music piracy and other practices of digital “borrowing,” specifically the (now largely settled) debate over creative sampling in relation to early hip-hop and electronic music. This unit pairs Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture--a wonderful resource for introductory discussions of intellectual property and piracy--with some notable anti-piracy writings and some articles on the relation between sampling and early hip-hop and electronic music cultures. The students generally are quite enthusiastic to write about their views of piracy and intellectual property, and the juxtaposition between one largely accepted form of “copying” (i.e., sampling) and another, less adored practice of “copying” (i.e., piracy) helps them to question their natural assumptions about what constitutes intellectual property and what rights should attend it. Of course, the musical examples themselves--from Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa to DJ Shadow and Girl Talk--keep the students energized and engaged with the questions surrounding these techniques and the complexities of contemporary music distribution practices.

 

There is lots of wonderful scholarship being produced--and much more to be done--on the relation between the racial coding of electronic music practices, especially those coming out of early hip-hop, and other implementations of digital audio technology. Especially within the context of “literacy” questions and the teaching of literature, I'm quite interested in how cheap audio recording devices have made it easier to record poetry readings and other spoken-word performances, and how the internet has made these widely available. Some of my favorite resources for recorded poetry are PennSound, the audio archive of Poets.org (also linked in this forum’s original statement), the Lipstick of Noise, and the Electronic Poetry Center at Buffalo. There's a wonderful synergy between hip-hop culture, spoken-word genres such as Slam poetry, and the ease with which new audio technologies allow us to record and disseminate audio artifacts of a variety of kinds--from the most cutting-edge performance art to the more conventional poetry readings we once had to travel great distances to hear. For one thing, I wonder how the recently increased availability of many poets reading their works might contribute to, put pressure upon, or transform the traditional study of prosody as it has been pursued in the academy. What does it mean to “scan” a poem with pencil and paper, when you can also press play and hear the poet read it in the classroom?

 

There also are a number of sites dedicated to digital poetry experiments that engage with sound in various ways. One of my favorites (if you’ll forgive the plug) is TextSound.

 

Well, I suppose this is a fairly incoherent list of examples and anecdotes, but with any luck it will give others some ideas for teaching literature and thinking “literacy” with sound.

David.Haeselin

Sylla-busted

Hey Seth,

I really like the class you describe here. Turns out that I recently taught an intro to interpretation and argument class that revolved around intellectual property/ piracy/ and authorship as the central source of controversy. I also taught Lessig's Free Culture as well as snippets of his other writings, like Remix and some journalism from the Wall Street Journal among others places. I'd love to swap syllabi, if you're interested. What level was your course?  I have constant difficulty trying to balance accomplishing the "goals" of teaching writing and critical thinking to students who are not exactly motivated (my class is the only general education requirement) while integrating media, material, and political questions that motivate my own research. That energy you describe is what compels my own interests and I think its clearly one of the best ways to keep students who wouldn't normally be connected. Good work finding an interesting way to channel it.

One exercise I experimented with in the class I'm teaching now is making the students reflect on their textual engagement with the medium. I'm guessing that many of your students have smartphones and sometimes also have a difficult time remembering to bring a printed version of the text to class. If not, you are sure luckier than I am. Strangely enough, we were reading an article that's been mentioned in a few of the other posts in this forum, Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making us Stupid?" which later became The Shallows. While I'm sympathetic with the critiques brought up and referenced throughout this forusm, I really like teaching this article to freshman, especially freshman at Carnegie Mellon, or what our special collections librarian calls "Computer U." The very possibility of the internet and the search engine not being the supreme telos of human development makes them incredibly uneasy and encourages them to historicize (just a bit mind you) the development of modern media in relation to labor. Anyway, my exercise asked students to answer a broad question about Carr's argument while paying close attention to the medium they used to read. The catch was that anyone who brought a smartphone to class was required to use it to read the article. I also selected a few at random to read the text on their laptops. Most students who used their smartphones kvetched and complained that they were at a disadvantage because of the small text size, slow load speed, and difficulty scanning the text. While this wasn't surprising, as the semester has progressed and students have starting tuning out, more and more have stopped printing out their texts all together in favor of their smartphones. Despite stressing Carr's argument about waning attention throughout the semester, I've been getting a ton of purely anecdotal evidence supporting his points.

What troubles me is that engagement with texts -critical, creative, or even casual - is becoming so different that I have trouble connecting with the students in any other way than media. Have you ever felt this as well? Does it worry you that using media or sound in place of text might undermine the goal of teaching critical thinking via textual analysis? Don't get me wrong, I'm as interested in alternative practices and objects of teaching as you, but I'm finding less active engagement with texts in every successive class. Is this isolated to my university? Just curious...

I guess this hasn't answered your questions about teaching with sound, but I can't help but ask if you thought about having a "remix" project for your students? I too have had great responses to playing mashups in class (which is only enhanced because GirlTalk lives in Pittsburgh) but I think that, without requiring our students to learn too much specialized software you -and maybe me- could ask our students to "write" remixes using audacity or other open source software, and thus explore two components of IP at the same time. 

I'm interested to hear your thoughts. And I must say that the "phonautograph" may have to sneak its way into my class as well. Great find!

 

Ashon

hey david

What troubles me is that engagement with texts -critical, creative, or even casual - is becoming so different that I have trouble connecting with the students in any other way than media. Have you ever felt this as well? Does it worry you that using media or sound in place of text might undermine the goal of teaching critical thinking via textual analysis? Don't get me wrong, I'm as interested in alternative practices and objects of teaching as you, but I'm finding less active engagement with texts in every successive class. Is this isolated to my university? Just curious...

i'm wondering if you could say more about why the different engagement is troubling to you.  i guess because the course i teach is so dependent upon sound and song, and it feels strange when we do not listen to something - anything - other than our own voices filling the room, i pretty much am cool with having my students connect to the material and to their thoughts differently than i do.  of course, in my classroom, some students bring their laptops and read, others bring printed material (but no one uses a smart phone...the screens are too small, as you said).  sometimes, my knee-jerk response is to be upset because people with laptops could not possibly be paying attention...that is, until i remember how i sit in my own grad classes, checking facebook, email, twitter and responding to everyone in the classroom at the same time.  

i find that students have always been connected to their teachers by way of media.  the chalkboard, of course, is one form it took.  VHS and television (i remember when we'd be excited to see a video...ANY video in class) are other forms of media.  the teacher speaking, i suspect, i also media.  that is, it is a mediation and filter (!!!) of knowledge from place to place in the room.  text (books) are also a form of media just not the most en vogue, i suppose.  and i'm actually for the displacement of the primacy of text as the mode by which students are critical, creative and casual learners.  i'm more for saying it is but one way that analysis can (and should) be done but should not (necessarily?) be the standard by which learning is gauged.  

Scott Trudell

teaching aural poetry

I'd like to echo the thanks for Seth's discussion of teaching digital-aural media, and for the links, which are excellent!

The question of what happens to traditions of literary criticism, particularly close reading, as they are practiced in a classroom that takes advantage of recorded sound, is a fruitful one.  I think David's concern is real, since occasionally it can be a challenge getting students back to the printed text after having introduced recordings into the mix - which is to say that they sometimes become vaguer in their use of textual evidence when they can't rely exclusively on what is visually under their noses.  I tend to deal with this by giving them lyrics of songs (though I don't always do this because sometimes I want them to confront the very different experience of listening and not seeing).

But overall I've found that using recorded sound in the poetry classroom makes students better and more subtle readers because it forces them to pay *more* attention to the "close" properties of text in its various media formats.  I think recordings open different avenues of close reading to them, more so than simply reading the poem aloud, where the voice tends to feel secondary to the visual text.  When students are confronted with both a visual poem and an aural recording, they find that they cannot rest either on the visual word or its aural counterpart, and that everything from tone to diction can have either (and usually both) material acoustic and material visual properties.  Hearing a recording that "is" the poem as much or more than the poem "is" the printed edition (as, for them, seems obviously to be te case for a studio-recorded song, for example) also leaves students better equipped to see how much prosody matters.   I'm not even sure how I would teach prosody without playing ballads and (what, for those of you who teach meter, is the best example of accentual verse since _Beowulf_), hip-hop!  Though I would add that I have found it important to emphasize that different poems invite different types of close readings: we wouldn't want to close read George Herbert's "Easter Wings," for example, in exactly the same way that we close read a song by Robert Burns.

In a broader sense, teaching poetry aurally has helped me realize some of the methodological shortcomings that attend to a narrow conception of close reading (or of literature as a visual category in the first place).  The tradition that imagines a poem as an independent, stable, visual whole is inherited from the New Criticism and has long been recognized as insufficient in literary scholarship despite its continued life in the classroom.  There are many ways to get students beyond it: a classroom teaching _Hamlet_ informed by the history of the book, for example, will demonstrate that there is no single "text" to close read, and that it is necessary to look (for starters) at the first and second quartos as well as the first folio.  But I find sound particularly helpful in this regard because it forces them to confront in a multi-sensory manner the difference that media makes.  Try assigning students Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," close reading the printed text a bit, then playing them a recording of Plath reading the poem.  At first the recording might seem to close down avenues of interpretation (Plath's inimitable voice seems, in my experience, to invite an interpretation of the poem as a psychological utterance), but I've found it easy to move from that point to a discussion of the multiplicity of possibilities in voice and mode of address that that poem takes (from the political to the performative). 

 By the way, one thing that this forum has inspired me to do more of in the future is to teach hip-hop, since (as I've learned here) it's a particularly interesting example of inter-mediation.  Hip-hop doesn't tend to start from one mono-medium and end up re-mediated in another: instead, digital technologies that play back music are interdependent with performance, dance, mixing, recording, sampling, etc., none of which seem to happen in a linear order.


Viola.Lasmana

Openings and Possibilities

Hi everyone,

Yet another great forum... I have really enjoyed reading everyone's comments here, and they've been helpful in getting me to think about the possibilities of using sound in literary studies, criticism, and pedagogy. Fiona's point about the uncanny is so interesting and fascinating: if, say, autotune is applied to a classic poem, it can open up new possibilities for reading and interpreting the poem in its process of defamiliarization. I was a teaching assistant for an American literature class a year ago, and we did a unit where students recorded performances/readings of their favorite lines from assigned poems and uploaded them to YouTube. One of them autotuned some lines from Whitman's "Song of Myself": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQkwtndYnYc

I think the aspect of embodied performance, as others have pointed out, is (and should be) an important and integral part of literary studies, especially when we consider multiliteracies to be a crucial aspect of education and pedagogical practices. Traditionally, we read texts silently (this is not to say that it's not a valuable way of reading), but digital media gives us a time of opening: a time where we can, as N. Katherine Hayles suggests in Writing Machines, engage with a text within a space of possibilities, where the text "actually creates conditions of consumption that expand 'the space of the flesh.'" Reading a poem aloud allows the reader to perform the text and give life to it. Reading a poem aloud, performing it in front of the camera, and then sharing it with the online community (possibly with the added artifice of the strangeness of autotune) gives it an added dimension.

I have also been really interested in reading/studying/teaching poetry with recorded sound. Scott makes such a great point: "When students are confronted with both a visual poem and an aural recording... everything from tone to diction can have either (and usually both) material acoustic and material visual properties." I found this to be the case when I studied poems from the Harlem Renaissance and paired them with some blues music from Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson. Not only would the aural recording of the poet reading add to the interpretation of the poem, but pairing these with other audio texts from the same period can open up the text to so many other possibilities and interpretations. A study of a poem, when paired with other aural and audio texts, can offer readings into not just the "material acoustic and material visual properties" of the poem itself, but also readings into the larger cultural and social circumstances surrounding the creation of the poem as artifact.

Scott Trudell

Adam Bradley and Jay-Z

On the topic of aural "literature" and how to teach it, I thought I'd post the following piece from last week's _New Yorker_:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/12/06/101206crat_atla...

The article raises a number of issues that are relevant to our discussion, including the relationhip between literature, writing and music, and I find it interesting to see how they find expression in this context.  The subtext, for me, is what amounts to legitimacy, poetry, and authority in the _New Yorker_?

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who is familiar with the Bradley and DuBois anthology or has taught with it.  I'm looking forward to exploring it myself, including the allegation in the _New Yorker_ piece that it has a textual bias.  I wonder whether, if this is true, whether it might actually be productive in classrooms that employ some of the techniques we've been discussing.  After all, part of the point of teaching poetry aurally is for students to recognize the enormous variability and disparity between a recorded song and a written, anthologized poem.

And I suppose I also have to admit that this piece makes me excited to check out Jay-Z's _Decoded_!

 

Ashon

i really love

what you do with your class, seth.  i find intriguing the notion of intelligence for similar reasons that you discuss intrigue with the word (and concept of) literacy.  these words both enact exclusion based on things other than what they purport to be about.  they are deemed neutral when, in fact, they are culturally marked and inscribed ideas. one person's literacy is another's jive.  one person's intelligence is another's slang.  

i'm gonna explore this TextSound site you've given us...seems fascinating.  (and i've presently been trying to think through the relation between poetics and sound, so this should be useful...thanks!)

Will Burdette

Audio recording is relatively new

The dork in me has to point this out: The link audio recording is relatively new in the forum prompt leads to a an timeline that begins with Edison. However, the first recordings were actually made by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville almost two decades (17 or 18 years) before Edison recorded "Mary Had A Little Lamb." The date for the invention of audio recording is somewhat contested because of intention. Léon Scott intended for the waveforms, which were etched in lampblack, to be visual representations of sound. He did not necessarily intend for the waveforms to be played back. But Edison was certainly aware of Scott's work and did intend for the sound to be played back. A couple of years ago, people figured out how to play back Léon Scott's waveforms and decided they were the first audio recordings. This always makes me think of Brian Massumi's Parables for the Virtual. He writes “An invention is a sensible concept that precedes and produces its own possibility (its system of connection-cases, its combinatoric)” (96). He also writes, ""a true invention is an object that precedes its utility. An invention is something for which a use must be created" (96). In other words, after someone invents the waveform, someone else can invent the idea of audibly playing it. The waveform produced its own possibilities. One of those possibilities was the digital audio software used to play it back (and the kind of software we use to edit all waveforms). But, as a stenographer, Léon Scott thought the waveform would be a form of stenography. (Who knows? Maybe it will still.) From his papers, we have to assume he was not intending to invent the DAW, but played a part in it. This is a really complicated way for pointing out that dating the moment of invention is always problematic. (Heh. Maybe I should have just written that last sentence at left it at that.)  

 

logie

Sound is round . . .

 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the sheer magnificence of the second half of the 20th Century for people who like music.

And flatness.

And roundness.

Background:  I'm working on a book project titled "Mashing Culture" with a subtitle I'm still tweaking but that will speak to art, rhetoric, and the Internet, but not necessarily in that order. It's about mash-ups as a distinctively 21st Century artistic rhetorical strategy, and what they're telling us about how we will be arguing. Anyway, ss I was thinking about the 20th Century as the first in which recorded music became available to the general public, but there were two distinct phases to popular engagement with music, the first characterized by "flatness" and the second by comparative space and depth. 

Most recorded music prior to 1950 was — in effect — a recording of a live performance. A group of people stood (or sat) and played or sang in front of microphones and their aggregate sound cut a master that was then used to stamp out flat records, whether the initial shellac-7 78s or the vinyl LPs and 45s that were introduced in the very late 1940s. And we know how vinyl records work. The stylus drops. The tone arm tracks from right to left, inexorably. No matter how rich the sounds emanating from the speakers, the medium is flat, and the tone arm's movement is a straight line.

But in the 1940s Sidney Bechet begins fiddling around with overdubbing, stacking up vinyl masters to build a sonic landscape. But with each successive master, the sound degrades. Finally, the aggregate efforts of 3M (just down the street from me here in Minnesota) and Ampex produce affordable tape recording technologies. And Les Paul pounces

Whatever Les Paul did for the guitar, that work pales to his work in the studio. If you value the Greeks for leveraging the distinction between parataxis and hypotaxis, then you've gotta salute Les Paul for making a parallel distinction in music tangible. 

Les Paul taught us how to stack sound. 

Yes, we knew how to stack instruments, and tones . . . but this is crucially different. The bits and pieces of musical composition, formerly ephemeral, were now increasingly available as discrete bits and pieces. In addition to their contributions to a particular composition, they were now also available as "loose ends" subject to re-use and re-incorporation in a variety of circumstances. The limiting factor was the inevitable degradation of the medium.

You can see where this is headed. Now the (digital) medium doesn't degrade. We've left the flatland of the first half of the 20th Century far, far in the rear view mirror. 

Sound gets around.

So, in effect you've asked us where we're at. This is where I'm at. And I've got 2 turntables and a microphone. And so do you


 

Will Burdette

Mashing Up Economics

Logie,

The Sue Teller link at the end reminds me of Sara Lee's Mama Saga viral video campaign and the Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagon campaign. There's this question about whether Sue Teller sold out to Mountain Dew or whether Mountain Dew created the whole thing as viral video or whatever. Regardless, it's all advertising. Initially, advertising like this made me throw up in my mouth a little. It makes me really understand what Plato was getting at with his cave allegory. We may think what we see is reality, but it's just the shadow of people taking goods to market. I want to run out of the cave and experience all the real things out there that aren't advertising. But recently I've come around to thinking that advertising is just as real as any other form of communication that involves persuasion (which is all communication?).The mash-up has brought about another uncanny age in which we realize that life outside the cave is just as mediated has life inside the cave. That is, the mash up creates uncanniness by messing with the false sense of authenticity that we have erected around genres. Mashing up products (lunch meat, soda, and minivans) with media genres (reality tv, public access tv, and music videos) is fair game for advertisers. But, as DJ Steve Porter has masterfully demonstrated, it can go both ways. So it's not only our genres that are getting mashed up. Our economics are getting mashed up, too. When Paul Miller gave a talk at UT a few weeks ago. He mentioned that it used to be that selling out was bad for a musician's reputation, but, in today's economy, it's not. So, for example, selling out to the auto industry is now seen (by some) as a credible economic decision.

So when we mash culture, do we also mash economics? Or is this an illusion? Do the corporations still always come out on top? Do they still always get users hooked? Or can users somehow leverage the mash-up culture to make a living? I'm not sure what DJ Steve Porter is making from his Slap Chop remixes, but I'm guessing the Slap Chop corporation is making more.

 

 

 

Ashon

i grew up pentecostal

so i find the whole notion of mash-up culture as 21st century artistry rather provocative.  could you say a bit more about that?

the reason i mention growing up pentecostal is because - for at least how i experience the religio-cultural terrain; and from what i understand about mash-up culture - pentecostalism is all about the blurring of boundaries: song turns song turns dance turns speaking in tongues turns falling out in the spirit turns ...

all these things exist in the space together.  we'd start singing one song with a simple format - we call them "testimony service" songs - and because the repetition, the sonic chording structure and melody, the song would easily carry over into another song (at the 1:40 mark, the song changes; another example of this movement from song to song here).  

this is not, of course, to valorize pentecostalism.  this is to ask how are mashups not originary but part of the ongoing desire to mix and remix, to blend, to fuse, to lay bare the fact that we're all in this together?  

gerrycanavan

hard not to think of the Walkman

It's hard not to think here of last month's death of the Sony Walkman. Hearing that production of the Walkman has been cancelled comes as a double surprise: for someone who grew up in the '80s it seems impossible to believe that the Walkman is now an obscure reference, but at the same time you have to wonder who was still using portable casette players in the first place.

David Pell eulogizes:

"The Walkman and its offspring, such as the iPod, completely changed the way we experience music. And even more compelling, these devices also had a huge impact on the way we interact (or don’t interact) with each other. Before the Walkman, listening to music was quite often something we did together. Headphones and portability changed that. The very same sounds that had been a cornerstone of our social experience suddenly transformed millions of us into isolated walking zombies."

This is right: the Walkman was the first portable media device, the first step towards the total technological saturation of contemporary smartphone culture. At the same time, Walkmen weren't exactly isolating; in their own way their ambient noise could be just as obnoxious as cell phones can be today.

It's worth thinking also about the relationship between music, technology, and nostalgia. I know I often find myself referring anachronistically to iTunes playlists and burned CDs as "mix tapes," and I couldn't help but notice that half the pictures used for this forum show casettes, a technology I have very cherished memories of but which -- especially after the death of the Walkman -- has almost completely disappeared...

Will Burdette

Tape on the brain

I had that very story about the death of the Walkman in mind as I was collecting the images for the forum. One of the things that I think was great about the cassette was that it was a unique RW instead of RO. The record was RO. Digital formats are only now starting to be freed from DRM. But in that moment, when records were still on the shelves and dual cassette decks were emerging in the '80s, a new cultural form--enabled by the ecosystem where turntables, mics, and tapes coexisted--emerged. Just like jazz depended on the medium of the record for its dissemination, hip-hop initially depeneded on the medium of the tape for distribution. The nostalgia comes in, I think, when we conflate the music with the medium with the moment. Not that that's bad. It's hard to separate out nostalgia for the music, nostalgia for the medium, and nostalgia for the moment.

As far as who is still using tapes, there is an interesting discussion of that during the DJ Spooky Q & A (from 6:00 to 9:10).

stephceraso

love is a mix tape

Rob Sheffield's Love Is a Mix Tape is a fabulous memoir about nostalgia, music, technologies...

"The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life." 

Will Burdette

Cassette From My Ex

Cassette From My Ex is Another example of this genre. (Tho' it is much more visual.) I usually pass this book around in conjunction with a playlist assignement that I have my students do. I make them tell a story with an annotated playlist. Then a class or two later, I have them think about their annotated source lists for their research projects in a similar way. I say something along the lines of "The sources that you use will deterine, to some extent, how your narrative or your argument unfolds." 

alenda

soundscapes and sound environments

Howdy, all.

I'm particularly interested in the meeting of sound and environment as conceptual and practical frameworks, including the "sonification" of data (e.g. climate data), acoustic ecology, and bioacoustics... if anyone has thoughts or suggestions on that front please do share. With luck we'll have a stimulating forum on environment and ecology later this year, so perhaps this conjunction will appear again.

I also want to throw in some short reading and some artistic work that has been useful to me in the little work I've done on sound:

Last but not least, thoughts on voiceover internet protocol (VoIP)?

-ayc

wcoogan

Sonification

Hi Alenda,

Glad to see someone bring up sonification! This is one of those gray areas in music/sound and it brought up a long debate with some of my peers last year. The sides taken were that sonification is either a representation of data (and thus not music) or a form of art. I take sides somewhere in the middle- if acoustic choices are made to any degree (as they must be to create sound), then it is music to that degree. I personally just finished a sonification piece last week for fl, cl, vln, vlc, and live electronics. Each part is based on an algorithm I created to simulate the way genetic traits are passed down from one generation to the next. While you can't necessarily hear which instrument is playing which genetic trait, you do hear a sense of certain instruments becoming more or less busy with time, which is all I was really trying to convey. The algorithm takes data relevant to a larger work that this piece is an interlude to, which is why I decided to use sonification. I actually had to scale the data significantly to do this since even completely dominant traits levelled out pretty quickly once the simulated population became sizable. Better examples of this include: 1. UCLA scientists using this technique when converting genome-encoded protein sequences into musical notes in order to hear auditory protein patterns in 2007 and 2. Berkley’s project on solar wind awareness recently converted solar winds into sound as part of a public outreach attempt.

If you're interested in acoustic ecology, I saw Barry Truax (noted devleoper of granular synthesis) give a lecture on that at the Bellingham Electronic Arts Festival in 2006. It sounded like Vancouver has been on board monitoring their acoustic environment for some time and measured some drastic increases in volume. I've pasted a link below with some info as well as solutions they've come up with to help reduce the background noise:

http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/970513/citynoisereport/

Ashon

sonification

i'm pretty sure this will be useful for the sonic map historical underground railroad race queer (this is not a working title...lol) thing i'm trying to do.  thanks so much!

girlchef

Sound and Vision

I was having a conversation with a colleague of mine over the weekend about sound and the heirarchy of the senses in Greek philosophy.  Although it's rather high on the pyramid of sensual experience (higher than my most favorite sense: taste), it still is below vision. 

As a researcher I really have not considered sound a lot in my own work until I started doing a lot of fieldwork.  I have a handy Zoom digital recorder that I use in the most rudimentary way.  And much of my audio quality... well, it sucks.  As I've been transcribing audio for a project I’m working on I realize just how much of a handicap I've given myself.

I take sound for granted because I hear relatively well.  I assume the microphone will record what I hear, and it doesn't.  This was driven home to me when I started using the program Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe the aforementioned interviews.  DNS is an amazing program.  My father had Multiple Sclerosis for 40 years and used it to dictate all of his communications (including several books and thousands of emails) and control his world (TV, lights, phone).  When I began using it this year I was amazed at how far it has come in its ability to recognize words.  But it still lacks the human capacity to give meaning to those words and sounds.

The emotional grunt says more than a thousand words when understood in the context of a sentence.  And the emotive silence after a question, with vague clicks and background noise make you feel the formation of the participant’s thoughts as they struggle to convey their thoughts in a response.  It's often not the words, or even the sounds that are the important parts of an interview.

In one interview there was a thunderstorm in the background, it literally led the cadence of the person I was interviewing.  You can hear him respond to the thunder and lightening, and his speech modulates to the rhythm of the storm.  In another, a guy stops and tries to sell my and my subject a couch while we are talking outside a cafe.  The breach of the interview space opens up a new place to explore the identity of the space of the interview.  It grounds the interview in time and location.

One of my mentors, Paul Stoller, has written a book called Sensual Scholarship in which he extols the necessity of scholarly sensitivity to all of the senses.  I recognize my own naive selectivity of senses as I review interview tapes... and I reflect on the power of sound.  I think I probably also owe apologies to all the sound people in my life; I think I've sold you-all a bit short over the years.

 

Will Burdette

Thanks for the tip

Thanks for the tip on Stoller's book. I think, along with the study of affect, we're going to see the humanities take a rather sensual turn. As you suggested, there is something interesting that goes on at the intersection of the senses, (dis)ability, technology, and accessibility. One of our most important jobs is to make techniques and technologies that will translate activities from one sense to another. Demographically speaking, I think this is going to become more pressing as a huge portion of our population ages and another portion returns from war. But we are all on that continuum of ability. And we don't stay in one place on it, either. It behooves us all to consider accessibility.

sean_mc

The sensuous meets the scholar/method meets art

I love the idea of sensuous scholarship, and I think that ethnographers have a lot to teach us about the body in and as research. This makes me think of not only the scholars body, but how we try to pull our senses and bodies into scholarship. Obviously, theater practitioners have a lot to teach us here. I'd also recommend Method Meets Art by Patricia Leavy, in which she shows how arts-based researchers aren't discovering new tools -- "they are carving them." I love the idea of literally hacking research into being. I think logie's post just above this one speaks to some of the inventive ways that we carve knowledge through sound ... I'm interested to hear how others are tinkering, hacking, and steam-punking their soundscapes into being ...  

echerbony

Alphabets

As I write this, I'm listening to Talib Kweli and Hi Tek's "Reflections Eternal." Earlier, while I was working on my novel, I was listening to buzzoutroom.com, which plays chill, downbeat lounge music, perfect for a writing session. Jazz and classical music are often on in the background while I read.

 

Music is only one form of sound. A numbers of others have been mentioned above. I wonder if it is helpful to categorize sounds, to distinguish between sounds made by man (music, spoken word, etc.), and sounds made by nature. The investigation of sound in the humanities seems, almost by definition, to depend human involvement in the production of the sound being studied. Are we interested primarily in sounds that can be seen as the fruits of creative endeavors?

 

The issue of how sound signifies seems to be important. Like colors, textures, lighting, and materiality in a painting, pitch, tone, beat, rhythm, volume, melody, etc. become the units of meaning for sound. A sound alphabet. It is exciting to think of all the hermeneutic potential this alphabet holds. 

 

But back to my original point. Looking at the ways sound can operate as a partner in the creative process is an interesting topic. When we have the alphabet of sound running into our ears, and through our minds, how does this background information act upon the writing process, the reading process, the thinking process? How do sounds, as units of meaning, influence the artist or scholar as they work with a different set of units (e.g. letters, words, pink paint)? How does input influence output?

Amanda Phillips

HIV as music

I'm enjoying following the thread so far, and though I don't have much to add to the conversation (unless someone wants to talk about video game sound with me!), I did run across this article that I thought might be of interest to the folks on this thread, as well as people interested in issues of biotechnology.

Grad Student Makes Music Using DNA in AIDS Virus

You can check out samples of the album on Amazon. I've heard a wide range of reactions from people (including, just now, "What department is she in? Disciplines exist for a reason!"), and thought you all might have some intelligent and thought-provoking things to say about it. Looking forward to seeing your responses.

Marissa_Broe

I'll talk about video game sound :)

Amanda, I was actually thinking about video game sound as I read through all the comments so far.

I think video game sound adds another dimension to our sound perception. Well, a well thought out soundtrack most definitely does. Video game sound is intended to engulf you in another reality and transport you to a different place and time. I find it interesting how different sound designers achieve (or sometimes don't quite achieve) this effect.

Earlier in the thread, there was talk about the Walkman and how it has given way to a new era of technology like iTunes and the iPod. Similarly, the cheesy sounds associated with my Super Nintendo games seem far in the past compared to the new orchestral soundtracks and eerily real sound effects. New games like Halo seem to suck you into the alternate reality, with picture and sound. The door opening around the corner seems different from opening the door right in front of you. Video games seem to try and capture every piece of perceptual real estate we own.

It is really quite remarkable how much sound on video games has revolutionized over the last 10 years.

Amanda Phillips

Blip blip bloop

Sound design is pretty crucial in gaming, particularly with first-person genres that seek to place you in the middle of the action. I know there has been a bit of work done on video game music, especially with regard to survival horror. I myself am no expert, but have done a bit of research on game music and ReMixing culture. Zach Whalen's intro to VG sound (linked above) is a good primer for people thinking about it for the first time.

One thing that I think is particularly interesting about VG music in relation to this forum is its strong tie to the hardware that produces the game. Every sound machine is bound by technological limitations, but the history of VG sound is somewhat unique from other instances of computer sound. VG sound has always played an important role in communicating information and gravitas to the player, but it has also been made to share space (literally) with other components of the games themselves - and often in ways that drastically shaped the sound that results.

Why are old VG tunes so memorable? Technical constraints forced them into short, catchy, and (importantly) repetitive looping structures.

What's cool is that the machines themselves get immortalized in the nostalgic turn of ReMix culture. The first VG remixers organized themselves around particular platforms. The largest existing community, OC Remix, has united lovers of all consoles under one banner, but you can see the remnants of console fetish in chiptune production.

stephceraso

sound design & affect

Thanks for adding another fascinating dimension to the discussion Amanda and Marissa!  I don't know much about video game sound/music, but I'm wondering if any of the literature either of you have come across specifically addresses the relationship between sound design and affect (transforming the players' dispositions for a particular reason). Also, is video game sound ever discussed in relation to techniques used in film sound or soundscapes?  I'm really interested in thinking about how sound design might help us teach students to compose various kinds of multimodal projects using non-discursive material. Can anybody out there recommend some resources?  

thorst

sound design & affect

 

Great thread! I can't recommend any articles specific to sound in video games as I don't generally focus on sound specifically. It is a careful consideration in the grand scheme of video game design, particularly to add context and  create ambiance. It's also interesting to consider the web of components in game design (including sound) that generate meaning and the design process and strategies to successfully do so. As mentioned earlier, video games fully capitalize on the medium, not only to generate feelings and context for game play, but to communicate specific meanings to the player that reinforce the intent of the virtual space.  Like visual cues, audio cues can provide a lot of meaning to a player in a very short amount of time and this construction can successfully guide players through the game experience. This may be particularly important for those who wish to design games not just for entertainment but for education as well.

 

changed

video games and sound

I wanted to piggyback on Theresa's comment and say observationally that there is little work on video game and sound in a theoretical way.  There are approaches usually from a more development/marketing perspective: http://books.google.com/books?id=gnw0Zb4St-wC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.  But I would hazard that much of video game sound work probably will overlap with sound work in cinema theory (e.g. mise en scene, scoring, cutting across sound).  Given the preoccupation with "immersion" in video game design and scholarship, I would think there would be some neat crossover waiting to happen! 

twelsh

surround sound

 

There is definitely some interesting work to be done on how video games use sound to create atmosphere as well as a way for them to create a sense of space. I think there even needs to be a distinction made between the two.

 

On the one hand you have atmosphere and the way a game like Bioshock uses both sound effects, NPC dialogue, and music to flesh out the rich levels of Rapture. Or, you have Fallout 3 which punctuates a near future post-apocalyptic landscape with 40s Big Band music. Together they give the game a bizarre tone that feels both historical and futuristic, but it is a perfect extension of the game's central alt-history conceit which basically wonders what would happen if WWII led into a nuclear holocaust.

 

Then, on the other hand, separate from the atmosphere of the game, you have sound creating an experience of 3D space. In Fallout 3, again, because it is an open-world game and enemies can come at your character from any angle, one has to rely on hearing the enemies when they are not in one's line of vision. There is no peripheral vision in games, the limit of onscreen display is a hard limit, so sound becomes really important for locating one's character in virtual space. 

 

Of course, on the third hand, there are more complicated mobilizations of sound in video games. Take for example, driving in Grand Theft Auto. The sound of the engine, tires, other cars contribute to a sense of moving through space. At the same time, the radio station one selects changes the tenor of that movement. There is something really cold about mowing down pedestrians while listening to talk radio, while listening to Barry White as you ramp your motorbike into the Hudson for no reason is pretty funny. 

 

In other words, video game sound can mix atmosphere and space in lots of different ways. I think this third case is perhaps the most interesting because the affective experience emerges from an unexpected confluence of action and sound. 

 

epow

re: HIV as music

What an interesting concept!  Just sampling some of the songs on that album and reading some of the other posts on this board made me think about the stories that sound alone can tell.  That's what seems to be most fascinating that the audio alone can evoke an image or connect you to a story, an idea, or a moment in time.  The sound not only enhances the story that is already there but your example and the one where the sound of the slave ship was integrated into a lesson made me realize that sound alone can provide the words and emotions just like a fill-in-the blank exercise.   

trevor_hoag

Concert Memories

 

Hi Everyone,

Let me begin by saying that conversation on the forum has been great so far. After ruminating (cow-like) on how I wanted to contribute, I decided to write about a couple recent concert experiences of mine and how they set me thinking about sound and memory.

About a month ago, I went to San Antonio to see Porcupine Tree, a progressive rock/metal band from England. Here’s a clip of them performing live (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95QS3c_Tei4). The show itself was amazing, and I have fond memories of the event. And yet, I must exercise caution in saying that I have “memories of the event,” because as thinkers from Heidegger to Derrida and Deleuze have pointed out, there is a distinction between events (Ereignise) and the memory of events. The event itself is inappropriable; the raw noise of the concert exceeds any memory one has of it. The memory of the concert, on the other hand, is rhetorically produced. It’s articulated via images, affects, signs, and so on. And this entails that no one undergoes the concert-event in the same way; everyone comes away from it with memories that are rhetorically articulated in different ways. One might get bad vibes, feel euphoric, and so on, where each of these experiences are productions, specifically, rhetorical productions of a “pure” musical event. Hence my memory of the Porcupine Tree show is itself a production of the pure concert-event—my memory is a recording.

In contrast to my wonderful memories of the Porcupine Tree show, I have much less fond memories of the Deftones concert that I recently attended here in Austin. Deftones, by the by, are another art rock/metal band who delight in exploding your eardrums. Here’s a clip of them live on Jimmy Kimmel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqwQNUc4tZY). During the show, I ended up in the moshpit and got the snot beat out of me (primarily by some muscle-bound dude who looked like a linebacker). Not only that, but the sound quality at the show wasn’t great—for although shows at the famous Stubb’s BBQ typically sound good, this one sounded like sludge. But here’s the thing: after the show I haven’t wanted to listen to Deftones. Not once. And I realize now that I had been mildly traumatized by the show itself. To hear Deftones today is too closely linked to the (literally) painful concert. The recordings I have of the band on CD/MP3 are too closely linked to the recordings I have of the concert in memory. Granted, what I experienced wasn’t that horrible. It’s nothing like what Blanchot talks about concerning “the disaster,” (i.e., an event so depropriating that one never even experiences it, where it’s always already “forgotten” even though the singular body bears its mark). What happened to me is closer to good ol’ Freudian repression, where I formed a set of sound-images, and now I’m doing what I can not to re-experience them (including not watching my own clip above).

Anywho, that’s probably enough story-telling for now. But I hope that these memories spur some discussion on the question of music as event/rhetorically-produced memory as well as music and the “memory” of trauma. Thanks for reading, and let’s keep the awesome conversation going!

Best,

~Trevor

P.S., Perhaps for a future post, I can record myself playing metal guitar and discuss the analogues or non-analogues between writing with sound and writing with pen or digital media. We’ll see what happens!

 

Ashon

this is wonderful

well, not the violence that occurred :-/

but what you say here:

But here’s the thing: after the show I haven’t wanted to listen to Deftones. Not once. And I realize now that I had been mildly traumatized by the show itself. To hear Deftones today is too closely linked to the (literally) painful concert. The recordings I have of the band on CD/MP3 are too closely linked to the recordings I have of the concert in memory. Granted, what I experienced wasn’t that horrible. It’s nothing like what Blanchot talks about concerning “the disaster,” (i.e., an event so depropriating that one never even experiences it, where it’s always already “forgotten” even though the singular body bears its mark). What happened to me is closer to good ol’ Freudian repression, where I formed a set of sound-images, and now I’m doing what I can not to re-experience them (including not watching my own clip above).

this intrigues me because in my application for doctoral programs, i make an almost antithetical claim, at least for black music: that it reproduces the very sounds of what would be thought trauma as moments of celebration as well.  when frederick douglass recounts the beating of his aunt hester, he speaks about her "heart-rending shrieks" and i began to wonder why would these shrieks also be heard in black gospel?  or as another example, the sounds one would hear during a lynching scene of crowds cheering, murmuring, crying, pleas, screams, prayers and abrupt breaks (of air; broken neck; eclipsed breath) are likewise sounds heard in much of black gospel music.  i was concerned with the reproduction of those sounds and why they are - not traumatic - but soothing, why they feel good.  why are certain genres that could be said to be prefigured by a degenerative violence take the sonic qualities of such violence and raise them to the level of praise?  it's not (merely; just; only?) redress.  there is something about the sound itself, i think, that needs its own correction.

this links, i think, to the experience of sounds one might hear on a slave ship i had my students write about recently.  the sounds when isolated were not traumatic but only became so when layered atop the other, when they began to "socialize" and add meaning to the other sounds.  i'm wondering if your desire to not experience the Deftones by not listening to them is really an example of hearing them - and the experience in the moshpit - most fully.  Fred Moten has discussed how the glance and averted gaze really are the other edge of a robust and full capture of that from which we look away.  maybe black music is the refusal to look away but to look - and hear - dead on.  

 

Cathy Davidson

Great Conversation---and Ge Wang's New App

Hi, everyone, I've been reading this Forum with wonder.  I don't know much about this area and I'm learning hugely.  Thank you.   I don't have much to contribute except a link, via David Pogue on Twitter (@Pogue), 11/9/10 11:28 PM:  "WOW. Ge Wang, creator of iPhone apps like Ocarina, I Am T-Pain, & Glee, debuts a new app TONIGHT! Check out the vid: http://bit.ly/9V5F0g"

 

Ge Wang happened to be a Duke student major in music and computer science when we were creating the ISIS (Information Science + Information Studies) program at Duke, the local predecessor of HASTAC.  He was a student we consulted.  He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Princeton and he was part of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra and he now teaches music and computer science at Stanford and has some of my favorite apps for the iPhone and iPad.  This is a great one.  Check out the video, and thanks for this great forum.

trevor_hoag

Currents in Electronic Literacy

Hi Everyone,

For those of you interested in getting your sound-related scholarship published, I'd like to invite you to submit to Currents in Electronic Literacy. The 2011 issue's theme is "Writing with Sound." You can find the full CFP here: (http://currents.dwrl.utexas.edu/call-for-papers). Currents has its home at the Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. We look forward to your submissions! (which are due January 10, 2011)

Spring 2011 issue: Writing with Sound

Today we live in a society defined--in many senses, and by almost all the connotations associated with the word as well--by the word 'current'.... The old hierarchies of linear thought, sublime (and sublimated!) engagements with art, poetry, music, science, and history are no longer needed to do the ideological work now conducted again along the lines of 'current.' (Miller 32)

This call for projects begins with a sample, with the echoing of a familiar call to listen to a new kind of logic. The sample comes from Rhythm Science by Paul Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid), who encourages us to go with the flow, to find a good mix, and to listen for new ways of thinking and linking. In conjunction with Miller's appearance as part of the Digital Writing and Research Lab’s annual Speaker Series, we are excited to announce that the Spring 2011 issue of Currents will focus on writing with sound.

The issue will open with a compelling radio piece by Avital Ronell in which she--along with the flute accompanying her--insists that Nietzsche was a DJ. Remixing, it seems, is everywhere. For some time now, sampling and remixing has been a powerful metaphor for writing in digital culture; indeed, the College Composition and Communication Convention took remixing as its theme in 2010. The challenge now is to literalize the metaphor, to allow audio technologies to enter into the field’s descriptions of “the writing process(es),” which will change not just the way we think about and teach writing, but our processes, and so our “products,” as well. In order to encourage and embrace these changes, Currents invites—along with traditional academic submissions—audio essays, podcasts, oral histories, interviews, and other audio recorded genres, as well as webpages, videos, animations, slide presentations, etc., that address sound-related issues. Videos may be uploaded to YouTube.com and shared with currents@dwrl.utexas.edu. (Other video hosting sites may be used. However, YouTube.com meets more accessibility standards than sites like Vimeo.) Audio may be uploaded to SoundCloud.com and shared with currents@dwrl.utexas.edu. Both YouTube and SoundCloud allow for private sharing. During the submission process, please make your audio and video materials available to a limited audience. Audio/video/visual submissions should also include a 500-word document explicating method and performance.

Some potentially interesting lines of inquiry include but are by no means limited to the following:
• How does the mixing of audio recording and writing create new genres? How do soundscapes and text work together?
• How do technical instrumentalities, such as, the materials used to record sounds affect the message? Can sound ever be virtual?
• What have we not heard by focusing our attention on the printed page? How can teaching with sound revitalize the rhetorical canons (especially memory and delivery), as well as the issue of "voice"?
• What roles do silence and accessibility play in the discussion of "voice"? What does "voice" mean for deaf and hard of hearing individuals as students, professors and authors? How can new technologies and pedagogies help educators meet the goal of providing direct and uninhibited language communication access to curriculum? How can we listen to the "oral" histories, poems, songs, and stories that belong to the signing Deaf community and Deaf culture?
• How does the practice of remixing change the way we think about literacy?
• Multimedia encourages a shift in roles from writer to producer--what are the implications of this shift?
• Alphabetic writing and audio recording both begin as inscriptions on a surface, but in what ways does the waveform of audio recording differ from alphabetic writing?
• How might workspaces in the world of audio recording change the way we write?
• Many theorists, rhetoricians, and philosophers have argued in favor of an "ethics of listening." What further rhetorical and pedagogical implications might such an ethics entail?
• Through phonography, audio recording, and writing share a history, what parts of this history do recorders and writers need to bring to light, retell, and reimagine?
• Through dictation, writers have written with sound for a variety of reasons in a multiplicity of social and technological configurations, not all of which have been mutually beneficial. How might we imagine a productive dictating relationship that ethically distributes power?
• From recording for the blind and dyslexic to screen readers, sound reproduction has often been used to extend our (sense)abilities. What kinds of dictation, transcription, reading, and writing tools are on the horizon of assistive technology?
• As the tools and techniques for capturing and storing literacy narratives and oral histories proliferate, we increase our ability to build and study archives of audio material from many different cultures. What literal and virtual spaces are shared by fields such as sound studies, ethnomusicology, rhetoric and literature? What are the risks and benefits of building and studying archives? Who might be the secret beneficiaries?
• In a classroom setting, how might the use of sound recordings introduce students to the affective and emotional textures of historical experience? In other words, how might sound influence students' understanding of historical context?
• In terms of both pedagogy and research, how might we use sound to convey intangibles such as Barthes' "grain of the voice"? What other kinds of intangible, ephemeral, or otherwise ghostly affects and ideas are better captured through sound rather than the written word?

All submissions should adhere to MLA style guidelines for citations and documentation. Submissions should state any technical requirements or limitations. Currents in Electronic Literacy reserves all copyrights to published articles and requires that all of its articles be housed on its Web server. It is the policy of Currents that all accepted contributions must meet Section 508 accessibility standards (e.g., captioning for video and transcripts for audio). While all Currents articles are accessible, readers are advised that these same articles may contain links to other Web sites that do not meet accessibility guidelines.

Please direct all submissions and questions to: currents@dwrl.utexas.edu

 

logie

The smell, the whole smell, and nuthin' but the smell . . .

This discussion of "cleanliness" in music reminds me of an anecdote about Michael Jackson circa the time of "Thriller." According to this story, Quincy Jones took to calling Jackson "Smelly" because when Jackson wanted to put more "funk" on certain tracks, he couldn't quite bring himself to say the word "funk."

I don't have time for a rehearsal of all of the ways the notion of "dirty" and "clean" musics radiates out to culture with particular implications for constructions of race and gender. But if I did, some of the artifacts examined would be:

 

Tutti Frutti vs. Tutti Frutti vs. Tutti Frutti vs. Tutti Frutti vs. Tutti Frutti

Ike and Tina Turner - Proud Mary

The Stooges - Dirt

L7 - Shitlist

Alice Cooper vs. Pat Boone - No More Mr. Nice Guy 

and the former-Disney-diva-showdown:

Hillary Duff - Come Clean

Christina Aguilera - Dirrty 

 

 

FionaB

Social Text issue on Sound

Thank you all for these thoughts so far, and I wait to have some more time this weekend to dive into these links. This forum has been especially interesting because this kind of conversation would be so difficult (near impossible) in all of the other traditional formats for discussion or learning: a conference, a journal, an essay, lecture or a book. None of them offer the ability to read the thoughts in the amazing thoughts here, follow the links to the sound files or videos to really listen, and come back to the conversation at hand. 

I followed some links in the comments above and ended up finding this special issue from Social Text: Breaking Sound Barriers. I've emailed all of the authors in that issue to see if they have time to join us here, but in case they don't, here is a brief outline of the articles and links to the authors' homepage for more information. Some of the conversations and your own work above seem especially well suited to this set of texts & authors. 

Social Text: Breaking Sound Barriers, Issue 102, Spring 2010

Introduction: Breaking Sound Barriers, Gustavus Stadler

Sound, Knowledge, and the "Immanence of Human Failure": Rethinking Musical Mechanization through the Phonograph, the Player-Piano, and the Piano, David Suisman

Deaf Jam: From Inscription to Reproduction to Information, Mara Mills

Splicing the Sonic Color-Line: Tony Schwartz Remixes Postwar Nueva York, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman

Never Heard Such a Thing: Lynching and Phonographic Modernity, Gustavus Stadler

Can You Feel the Beat?: Freestyle's Systems of Living, Loving, and Recording, Alexandra T. Vazquez

Buzz and Rumble: Global Pop Music and Utopian Impulse, Jayna Brown

kpsonak

Ocularcentrism

    I will attempt to shed light on ocularcentrism by exploring connections between sight, language, and knowledge and addressing the prospect of alternatives to ocularcentrism and. As a student and teacher I ask myself how I depend on sight. I rely on sight for reading and for writing. Although what I have to say depends on what I have learned, which often leads back to what I have seen, what I say often does not depend much on what I am seeing now. As for listening, the fourth element of the reading-writing-speaking-listening battery of language skills, sight is least important in this context.

    Language depends on eyes. It does not have to, though. I "read" hundreds of thousands of words worth of books, journals, poetry, and news reports through audio versions. The format changes the process of reading, but technology is catching up with this eyes. Organizations such as the DAISY Consortium are working to make audio versions more accessible. Recordings are formatted so that listeners can navigate quickly from section to section and chapter to chapter in books. Annotating books is more complicated without being able to see, but typing notes into computers and relying on screen readers (such as JAWS), now decades past their invention, again makes the task possible.

    Our language reminds us of our association of sight with knowledge. Consider the many terms and phrases making this link, such as the idea of enlightenment or the idiomatic construction in this post's opening sentence. Of course, cultural associations also suggest promise for an alternative, inasmuch as blindness and wisdom often go together. This latter association suggests that if sight can lead a path to knowledge, it also can prove distracting. If language is a key mechanism for the pursuit of knowledge, and if it is accessible without sight, then people can come to know without sight.

    This discussion of the connections between sight, language, and knowledge leads to the question of what the alternatives to ocularcentrism might be. This essay has presented listening as the main alternative, but the other senses are possibilities too. Braille is an example of a tool that facilitates communication through touch, and with a little creativity one could imagine using taste and even scent as mechanisms for discourse. Of course, reliance on other senses might not be the only alternative to ocularcentrism: Whatever the method--through whichever sense--experience of the world is valuable in part because of the intellectual insight that it can give. Some will argue that blind reliance on senses is itself a flawed centrism. As technology and creativity lead to alternatives to vision, perhaps addressing the problems with ocularcentrism could turn into a step forward in understanding the limits of our senses and the difference between seeing and insight.

bblohowiak

Sound Off About Focusing on the Eye

Language does not have to depend on eyes, it is true. However, evolutionary sociobiology presents us with unresolved questions regarding the ascendancy of human language--were acoustic cues preceded by the emergence of visually apprehended signs? This is no small matter, for even though those inclined toward cultural critique may bemoan the overt and hidden influence of wedding conceptions of knowledge to conceptions of the visual as an aspect of social control, links between seeing and knowing have a strong basis in human physiology. Note the stark power of opening and closing one's eyes in the regulation of occipital lobe activity, particularly with regard to Beta and Alpha wave amplitude. This does not seem to be a culture-bound phenomenon.

What also remains salient as transcending cultural lines is the role that linguistic representations and other acoustic primers can influence the interpretation of visual stimuli. This is perhaps nowhere near as obvious as when one attempts to score a film or stage play; the audience and the actors may even come to rely upon what they hear to "read" the images before them.

The subject of alternatives to ocularcentrism sounds intruiging, particularly with regard to communicative possibilities. At the same time, however, kpsonak's assertion that sensory experience of the world has value, at least in part, because of the "intellectual insight that it can give" strikes me as somewhat biased toward an abstract-representational epistemology and away from an aesthetic-performative one.

In terms of pedagogical philosophy and praxis, the affordances of manipulating acoustic variables of instructional problem space have been underexplored, to say the least. What properties does sound have that make it different from--and perhaps superior to--other sensory modalities?

courtneyfay

Audio and visual together is best for learning

I think you're right that sound is a very effective way to present information. Some researchers have pointed to the negative effects of using sound in conjunction with text--it is believed to cause cognitive interference.

However, an article published by the IEEE claims that "joint processing of audio and video provides advantages that are not available when the audio and video are processed independently."

The media interact with each other leading to something called the McGurk effect. For instance, if someone hears an audio recording that says "ba" at the same time they watch a video of someone's mouth say "ga," then they will report that they hear the sound "da." This may seem like interference, but in reality the combination of audio-visual offers a third layer of information to the listener. The likehood of accepting a false answer goes down from 2.3% (with either only audio or only video) to 0.5%, meaning that the listener can be more precise. There is also some indication that simultaneous audio-visual input helps a listener perceive more quickly.

These findings come from a 1998 IEEE article by T. Chen and R.R. Rao, "Audio-Visual Integration in Multimodal Communication."

Will Burdette

Interesting. More information?

courtneyfay,
I have heard that audio and video presented together help processing information. This is really interesting.
I like audio by itself because it is easier to produce, cheaper to produce, lighter to serve, and more portable. However, this audio-centric approach leads to problems with accessibility (what about Deaf people?). Also, I'm looking for ways to take advantage of the McGurk effect. Obviously, transcriptions can solve some accessibility issues, but it seems to me that a transcript and an audio file don't take advantage of the McGurk effect. As you noted, and I have found anecdotally, straight text (like a slideshow) plus audio causes cognitive interference. So I'm wondering about techniques used to produce audio with images or video that augment the audio without the audio being dependent on the images.
Any thoughts, research or ideas about such techniques?

Ashon

syllabus for Writing Sound & Sound Writing: Hearing Race

Hi Everyone,

I've been asked to post the syllabus for the course I'm teaching, Writing Sound & Sound Writing: Hearing Race, so here it is.  I hope it's useful to you.  

 

Course Goals and Philosophy:

 

The Writing 20 course will allow you to think about writing as an academic practice. Regardless of discipline, writing is one of the major ways communication occurs in the academy.  In our writing practices in this course, we will clarify our thoughts and articulate our reasonings.  Through this course, our aim is to develop your skills in engagement, articulation, and contextualization.

 

These three aims comprise the course goals for all Writing 20 courses.  In this course, engagement with the work of others will consist, in part, of analyzing the purpose and context of specific texts and identifying the methodological and presentational tools utilized by authors.  You will develop skills in articulation by representing and critiquing the arguments of others, as well as developing your own positions and striving to elucidate new and interesting interpretations.  Further, we will together work to contextualize our writing in different ‘writing venues’, situating similar arguments in different contexts and making use of the appropriate conventions of acknowledgement, citation, document design, and presentation of evidence.  These aims should be kept in the forefront of your minds as we work through the practices of researching, workshopping, revising, and editing.  For more on the Writing 20 Course Goals and Practices, please see http://uwp.duke.edu/writing20/students/goals.html.

 

The issues we will explore herein – the relationship of sound to how people use them – provide us with an array of writing styles to both analyze and utilize.

 

Description

 

lady in blue 

  

[…]

oooooooooooooh the sounds

sneakin in under age to slug’s

to stare ata real ‘artiste’

& every word outta imamu’s mouth waz gospel

& if jesus cdnt play a horn like shepp

waznt no need for colored folks to bear no cross at all

 

& poem is my thank you for music

& i love you more than poem

more than aureliano buendia loved macondo

more than hector lavoe loved himself

more than the lady loved gardenias

more than celia loves cuba or graciela loves el son

more than the flamingoes shoo-do-n-doo-wah love bein pretty

[…]

 

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

 

Race is normally thought as a looking at practice: what we see – how we visualize – is part and parcel of how we “think” about race.  If looking is a social practice in which we all engage, in our course we will displace modes of seeing with modes of listening to think about the relationship between race and sound.  We will explore what it means to listen – to music and to ambient sound – as a social practice, engaging how music and sound also construct notions of race.  We sit around our dorm rooms and in cars, listening to music.  We hear it in the elevator and at the mall.  We share music files with others.  We remix.  We review.  When we listen and share the things we hear with others, we create social connections. 

 

The text above – from For Colored Girls… – is not only supposed to be looked at.  It is a “choreopoem,” meaning that it is supposed to be performed.  Bodies are supposed to move and we are supposed to listen to the text.  What sort of social community is lady in blue speaking about?  And when we listen to her, what social community is produced?  In this course, we will think about how music and sound participate in social practices.  If we listen to lady in blue, we realize that listening is a social practice.  What is your favorite song?  Who is your favorite musical artist?  What things do your favorite artists do with their voices, with their instruments, with their bodies?  Why do voices, instruments, sounds affect us?  What memories are recalled?  What are the affects of any voice?  What will listening to the text of For Colored Girls help us think and theorize regarding race, gender and class?  For Colored Girls will help us model how can we listen to any text – writing, film, song.

 

Our course will give particular attention to music that is created by black communities in popular culture and how it is imagined and experienced by audiences as well as those who produce it.  We will also explore sound itself, instrumentation, and noise; investigate usages of ambient sound and silence; listen and respond to voices.  Utilizing a variety of writing styles will allow us to consider what it means to write as a listener and what it means to listen as a writer.  We will engage questions specifically about race, gender and class and how music and sound analysis are important for understanding as well as deconstructing these three social categories.  By the end of the course, you will have a vocabulary of musical/sonic terms to assist in analyzing any piece of music or sound you hear.  As well, you will be able to think about the complex relationship between social practices such as listening and social constructions such as race.

  

These two goals will be accomplished by blog entries wherein you will listen to and write about music and sounds; an Audiobiography and response that is an autobiography based on important personal musical and sound experiences, giving attention to the interplay of race and music in your life; a collaborative "mash-up" of words and ideas using Wikis; and a long-form research essay based on individual interest in one of the topics in the course. Peer-review and workshopping our ideas will be a major component for our approach to writing. We will engage questions specifically about race and how music and sound analyses are important for understanding as well as theorizing the idea of race. We will listen to a lot of music and sounds in the classroom as well as view plays and films. We will also read fiction, autobiography, biography, cultural theory and music reviews to think about the relationship of music and sound to race, gender and class. 

 

 

 

Course Schedule

 

First Day of Class  – Antoine Dodson: A Course Introduction

August 31

In-Class Listening

 

In-Class Reading

 

We will consider the original news story and the song remix as one form of “rewriting” of the original story.  What is lost in the translation from a news item to a popular song for others to consume?  What is the relationship of identity – Antoine’s race, gender-performance, sexual orientation, class – to the sounds we hear, the sounds that are remixed?  When we engage in remixing, rewriting practices, how can we do so with integrity?

 

 

September 2

Reading

 

  • ·       “Introduction: The Gospel Moment” in The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times by Anthony Heilbut
  • ·       “Introduction” in How Early America Sounded by Richard Cullen Rath
  • ·       Introduction from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       “I Wonder Will We Meet Again” – Reverend Crenshaw and Congregation on The Alan Lomax Collection: Southern Journey, Vol. 1
  • ·       Music by The Roberta Martin Singers
  • ·       Music by Duke Ellington

 

 

Assignment: Blog Entry #1 (Due 11:59pm, September 6)

 

­­­­­­

Week 2Moans

“Words can’t begin to tell you, maybe moaning will.”

[1]

  This week, we will explore the relationship of words to music and how unworded music has the ability to convey meaning.  Moaning is generally conceived as inarticulate but we will think about how moaning and meaning work with each other.

 

September 7 

In-Class Reading

 

  • ·       Section of “Black Moan’in” in In the Break by Fred Moten

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Charles Mingus – “Moanin’” 
  • (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__OSyznVDOY)
  • ·       “Umm Hmm” by Erykah Badu
  • ·       “Prayer”; “Prayer Intro” by Bishop Ronald Brown

 

 

Reading

 

  • ·       “Introduction: The Lords of Sound” in The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African-American History Through Songs, Sermons, and Speech by Shane White and Graham White
  • ·       “Introduction: Making Sense of Race” in How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses by Mark M. Smith
  • ·       “69” by Arthur Jafa

 

 

 

September 9

Reading

 

  • ·       “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”; “The Voice” in Echo Tree by Henry Dumas

 

 

Hearing

 

  • ·       James Brown – Live at the Apollo
  • ·       Musical selections of Janet Jackson (interludes)

 

 

Assignment Blog #2 (Due 11:59pm, September 15)

 

 

 

Week 3Screams

This week’s focus extends last week’s discussion of moaning but asks how screaming also has the possibility to convey meaning. 

September 14

 

Visit to the Nasher to see “The Record” exhibit – 3pm

 

 

 

September 16

 

Reading

 

  • ·       Short Selection from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

 

 

In-Class Reading

 

  • ·       Short selection from “Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester’s Scream” in In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       “Scream” – Michael Jackson feat. Janet Jackson
  • ·       “He Lives” – Youthful Praise
  • ·       Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” on We Insist!  Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite

 

 

Assignment Wiki #1 (Due 11:59pm, September 20)

 

 

Week 4Melisma

The singing of a single syllable of text while moving through several notes.  Melisma is, more generally, holding and moving at the same time.  This week, we will consider what it means to hold an idea while moving through time, through space, through place.  Harriet Tubman held the syllable – the idea – of freedom while moving through the notes, treble and bass clefs, of enslavement to free others.

September 21

 

Reading

 

  • ·       Short selection from Harriet, The Moses of Her People by Sarah H. Bradford
  • ·       “The ‘Blues Aesthetic’ and the ‘Black Aesthetic’” in Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music by Amiri Baraka

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical selections of Kim Burrell
  • ·       Musical selections of Nina Simone
  • ·       Musical selections of Billie Holiday

 

 

 

September 23

 

Reading

 

 

                         

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical selections by Arizona Dranes
  • ·       Musical selections of Twinkie Clark

 

 

Assignment: Audioblog (Due 11:59pm, September 27)

 

 

Week 5Falsetto: New word, new world. 

September 28

 

Reading

 

  • ·       29.V.80 in Bedouin Hornbook by Nathaniel Mackey

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical selections of Al Green
  • ·       Musical selections of Prince

 

 

 

September 30

 

Reading

 

  • ·       Short passage from Just Above My Head by James Baldwin

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical selections of Sylvester
  •     Musical selections of the Five Blind Boys of Alabama

 

 

Assignment: Audiobiography Entry (Due 11:59pm, October 4)

 

 

Week 6Hand-Clapping/Foot-Stomping

October 5

 

Reading

 

  • ·       16.III.80 in Bedouin Hornbook by Nathaniel Mackey
  • ·       “2001: What Is Sonic Warfare?” in Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear by Steve Goodman
  • ·       “Friendship as a way of life” – Foucault

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

 

 

 

October 7

 

LIBRARY CLASS SESSION! 

(Meet at Perkins Library)

Assignment: Wiki # 2 (Due October 17)

 

 

Week 7

 

October 12 – FALL BREAK

 

October 14

 

Race, Sexuality and Sound (pt 1)

We will begin to consider case studies that allow for analyses of race, gender, class and sexuality.  These case studies will model for us different approaches to studying figures and sounds.  You should begin to consider a person, sound and/or song that you will analyze for your final paper assignment. 

 

Reading

 

  • ·       Selection from For Colored Girls (BRING BOOK TO CLASS!!!)
  • ·       Profiles (Tonex), “Revelations,” by Kelefa Sanneh; The New Yorker, February 8, 2010

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical selections of Sylvester
  • ·       Musical selections of Tonex

 

 

Assignment: Blog Entry #3 (Due 11:59pm, October 18)

 

 

Week 8Race, Sexuality and Sound (pt 2)

October 19

 

Reading

 

  • ·       “I Just Do What the Lord Say” in Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age by Jerma A. Jackson
  • ·       “The Holiness Church” in The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times by Anthony Heilbut

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical Selections by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
  • ·       Intro to: “Let’s Get It On” by Bishop Iona Locke (sermon)

 

 

 

October 21

 

Guest Lecture on Abbey Lincoln

 

·      

Readings available on Blackboard

 

 

 

 

 

Week 9Afrofuturistic Sounds, Transitional Sounds

This week, we will think about race, fiction and future in relation to sound. 

 

October 26

Library Research Day

 

 

October 28

Reading

 

  • ·       Short selection from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical selections of Sun Ra

 

 

 

Week 10Afroatlantic Sounds

This week, we will think about “Diaspora” and sound.

 

November 2

 

Reading

 

 

  • ·       Selection from The Slave Ship by Marcus Rediker

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Ship sounds

 

 

 

November 4

 

In-Class Reading/Writing Activity

 

 

Week 11 – Workshopping Our Ideas

 

November 9 & 11

We will meet in groups of three during class time to workshop your ideas as a group.  I will provide more information

 

 

Week 12 – Afrospeculations

 

November 16

Reading

 

  • ·       “The Avenging Angel of Creation/Destruction: Black Music and the Afro-technological in the Science Fiction of Henry Dumas and Samuel R. Delany” by Salim Washington

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       TBD

 

 

 

November 18

Reading

 

  • ·       “The Avenging Angel of Creation/Destruction: Black Music and the Afro-technological in the Science Fiction of Henry Dumas and Samuel R. Delany” by Salim Washington (cont’d)
  • ·       Short selection from The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delaney 

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       TBD

 

 

 

 

Week 13 – Body and Voice (pt 1)

 

November 23

 

Reading

 

  • ·       Selections from The Sanctified Church by Zora Neale Hurston

 

 

Viewing

 

  • ·       “The Story of Gospel Music: The Power in the Voice”

 

 

 

November 25 – Holiday Break!

 

 

Week 14 – Body and Voice (pt 2)

 

November 30

 

Reading

 

  • ·       Selection from “Interstices: A Small Drama of Words” in Black, White and In Color by Hortense Spillers

 

 

In-Class Hearing

 

  • ·       Musical Selections of Bessie Smith

 

 

 

December 2 – Workshopping

 

Week 15

 

December 7 – Wrap-up/Mash-up

 

December 9 – Final Project Research Days (at Perkins or Lilly Library) 

Final Projects Due: 5:00pm, December 15, 2010



[1]

Mackey, N. (1986). Bedouin hornbook. Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia.

                  

 

 

Nick Seaver

awesome syllabus!

This syllabus looks great! I love that there is a class on melisma. Especially with all the Auto-Tune talk in here (a kind of technologically-manifested melisma, no?), it's a great concept for students to dig into.

sean_mc

This looks like a FANTASTIC

This looks like a FANTASTIC syllabus, Ashon -- thanks for sharing!

Ashon

Cher, Auto-Tune, Recognition and (obvs) Race

what does it mean for Cher's "Believe" to be the first widely recognized use of Auto-tune?   Today, I've pretty much been replying to questions here about attention and inattention and I think that the article is an intriguing illustration of my concerns.  though others had been using auto-tone previous to Cher, and that i was fully used to the sound before she ever sang a note  for "Believe," the history links Cher as uniquely the progenitor rather than Timbaland and McGoo; rather than Blackstreet or Keith Sweat's "How Deep Is Your Love" that uses the vocoder as the sound that anticipated Auto-Tune's popularity.  

i'm just intrigued by how Cher becomes "remembered" for producing a sound historically that was produced previous to her ... 

Nick Seaver

And what of the Talkbox?

I think one important distinction here needs to be drawn between a technology's "sound" and the specific technology itself. So, unless I'm mistaken (totally possible), "Believe" was indeed the first major hit to (mis-)use Auto-Tune in a recognizable fashion.

The vocoder is emphatically *not* the same as Auto-Tune, nor as the Talkbox, arising from different technological environments and coming into mainstream use through different channels. (If you haven't read it, I recommend Dave Tompkins' _How to Wreck a Nice Beach_ for a history of the vocoder in its military and musical contexts.) So, I don't think that people who credit the Cher song as an Auto-Tune "first" would necessarily deny that vocoder madness had been going around long before, or that Zapp and Roger were doing amazing things with talkboxes.

Of course, there are similarities and conflations (the mechanization of the voice, various futurisms, "correction," skill play) that can be attended to here, but on both a processual and phenomenological register, vocoders, talkboxes and Auto-Tune are different effects.

Ashon

certainly

let's distinguish between technology and sound.  i seek to be attentive to what the sound - regardless of the technology used -  is and what it supposedly does (to audiences).  so it's intriguing to me that Cher's "Believe" was not a new sound...i want to be attentive to the ways in which it was Cher's positionality that made it "popular" to produce this sound...

Nick Seaver

Agreed!

I absolutely agree. Part of what I was trying to get at, though, was that these different technologies actually do produce different sounds. There is a recognizable difference between Auto-Tune, which changes the register of the voice, producing a regularity that overtakes one's pitch, and the vocoder, which blends the voice with the sound of the machine, producing an effect that has been called "robotic," but sounds to me like a voice coming from behind a mechanical screen.

I think this is an interesting valence for talk about sound, though: the ability to distinguish between different sounds is culturally produced, and there are certainly people who consider the vocoder and Auto-Tune to be basically the same thing (both technologically and in their sound). Looking at work like Emily Thompson's and even Jonathan Sterne's on the history of fidelity, I am constantly amazed at what people historically have thought sounded the same--it is baffling to a modern listener that someone might think a gramophone from 1905 sounded exactly like a live person, but that is a sign of how tricky "sameness" actually is. We can't get objectively at what sounds are the "same," I would say.

So, I don't want to say that technology is the be all and end all of discussions about this kind of thing, but the ability to group together a sonic multiplicity under "this sound" is a culturally and historically situated ability. What does it mean if one person actually hears a difference when someone else hears sameness?

Ashon

mapping, sound and race

(i also posted this as a blog on HASTAC here)

 

Hello Everyone,

I suppose this can serve as an introduction to the HASTAC world.  If you have not been over to read and participate in theFeel the Noise: Sound, Music & Technology forum on Sound, please check it out!  There are some great questions, discussions and ideas being generated and I'm honored to be one of the hosts.  

 

I grew up in the Black Pentecostal Christian tradition as a musician (hammond b-3), singer, songwriter and choir director (it was a small church).  I have always been attentive to the ways in which sound moves people within particular social worlds and situations, the Black Pentecostal sect or otherwise.  When I would play "shouting music," (begin around :030) the congregation would respond with tears, hollers, moans, running and dancing in the space.  When i "backed up" a preacher on the organ, their emotional intensity would become the greater, and the congregation would vigorously engage the more.  The switch - in the same song - from the major mode to the minor mode, sometimes called "taking it to church," (listen to the change at 1:50) registers meaning, affect, emotion and intensity for the performer as well as the congregation.    

These "affective intensities" of sound are not universal but take place in place and time, they are temporal.  So I have noticed singing "congregational songs" that are pretty much the same song in places like Brooklyn having different rhythm, enunciation, lyrics, timbre, quality than the same song sung in Charleston.  What I want to do is register difference - what some call "style" - as indexing notions of freedom, escape, migration, flight, politics.

 

I am writing here to speak about my deep interest in the relations between mapping, sound and race.  My dissertation will be about the movement and sedimentation of sound, song and sentiment in various locations, using the Underground Railroad's relation to sound and song to map (the changes in) affect, emotion, sentiment, politics, theology from place to place.  So, for example, when Harriet Tubman sung in Eastern Shore, MD, the politics of singing songs there meant differently than singing the same song in Canada.  I want to think about how sound and song accrues to location, trying to think about identity and difference by way of sound.  I also am trying to think about sound's connection to subjectivity as a spatially organizing principle; the sound of subjectivity is enacted and informs a topo-geo-logic.

These are just a few initial and scattered thoughts.  I would love feedback, questions, comments...any form and mode of engagement is welcome!

  


 

jstoever-ackerman

Sound Studies Panels @ ASA and Sounding Out!

Hello Audio People!

I am thrilled to see this forum and I am very excited to participate in all of the excellent and deeply layered conversations circulating about sound here on HASTAC.  I promise a longer "real" entry later, but I am going to have to defer my gratification a little bit because I am out the door to San Antonio, TX, for this year's American Studies Association Conference, where I am participating on a round table called, “Huhh!..Hahh!..Huhh!..Hahh!..: Sound, Working, Chain” There is a growing sound studies presence at ASA, which I have highlighted in a blog entry for Sounding Out!, the academic sound studies blog that I co-edit with Liana Silva and Aaron Trammell.  I will be posting my roundtable opening gambit there on Thursday and will be tweeting about the sound panels I attend for the blog in real-time at http://twitter.com/soundingoutblog;I welcome your thoughts and participation. Also, if you are headed down to San Antonio, let me know! I would love to talk sound with you in person there!

 

Here's the Blog Post:

Sound Related Panels at the American Studies Association Annual Conference, 11.18-11.21.2010

Here's the blog in general. . .we'd love for you check us out! We have hosted discussions on a wide range of sound topics, including the role of sound in the enforcement of SB 1070, gender and vinyl collecting, and the relationship between hip hop studies and sound studies.  The blog is full of links to other sound related blogs, including this HASTAC forum. We host guest writers once a month; if you are interested in submitting a pitch, contact us at soudingoutblog@gmail.com.

http://soundstudiesblog.com/

Our Mission Statement: 

Sounding Out: A Sound Studies Blog provides an outlet for ruminations on the role of sound and listening in our contemporary culture, tackling questions like:

Did the invention of the iPod actually change the way we listen to music? Do we all listen in the same way?

Why does the crackle, pop, and hiss of old vinyl records comfort some and annoy others?

Does the sound of your voice impact your chances at employment and good housing?

Do supposedly neutral “noise ordinances” actually affect some people more than others?

Sounding Out provides you with the freshest insight and the latest commentary on the emerging field of sound studies and its many cultural manifestations. Every Monday, our dedicated cadre of writers will sound out the shifting territory of sound studies from different geographical, social, and intellectual vantage points. From the familiar strains of American pop culture to the more uncharted terrains of “noise music” shows, film editing rooms, and dusty analog technology, Sounding Out will amplify the many ways in which sound not only shapes your world, but makes it.

jstoever-ackerman

Sound Related Panels @ ASA this Week and Sounding Out! Blog

Hello Audio Heads!

I am thrilled to see this forum and I am very excited to participate in all of the excellent and deeply layered conversations circulating about sound here on HASTAC.  I promise a longer "real" entry later, but I am going to have to defer my gratification a little bit because I am out the door to San Antonio, TX, for this year's American Studies Association Conference, where I am participating on a round table called, “Huhh!..Hahh!..Huhh!..Hahh!..: Sound, Working, Chain” There is a growing sound studies presence at ASA, which I have highlighted in a blog entry for Sounding Out!, the academic sound studies blog that I co-edit with Liana Silva and Aaron Trammell.  I will be posting my roundtable opening gambit there on Thursday and will be tweeting about the sound panels I attend for the blog in real-time at http://twitter.com/soundingoutblog;I welcome your thoughts and participation. Also, if you are headed down to San Antonio, let me know! I would love to talk sound with you in person there!

 

Here's the Blog Post:

Sound Related Panels at the American Studies Association Annual Conference, 11.18-11.21.2010

Here's the blog in general. . .we'd love for you check us out! We have hosted discussions on a wide range of sound topics, including the role of sound in the enforcement of SB 1070, gender and vinyl collecting, and the relationship between hip hop studies and sound studies.  The blog is full of links to other sound related blogs, including this HASTAC forum. We host guest writers once a month; if you are interested in submitting a pitch, contact us at soudingoutblog@gmail.com.

http://soundstudiesblog.com/

Our Mission Statement: 

Sounding Out: A Sound Studies Blog provides an outlet for ruminations on the role of sound and listening in our contemporary culture, tackling questions like:

Did the invention of the iPod actually change the way we listen to music? Do we all listen in the same way?

Why does the crackle, pop, and hiss of old vinyl records comfort some and annoy others?

Does the sound of your voice impact your chances at employment and good housing?

Do supposedly neutral “noise ordinances” actually affect some people more than others?

Sounding Out provides you with the freshest insight and the latest commentary on the emerging field of sound studies and its many cultural manifestations. Every Monday, our dedicated cadre of writers will sound out the shifting territory of sound studies from different geographical, social, and intellectual vantage points. From the familiar strains of American pop culture to the more uncharted terrains of “noise music” shows, film editing rooms, and dusty analog technology, Sounding Out will amplify the many ways in which sound not only shapes your world, but makes it.

Ashon

crackle, pop, and hiss of old vinyl records

a brief moment in total self-indulgence but i've tried to write a bit of fiction (in a Nate Mackey-ish sorta way) and one such entry is about vinyl records, memory, silence and Michael Jackson...check it out if you'd like...(and i'd love it if you did!)

 

stephceraso

ghost voices

An interesting article on "ghost voices" as a popular audio technique (raises questions similar to the ones bounced around in the "autotune" thread that kicked off the forum): 

http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/7886-new-vocabulary/

 

 

tripgill

teaching aural poetry

Returning to Scott Trudell's post, there are some instances where you can do things with sound that you can't with text.  Nothing illustrates this better (to me) than Alec Guinness' reading of "the Waste Land".  Guinness' voice brings subtlety and tempo to the poem that most of us could not imagine on our own.  The funny thing is that readings by the poet himself (T.S. Elliot) do not seem as effective (to me). See links below (sorry about the ad at the beginning).

 

Here is Guinness:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbunup_t-s-eliot-the-waste-land-alec-gu...

 

Here is Eliot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7kpAxJD7Wc

 

Ultimately, the audio is providing more simultaneous information than the text ever could.  And that provides a good standard as to when choosing between aural/visual pathways for teaching.  And (to me), it's clear that the question of quality (e.g. Guiinness' voice over Eliot's) is not to be overlooked.

 

 

Will Burdette

Audiobooks and authority

I hear you about the audio "providing more simultaneous information than the text ever could"

I felt the same way about Toni Morrison reading Jazz. This adds to the mix an interesting Bathesian/Foucauldian question about authority and authorship. Clearly, Morrison authorizes this reading. She's reading it. But it is greatly abridged from both the novel and another unabridged audiobook version. I feel like a lot of the flack that audiobooks got in the academy was due to abridgment and the popular nature of the titles available.  (BTW: anyone have evidence of this flack? I'm having a tough time finding academic, anti-audiobook rhetoric, but I feel like it has to exist.) There is this notion that listening to audiobooks is like reading Cliff's Notes or something. But here we have a Nobel Laureate reading--and bringing to market--a greatly abridged version of her work in her own voice. What does this artifact do to our notions of what constitutes a text?

jtremel

Eliot and Voice

Regarding TripGill's links...

There is definitely something to be said about the aural dimensions of hearing a poem as opposed to merely reading it.  This becomes even more crucial with the famous "polyvocal" dimension of The Waste Land.

I'm not sure whether you're aware of it, but your second link isn't to Eliot reading his poem, but rather some other unnamed speaker.  You can find a sample audio of  Eliot reading his poem here.

(Part of my dissertation deals with Eliot and voice, so this is particularly intersting to me. His unpublished correspondence shows him very concerned with and putting in a huge effort at rehearsing his vocal delivery for a number or his recordings and broadcasts. 

I'm intrigued what you mean by "the question of quality" in regard the two separate versions...what aspects strike you.

This article offers an interesting discussion of Eliot's recording of the poem, and addresses some of larger issues of text/audio in relation to students:

Eliot Reads "The Waste Land": Text and Recording
Author(s): Stefan HawlinSource: The Modern Language Review, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), pp. 545-554 Published by: Modern Humanities Research AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3732918 .

crystalvk

Musical Rhetoric...or something!?

I have just started a multimedia project where I'm interviewing former students who composed digital video projects for me in the English classes I teach.  The project focuses on the what I'm calling students' rhetorcial use of music in their videos.  Almost any student who has composed a video for me has used one or more musical tracks in their work - and in very complex ways.  Bump Halbritter has a great article about this in which he analyzes the use of music in the opening scene of The Big Chill.

 Anyway, what I'm finding as I begin to interview former students is that they don't have a language for the complex choices they're making about their music.  They readily claim that the music they use is for "emotional effect," or for mood, which it is, but it's also for argument, for evoking cultural associations, for organzation, for repetition, for contrast.  I'm mulling over ways in which to teach this language to students so they can make more informed, critical decisions about how and when and why and where to use music in video compositions. 

This seems to be uncharted territory.  Can anyone point me to some research on this issue?  Or have thoughts on terminologies that are useful for this kind of multimodal, remix type composing?     

Will Burdette

a pidgin perhaps?

This is a great question. I've been wrestling with this, too. This is my, albeit limited, experience, along with some provisional "conclusions."

In an effort to develop a language for critical rhetorical listening, I have been trying some experiments with audio-only or audio-centric assignments. For the first time this semester, I'm making my students do "close listenings" along with their close readings. Or, rather, I was going to make them do this. But having a Deaf student in my class raised some interesting questions about the ethics of privileging one sense over another, (even if it was a reaction to ocularcentrism). So I have provided visual alternatives like visual analysis for those who would rather look than listen. This has meant that we can't isolate the aural--thus developing and employing a specialized vocabulary--as much as I would have liked. While I would love to have a language to talk more specifically about the ways in which music does what it does in multimedia texts, I think there are a few reasons why it's ok that we don't have such specific language:  

  • It's really hard to isolate one sense from another in multimedia. Even if we can do it, there are some compelling reasons not to. (Like, for me, trying to teach to multiple intelligences.) Because analysis is built on isolating things, the language and techniques that it uses--the ones we are used to using in literary criticism--may not be suited for discussing the creation of multimedia. (Although it would still be useful in the evaluation of multimedia.) In other words, students may not be able to both create a multimedia project and reflect on that project with any critical distance, using the terms of criticism.
  • Sometimes, you have to go with your gut. For example, I made a series of silly videos to demonstrate the various ways students could legally and ethically find and use music online. My gut led me to a copyrighted Bad Religion song. But I couldn't use that for my purposes. So I had to seek out some Creative Commons-licensed French punk. This, in turn, altered the meaning of the video. That decision--while not premeditated or analytical--was only partially about things like timbre, intensity, and tempo. It was also about pragmatics, copyright law, and ethics. It was also about affect, which I talk about in rhetorical terms. Then, it was also about serendipity. The french singer singing in English led to a sort of goofy, bad-YouTube, amateur, lost-in-translation feel that really makes the video what it is.
  • We do have specialized languages--for example, rhetoric, hip-hop, musicology, cognition, educational psychology, and musical composition--that deal with different aspects of these decisions. I think it is useful to mix vocabulary, registers, and languages.

Practically speaking, you might compile a handlist of terms--a pidgin--from these various disciplines and use that to teach students. Such a list would carry with it the assumption that it is a sort of local, contingent, evolving, cobbled-together language. I'm just freestyling here.

sean_mc

Music and student identity

Hey Crystal, 

Thanks for bringing up students' critical relationship to music. It's something that continually fascinates me; music is obviously so important to students, but they find it difficult to engage with it critically, to think beyond language that is based on whether a particular music is "cool" or not. Every semester, I tell students that their iPods/music players are part of the class: when we do project work (which is often in my classes), I ask for someone's music player to plug into the main system to provide a soundtrack. I generally don't tell them that I'm going to put the player onto "shuffle all", and when a student finds that anything on their iPod may come up during the class, they get really defensive. Some go home and create  "class playlists", picking music that they think is going to appeal to the others. Some students simply refuse to give up their music player or feign that they left it at home, which signals to me just how uncomfortable it can make some people. 

Every semester, I try to engage the students about what all this means. What is it about someone's music that defines their identity and makes them acceptable or is a potential source of embarrassment? Now that we can carry thousands of songs around in our pockets, surely not everything on your iPod is going to be "cool", right? What's wrong with eclectic taste? Why is really important for your typical jock not to be associated with that Britney Spears track that will inevitably pop up on a random shuffle?

Of course, there are all sorts of issues of identity going on here, such as the the fear of exposure among a group of your peers who you probably don't know that well. As has been explored in this terrifically rich forum, there are issues about how music marks your gender, race, or class. But for some reason, students simply go dumb when we raise these questions. They are rarely able to move beyond a very simplistic identification with particular musics -- it's cool, or it's not -- even if it is obvious to everyone that there is far more going on than that.

A critical musical pedagogy is something that is vitally important; Ashon's posts and other equally thoughtful contributors above signal this. I'd be really interested in what a critical musics pedagogy would look like. We've spent long enough developing tactics on how to approach texts. We've even got a handle on getting all critical on video music clips. But music blasting from speakers with no visual safety net? I'm stumped as to how to easily bring this into class.

stephceraso

constructing identities w/ music

Hey Crystal and Sean-

Great questions and responses. I do a little bit with music and identity construction in my freshman composition courses. Here are the instructions for an exercise we do (usually after a few class sessions that focus on how writing shapes identity):

 

This exercise concerns the way people represent themselves.  Choose an occasion, either your own funeral or an event that celebrates your life in some way, and create a playlist of 10-15 songs that could commemorate this event adequately; in other words, think about the way you would want to be remembered.  If you had control over it, how would you want to represent yourself to others?

This task is directly related to the choices you make as a writer.  Writers have to choose what information they want to include (about themselves or their characters), as well as what information they want to leave out.  The information they choose to include depends on how they want the reader (or in your case, the guest/mourner) to view them.  In other words, writers have the power not only to shape, but to construct their identities through words.  Similarly, for this assignment, you will be creating (or performing) an identity through song.

In a sense, you will be using language and sound as a representation of your life.  But remember, as we’ve been discussing all semester, representations are not always accurate.  As the author of this playlist, you can choose what aspects of yourself you WANT to include or leave out altogether.   

After composing your list (include the title of the song and artist name for each), please write a paragraph or two about the choices you made.  Consider the following questions in your response: In what ways do these songs describe who you are/were?  Which particular lyrics or sounds strongly represent an aspect of yourself that you want to convey to others?  In what way?  What meaning do you want the listeners to take away from your list and how do you think you accomplished this? What aspects of your personality does the list skip over or leave unexplored and why did you leave these out?  How does the order of the songs in your list affect how the listeners might interpret your representation?  

 

I usually ask students to present the song that they see doing the most "identity work" for them to the class. First we listen, then the author has a chance to explain her/his choice. Afterwards, we have a group discussion about how particular elements of the music (lyrics, tone, rhythm, etc.) add to or take away from what the author is trying to convey.  So, Crystal, one way to talk about music videos (at least initially) with your students might be to use the same language you would use to discuss any text (book, film, etc.).  Then you could always provide them with a more specialized vocabulary after they've found a way in...

Hope this is of some use to you! 

Will Burdette

Playlist assignment

I have my students do a similar playlist assignment. I have them tell a story through a playlist. I usually pair it with readings and clips from High Fidelity. Then, I follow it with a source list assignment in which they compile an annotated source list for their research papers. The assignments go better each time I use them, but I'm always looking to refine them. Does anyone else use playlist assignments? Especially in conjunction with research? Tips?

crystalvk

thanks

Thanks for the info on your playlist assignments - I can see how something like this would begin to train students to begin to articulate how music can represent not only an identity, but ideas and arguments. There is so much work that instrumentation, lyrics, and the cultural associations that come along with different songs can do.

I was at NCTE in Orlando this past weekend, and in one session I attended, we viewed a student film composition that used student-made video, a voice over, and music. The comments from the people at the session about the music reminded me of the comments my students always make about music: it's for emotional effect; it enhances or creates tone or mood. But I think music does so much more than just those things. It argues. It calls up associations in the minds of the viewer/listener. It forwards a message through instrumentation, lyrics, familiarity. Can this be considered the "ethos" of the music? Or is it something else?

sean_mc

re:constructing identities w/music

hey Steph, 

Sorry for the late reply to this, but I just wanted to say thanks! This is a great exercise, and I think it would be very useful to think about the way I get students to use their own music as part of our class soundscape. I, too, do writing-and-identity exercises early in the semester. I think this exercise will be a really useful complement to that, and hopefully get students to think more broadly about both writing and how different expressive practices shape identity. Thanks!
Sean

salvo7

Making your own Soundtrack

Apologies for the late posting, but I wanted to incorporate my very surreal experience traveling to NCTE in Orlando. It's a conference I don't usually attend in a place oddly matched to it.

Mealea warned me. Over dinner, after a fabulous talk about the ways in which artifacts are not texts, or at least are not necessarily texts, and the ways in which those of us want everything to be a text can mess things up trying to make the world match what we want or even what we need it to be while not recognizing the world for what it is. We want to control the world, rather than be of the world. And so Disney has its own cacophony, a unque soundscape that only is Disney. And I’m not only or necessarily talking about what may have popped into your brains: It’s a Small World, or perhaps (if you are old enough) the Sunday night Disney show theme with Tinkerbell arriving to make the castle tip glow like a fallen star. No, I am talking about the incessant, relentless sales pitch of what <i>else</i> you can do at the world’s happiest fucking place even though you just plunked down 200 bucks for a day of theme park tickets. And I think: damn! That’s almost 27 hours at minimum wage!

Marky got with Sharon

And Sharon got Sharice

She was sharing Sharon's outlook 

On the topic of disease 

Mikey had a facial scar 

And Bobby was a racist 

They were all in love with dyin' 

They were doing it in Texas

So I’m in this fucking bus with two dozen English teachers. Not English Professors, who are bad enough, but grizzled boogery middle school and high school teachers with bad comb-overs and thematic holiday sweaters who give you extra credit for bringing them cat food coupons, and double the credit if they’re worth a free can of icky cat food and you hope to whatever you deem holy that they do indeed have fifteen cats and the stories of Mister Whiskers padding across the new translation of Dostoyevsky they are reading religiously evenings over earl grey that there is a Mister Whiskers and this isn’t a sad, quiet way of making ends meet because I live in a country that thinks teachers aren’t professionals and its okay for the Jocks to get the girls and then take home all the money too because business administration is much more important than teaching zit-faced kids the importance of Being … no, too easy a joke. But you get where that was going, right Health Class survivors?

I don't mind the sun sometimes

The images it shows

I can taste you on my lips

And smell you in my clothes

Cinnamon and sugary

And softly spoken lies

You never know just how you look

Through other people's eyes

And the fucking relentless soundtrack is blaring in my ears, telling me how I have to get to this and that attraction, and that even when I’m exhausted I can spend more to get rejuvenated to go out and spend yet more because the hype is all about maximizing the flow of cash while you’re in the park. And I’m sitting there thinking about and counting all the hours that it takes to make a two-day park-hopper pass at $7.75 and hour, listening to not just how much I’ve just flushed into the rich man’s pockets, but how much more still there is in my pockets that he (some faceless he – worse to me than Winston’s big man will ever be to me, because this dillwad’s actually got his hands in my fucking pockets taking the cash out, one digit at a time) he, He has every right to do it, and in my own small way, I’m obligated to bend over and take the rogering because, well, it was my own damn free will that had me down here in Baudrilliard’s back yard, watching vultures (how appropriate) taking a rest on their commute to the Yucatan.

Some will die in hot pursuit

And fiery auto crashes

Some will die in hot pursuit

While sifting through my ashes

Some will fall in love with life

And drink it from a fountain

That is pouring like an avalanche

Coming down the mountain

I think about my Dad, who spent evenings teaching Rikers Island inmates how to make a budget, balance their checkbooks, and laugh at inane jokes – to feel normal for an hour while my dad must have felt anything but normal teaching rapists and murders how to add subtract multiply divide, each semester 3 credits for them and five or six days in the Magic fucking Kingdom for his boys who thought the world of him and Mom and didn’t and wouldn’t understand why we didn’t get to see The Mouse this year. And that carnival barker voice is pounding in my skull, telling me that it’s almost a duty to figure out how to spend just a wee bit more, splurge to make my family’s memories crystal clear because family memories are valuable memories. The cash you spend is an investment in family memories. And with returns on investments returning record low yields, you might as well spend it before Wall Street figures out how to steal it from you. At least here, you get to decide whether to spend it on the mouse, the duck, or one of the odd dogs.

I don't mind the sun sometimes

The images it shows

I can taste you on my lips

And smell you in my clothes

Cinnamon and sugary

And softly spoken lies

You never know just how you look

Through other people's eyes

And I remember that act of adolescent rebellion I depended upon to control my own world, to remake the soundscape as I wanted it rather than as Disney or the DJ demanded. I could hit play. So I was listening to Captain Beefheart and Dead Kennedys and Black Flag and Wire and The Descendants. And then I spun the Butthole Surfers, and I was again in control. Gibby Haynes and his surfers are an underrated, underappreciated band that I secretly do not want others to discover because then they wouldn’t be mine anymore. If they were the Residents with their own cult following and mediocre yet delicious multimedia games, or if they became Zach Braff-like tastemakers, or if their claim to fame was getting bankrupted by Tipper Gore’s Parent-Music Resource Center—you know, the ones who put the warning labels on records that guarantees teens will want them before Tipper left Al to save the whales, glaciers, and rain forests. 

Another Mikey took a knife

While arguing in traffic

Flipper died a natural death

He caught a nasty virus

Then there was the ever-present

Football player rapist

They were all in love with dyin'

They were doing it in Texas

Pauly caught a bullet

But it only hit his leg

Well it should have been a better shot

He got him in the head

They were all in love with dyin'

They were drinking from a fountain

That was pouring like an avalanche

Coming down the mountain

I always loved this song, even though it crossed over into pop in the post-rock age of hip-hop when samples, loops, and distortion were acceptable. It reminds me of the RAP Arts Center that only exists in my memory, a memory of a Loeasida before hipsters made the east village habitable and, well, hip, when crack ravaged the neighborhood and a beautiful red-haired girl (my only Charlie Brown moment – I swear!) introduced me to Gibby backstage. He was so drunk/stoned/high. They were touring with GWAR! And the live Sex Show was the main attraction. I was 19. That’s an awesome thing to be able to say. Thank you, Rap Arts Center, thank you GWAR!, thank you vegetarian red-haired girl, even though you yelled at me for eating shrimp later that … morning it had become, and I knew it was the last night I would have RAP Arts and Gibby and GWAR! Because I dared to eat a shrimp. And how do you know celery isn’t sentient, perhaps in another dimension?

I don't mind the sun sometimes

The images it shows

I can taste you on my lips

And smell you in my clothes

Cinnamon and sugary

And softly spoken lies

You never know just how you look

Through other people's eyes

And thank you Gibby, and Jello, and Henry Rollins. I’ve forgotten all about the mouse-overlord picking my pockets and raping the landscape and making a swamp into a netherworld. Peter Pan and the lost boys got nothing on this place, but what a beautiful thing to see those vultures descend from the clouds and pull that road kill apart, right under the Magic Kingdom sign. Too bad I didn’t get a picture of that crazy, insane, beautiful moment, but I’m even happier it is in my memory, the memory enhanced not with the earnest and sickly appeal that I spend more … before those same vultures descend and devour my grey matter, the very place where those memories are stored. Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think. Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink. The years go by much quicker than you think. Enjoy yourself! Enjoy yourself! It’s later than you think. Thanks for the warning, Malea. Wow, were you right!

 

danieltillman1

Combining Audio and Text in Electronic Books

Electronic books provide an interesting opportunity to combine genres of media that have previously only been loosely associated.  Synchronization of audio and visual text is just the beginning, but creating newly emergent multimedia formats that combine previously seperated genres of content seems to be potentially unlimited.  A key concern will be avoiding cognitive and sensory overload, as many of the multimedia designs that have recently gained media coverage seem to work by attracting attention via a volume metaphorically set to 11.  The Hollywood summer blockbuster and the recent success of Call of Duty: Black Ops both highlight the sensory overload that has become typical of entertainment fare.  Content with a pedagogical purpose should take warning that while loud does get attention, it doesn't necessarily, if ever, result in improved learning outcomes.  Combining sound and text in electronic books might be best approached as an exercise in subtlety, with lessons learned on what not do to coming via the entertainment based 'megaphone' approach.

UVACarsonIT

Audio Learning

In an age when anyone can record anyone, how do we adapt and create audio recording genres that serve the interests of learning?:

The sound needs to be engaging and have a purpose. Students will also need to be able to recognize the sounds and the topics being discussed. A plain lecture will deter students.

What could/should academic audio sound like?:
Academic audio should be engaging and align with students' learning levels and abilities. The audio should connect with visuals whenever possible.

Then consider ways in which addition of sound to an electronic book may offer new opportunities for learning.:

An electronic book that uses visuals along with audio will give students the control and the confidence to tackle reading on their own regardless of their reading abilities. Students will be engaged and take ownership of their own learning.

Megan Turner

Music is a pedagogical space

One of the most powerful aspects of music is its capacity to create cultural spaces for inscribing knowledges that are excluded from traditional educational institutions. I'm thinking of hip hop in particular here. Take for instance these two songs by Northwest hip hop group Blue Scholars:

In "50 Thousand Deep", Geo inscribes a version of the Seattle WTO protests that contests the "official" histories represented in the mainstream media. The lyrics gesture towards the power of collective action, emphasize police brutality and directly contest newsreporters' assertions that "the anarchists started it".   

"No Rest For the Weary" is an amazing song that makes connections between the present and the past. In particular, it emphasizes legacies of colonialism and slavery in ways that emphasizes its relevance to the contemporary moment. I won't go into the specifics of the song, because I think the lyrics speak for themselves.

I wonder whether we might be able to think of sound functioning not just as a tool for teaching, but as a medium for teaching as well.

 

 

ericdyoder1

Really, Daniel??? Really???

Combining audio with text in electronic books actually represents a return to a more natural way of conveying stories.  For most of human history, stories existed exclusively in an oral tradition.  The later practice of converting stories to text has obviously been crucial in allowing us to preserve stories and transmit them over time and space, but the stories do arguably lose something in the translation.  Authors work hard to combine words in ways that compensate for what is lost.  Combining audio with text (especially the human voice) in electronic books may allow authors to tap into the oral tradition in creative and powerful ways. 

epow

Audio learning

Sound not only enhances the story and text that is already there.  In audiobooks, the addition of sounds provides the words, emphasis, emotions (and at time the ambience) that text alone can't convey.  The sound helps makes the story - the story!

jakec9

So...

If that is indeed the case, that sound acts as a layer that enhances the underlying text (which I buy, by the way), then what are the ramifications for the classroom? If English teachers begin assigning/using audio text with books, will students' ability to read tone atrophy? And, I suppose some would ask, so what if it does? If we're moving into a multimodal, multimedia world, they would ask, what does it matter if a student can't read/interpret tone?

(I suppose I should attempt an answer to my own questions... My initial thought is that listening to audio while reading wouldn't necessarily atrophy that particular perceptive reading muscle unless it was way overdone. Though I do worry that what might atrophy (and might already be fading) is students' ability to convey tone accurately without certain abbreviations, emoticons, etc. And since students are writing more now than they have in decades, that could be a problem.)

Megan Turner

Queer Beats and Dance Floor Utopianism

The earlier discussion of embodiment and music brought to mind not just the neurological processes of listening, but also the kinetic process of dancing. Recently, I’ve been working on an article that analyzes immigrant-produced punk rock by bands like Gogol Bordello as a sonic reterritorialization of the symbolic space of the U.S. frontier. My article ends with a theorization of the multicultural mosh-pit as a collective articulation of transnational solidarity and identification. My conception of the transformative possibilities of performative, kinetic engagements with music has been largely shaped by the work of Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), the incomparable dancer, anthropologist, and social activist famous for her “research-to-performance” methodology—documenting the cultural traditions of African diasporic communities and then rearticulating them on-stage for Western audiences. In 1954, Dunham wrote in “Notes on the Dance”: “The emotional life of any community is clearly legible in its art forms, and because the dance seeks continuously to capture moments of life in a fusion of time, space and motion, the dance is at a given moment the most accurate chronicler of culture pattern. The constant interplay of conscious and unconscious finds a perfect instrument in the physical form, the human body which embraces all at once. Alone or in concert man dances his various selves and his emotions and his dance become a communication as clear as though it were written or spoken in a universal language.” I wonder what people make of this ecstatic function of music, its capacity to function as an expression of emotions that perhaps cannot be otherwise articulated.

It’s hard not to think here of Jose Muñoz’s recent work on utopia as a collective becoming, a gesture towards a collective identity. On the dance floor, we see a swaying, sweaty crowd of individuals who emotionally experience the music in deeply individual ways but who nevertheless subordinate their individual movements to the same beat. It’s also hard here not to think of Jack Halberstam’s work on queer time, since the dancefloor is so clearly a space of consumption that doesn’t contribute to biological reproduction (aka, straight time). In a very literal way, club music marks out a cyclical (I would argue queer) time that interrupts the linear progression of straight time.

In the world of mainstream club music, Lady Gaga seems to be the predominant voice of the queer—not only is she the most prominent, openly-gay musician in the genre, her music’s overtly synthetic tone and clear technological mediation codes her musical production in ways that evoke her queer body’s potential for the type of "unnatural" reproduction that society associates with non-heterosexual women. Like a series of cloned, “test tube” embryos laid out in a specimen tray in a medical lab, club music consists of a series of identical, technologically-reproduced music samples which can be repeated indefinitely because their production isn’t limited by the restraints of organic, heterosexual (re)production (as opposed to a rock band, whose rhythm and sound is dependent upon their bodies for production). In its normalization of presently non-normative non-heterosexual (re)production practices, club music constitutes a queer futurity and utopianism which is, as José Muñoz describes it, “a great refusal of the overarching here and now.” I’m interested to hear what people make of the alternative production practices and temporalities that electronic music, in particular, seems to open up.

And what do people make of this in relation to the intersections between race and sexuality that the history of music censorship makes clear? The dominant culture has historically policed the sonic terrain of permissible music (for white consumption) by labeling genres like blues and “race music”/rock as too sexual. Such a designation assumes a connection between aural consumption and bodily action. Music here is figured as a medium of contamination, a space where ostensibly immutable constructions of race break down when confronted by the bodily, implicitly sexual desires supposedly encoded in dance. How do we account for the lived experience of music? Can we think of it as a site of embodied, collective resistance to heteronormative, capitalist and exclusionary discourses?

Ashon

mash ups

so a not-so-random question but: does anyone know how to create mash ups?  and, would anyone be willing to give ma tutorial on how to do this?  i've searched online and i keep coming up with things that look far too...daunting for me to understand.  so i figured i'd ask you all...

salvo7

Mashup Tools

Ashon, 

I've been using Garageband and Audacity, with Audacity being most flexible. Be sure to get the LAME plugin for MP3 encoding. 

Some results are here: http://www.bgsu.edu/cconline/rickert_salvo/content.htm

With the article starting here: http://www.bgsu.edu/cconline/rickert_salvo/start.htm

Derived from: http://courses.kathiegossett.com/fa08/766_866/pdfs/rickert_salvo.pdf 

Will Burdette

More tools

We used this software for a contest in conjunction with the DJ Spooky event:

http://www.algoriddim.com/djay

Aviary's Myna is another possible too for making audio mash-ups (online):

http://www.aviary.com/tools/audio-editor

I'm currently using Logic Pro (GarageBand's big brother).

But I'm thinking of two possible moves in the next semester. There is a light, inexpensive version of Pro Tools (which is widely regarded as the industry standard):

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PTMPv8FullEdu/

Ableton Live is also getting a lot of hype right now. Educational pricing is here:

http://www.ableton.com/pages/education/discounts/personal

Free, fully functually 30-day trials are also available here:

http://www.ableton.com/downloads

The most important thing, I think, when working with DAWs is to have a community of users (online or in meatspace) who can help you troubleshoot.

These are all software answers to your question of how you do this. So picking software is step one. Finding samples is step two.

 

sean_mc

Personally, I'm a big fan of

Personally, I'm a big fan of Myna, primarily because it's online. I used it with a group of middle school students during the summer (on computers that didn't have a great broadband connection) and it worked really well. The kids got the interface pretty quickly, and were quickly composing their own hip-hop song. Obviously Pro-tools and other interfaces are going to have much more functionality, but I think Myna is really good -- particularly as a pedagogical fix. Because it's web-based, students can log onto it anywhere, which neatly solves the mac/windows division we encounter everywhere. 

Will Burdette

Tutorials

Ashon,

I posted some tools elsewhere. But as far as tutorials go, here's what I do:

Once I have a tool picked out, I think of what I want to do. Then I look for YouTube vids for that specific task. So, for example, Searching YouTube for "pitch correction in Logic Pro" is how I figured out how to make the HASTAC autotune posted elsewhere. Then you just build your skills one task at a time.

I also created a quick lesson plan for my students in which they create mini mash-ups. It introduces them to a couple different pieces of software. It also makes them mix rhetoric/literature with music:

http://www.dwrl.utexas.edu/content/remixing-ringtones

Plus, they get a novelty ringtone to take out of class with them.

Example ringtone forthcoming.

 

Will Burdette
Ashon

a possible CFP of interest - "Sound and Unsound" @ UVA

Sound and Unsound: Noise, Nonsense, and the Unspoken

The University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference

April 1-3, 2011

 

What are the roles of sound and sense in creating meaning? Whether puzzling through the nonsense words of “Jabberwocky” or listening to a Bach cello suite, we continually confront sound in a wide variety of print and media contexts. Most of us automatically order sounds into conventional categories—speech, music, bird song, sirens—but we rarely examine the fundamental assumptions that lie beneath these judgments. An unexpected distortion or harmony of sound can profoundly affect our perception of a piece of art, a public speech, or a conglomeration of noises in a cityscape. Additionally, the distinction we draw between music and noise parallels a broader distinction between sense and nonsense, as explored by visual artists such as M. C. Escher and others who manipulate our understanding of reality. The aim of this conference is to interrogate the intersection of sound, sense, and nonsense in texts from across the disciplines and to examine the connection between this sensual experience and the creation of meaning.

 

Keynote Speaker: Daniel Albright

Daniel Albright is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University. His areas of interest include nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, music, and painting; theory of comparative arts; lyric poetry; Shakespeare and music; Surrealism and British literature; and science and literature. His books include Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources (2004), Beckett and Aesthetics (2003), and Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature and the Visual Arts (2000).

 

Master Class Speaker: Eric Lott

Eric Lott is a Professor at the University of Virginia. His interests include American studies and cultural studies. His publications include The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual (2006) and Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993) which won the MLA Best First Book Prize in 1994 and the Myers Center for Human Rights Book Award.

 

Other topics might include:

  • What is the relationship between the spoken and unspoken?
  • Does silence in a text necessarily betoken a failure of language?
  • What differentiates a melody from meaningless noise?
  • Can nonsense or silence communicate truth? Or, can we make sense of nonsense?
  • How can manipulations of tone, sense, and sound stabilize or destabilize texts, pieces of music, or other works of art?
  • How does sound work across disciplines to create meaning in unexpected ways?
  • Taking “sound” in its psychological sense, how can we interrogate the normativity of sense and sanity?
  • What is the relationship between public and private sound or noise?
  • How do verbal forms of communication compare to musical and visual forms?

 

We are seeking submissions from a wide range of fields including, but not limited to, literature, music, philosophy, logic, linguistics, the sciences, visual arts, religious studies, film, theater arts, and textual studies. Interdisciplinary submissions are encouraged.

 

We are currently soliciting proposals for 15-minute presentations on three-person panels. To submit, send an abstract (up to 350 words) to gesaconference2011@gmail.com by January 21, 2011. Please include your name, institutional affiliation, and any technological needs.

salvo7

moved

moved

wcoogan

audience noise

Last night I attended a concert of music by student composers and was reminded about the issue of audience noise. Why do I find it so distracting at classical concerts when I find audience noise invigorating at clubs/rock concerts? I don't feel one type of music is more deserving of my attention than another. I know each genre has its tradition, but until the last century or so it was the norm to chat and have a beer at the opera. Is the transition to quiet attention why young people are in such short attendance at these events? I think a lot of the difference for me is the abruptness of audience sound at classical concerts (as opposed to a static white noise). Even so, I'm not sure I'd want to be at a classical concert in a hall full of chatty folks. I maintain that folks on the phone are equally obnoxious at both venues (and elsewhere)! Does anyone know precisely why the audiences at classical concerts became so tame?

Ashon

"sound" making an "artistic" comeback?

Artist wins Turner Prize with sound installation

LONDON – An artist who used her own singing voice in an art installation won the prestigious Turner Prize award for contemporary art on Monday.

Susan Philipsz received the 25,000 pound ($39,000) prize at the Tate Britain in London for her recording of herself singing three versions of the 16th-century Scottish folk song, "Lowlands Away."

It was the first time a sound installation had been shortlisted for the prize since it was set up in 1984 to promote modern British art.

The installation was exhibited in an otherwise empty gallery.

"Drawing on the powerful, immersive properties of sound and the human voice, Philipsz is engaged with the notion of singing as a physical and sculptural experience," the organizers said in a statement.

The prize is open only to British artists under the age of 50. Prior winners include well-known British artists Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Philipsz was up against painter Dexter Dalwood, Angela de la Cruz and The Otolith Group filmmakers. They would each receive 5,000 pounds ($7,800).

The prize is named after esteemed British painter J.M.W. Turner.

installation won the prestigious Turner Prize award for contemporary art on Monday.

Susan Philipsz received the 25,000 pound ($39,000) prize at the Tate Britain in London for her recording of herself singing three versions of the 16th-century Scottish folk song, "Lowlands Away."

It was the first time a sound installation had been shortlisted for the prize since it was set up in 1984 to promote modern British art.

The installation was exhibited in an otherwise empty gallery.

"Drawing on the powerful, immersive properties of sound and the human voice, Philipsz is engaged with the notion of singing as a physical and sculptural experience," the organizers said in a statement.

The prize is open only to British artists under the age of 50. Prior winners include well-known British artists Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Philipsz was up against painter Dexter Dalwood, Angela de la Cruz and The Otolith Group filmmakers. They would each receive 5,000 pounds ($7,800).

The prize is named after esteemed British painter J.M.W. Turner.

Will Burdette

Book Club?

I'm reading Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity by Alexander G. Weheliye right now. Anyone want to join me and disicuss? (Sorry if I missed a post where this book was brought up...a quick scan and search leads me to think it hasn't been.)

 

Ashon

it's a great book

i suppose i need to dust it off the shelf...

Lisa Klarr

Obsolete Sounds

(re-posted from my HASTAC blog!)

I've been thinking a lot about how obsolete technological objects continue to haunt our cultural lives. Following Colin Davis' gloss of Derrida's 'hauntology' as that which 'supplants its near-homonym ontology, replacing the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present nor absent, neither dead nor alive,' I'm captivated by all of the ways in which the object (let's say, for example, the classic NES) persists in the form of specters, traces, and motifs. In other words, I'm interested in all the ways in which people express their Nintendo-ness after the Nintendo (or Atari or Coleco) effectively becomes defunct. In terms of sound (only one dimension of the entire NES experience), video game cover bands like The AdvantageThe Minibosses, and Select Start keep the game noises alive with their instrumental tributes to everyone's top ditties: "Super Mario 2," "The Legend of Zelda," and "Castlevania," to name just a few. Orchestras like "PLAY! A Video Game Symphony" likewise compose adaptations of various titles in the NES catalogue (typically drawing on Koji Kanjo's repertoire). Cell phone ringtones offer classic gamers thirty-second bytes of their favorite synthesized jingles. Synth pop groups like Crystal Castles (name taken from an Atari game) sample classic video game beats in their experimental mash-ups. In their complex orchestrations, the beat becomes the cipher, the key to unlocking the central architecture of otherwise frenetic compositions. Their track Seed regularly intersperses the 'twing' sound I associate with the gold Mario Brothers coin (but it's probably an Atari 8-bit chip). Alice Practices is maniacally fueled by 'high score' and 'laser' sounds. The group belongs to a sub-genre of music known as 'chiptune' which utilizes video game sound chips to produce non-video game music. Corroborating Mc Luhan's theory of obsolescence--he surmises that the form of old technology becomes the content of the new, giving examples of how the 'theatre' or the 'novel' becomes the (narrative) content of television and the movies--the chiptune aesthetic takes for its content the variegated forms of our video game past. The book E is For Ecstasy (unfortunately out of print) makes a parallel argument for how electronic music reproduces the sonic landscape of the factory floor. Might we then argue that outfits like Crystal Castles ultimately reproduce the sonic landscape of our video game youth: all of the chingsszwurps, and thaps that would otherwise lapse into obscurity with the obsolete console?

Nick Seaver

A brief history of chiptunes

For people interested in chiptunes, I highly recommend this historical article by two former colleagues of mine. I think the details of the history sometimes get lost in our broader interests about nostalgia, and it is helpful to situate contemporary artists influenced by "chiptunes" with the history of composing for/with chips.

 

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/96/94

Ashon

American Anthropological Association - Sound Studies Issue!

http://www.aaanet.org/publications/articles.cfm

Full-text December 2010 In Focus commentaries will be available here through December 31, and subsequently through AnthroSource. Share your comments on these articles through theAAA blog and look at select photographs from AN on Flickr. Read more about accessing Anthropology News electronically on our archives page. See the AN homepage for information on opportunities to contribute to AN.
 
December ANSoundscapes and Music Traditions

In this first of two series on music and sound, contributors explore soundscapes and music traditions. We see various contexts for the examination of sound as well as how music traditions are affected by technological changes. We also read about how conflicts revolve around particular soundscapes and examinations of sound in distant contexts—one reaching back into history, and another reaching into the world of recordings by and about Osama bin Laden.

AN is also pleased to offer for the first time sound files as supplemental material to some In Focus commentaries. Once the full issue is available on AnthroSource, login and click through to the December 2010 AN. Choose the article you’re interested in, and click on "HTML Version and More Information." This will bring you to the Wiley-Online Library where links to the sound files and other supplemental material (like transcripts) will be available with the article’s information. This month commentaries by Rupert Cox, Flagg Miller and Ronda Sewald include such supplemental files available through AnthroSource.

David Novak
Listening to Kamagasaki

Andrew J Eisenberg
Toward an Acoustemology of Muslim Citizenship in Kenya

Eitan Wilf
Listening to Modernity: Creativity and Cultural Reproduction in American Postsecondary Jazz Education

Ronda L Sewald
The Untidy Reality of Complaints About Music: Reexamining the Power Relations of Sonic Disputes

Jonathan Glasser
Andalusi Music as a Circulatory Practice

Stefan Helmreich
Listening Against Soundscapes

Catherine Grant
Losing Sound: The Threat to Local Musics and Global Musical Diversity

Flagg Miller
Lessons from the Art of an Egg: The Ethics of Sound in the Osama bin Laden Audiotape Collection

Rupert Cox
The Sound of Freedom: US Military Aircraft Noise in Okinawa, Japan


Ashon

have we discussed Zenph?

http://www.zenph.com/

from the site:

We're Zenph Sound Innovations, and we are obsessed with expanding the creative and commercial possibilities of music. We're musicians, computer scientists, developers, researchers, inventors, recording engineers and music fans. Every day we challenge ourselves to push the boundaries of the possible. Our cutting-edge work is liberating music from its medium and our new technology will allow you to create, compose, and teach music in a way that's been previously unthinkable. This is a thrilling time to be working with music . Come see what music can do. 

 

Nick Seaver

My wheelhouse!

We haven't discussed Zenph in this thread yet, but they are one of the subjects of my master's thesis on automatic pianos (warning, PDF--the Zenph material is in the first and last chapters): A Brief History of Re-performance

The basic idea is taking historic recordings, which they characterize as "flawed" in some way or other (in mono, live, just plain old), and re-making them. At the moment they primarily work with modern "player" pianos, like the Yamaha Disklavier, for which they generate "re-performance" files from analyses of the original audio recording. This allows them to re-record the "original" performance, banking on the semantic fluidity of the idea of "original." They've done Glenn Gould's first Goldberg Variations record, and response is mixed/fascinating. People are convinced that they can or can't tell that the piano is played robotically.

I think the topic is fascinating (and resonates with many of the other questions brought up in this thread, from what I think is an important alternative angle). I'd love to hear what other people think about this kind of project!

Ashon

thanks for this Nick

i was surprised at how upset i became when i was *ehem* at a bar and the discussion of Zenph came up.  surprised because i knew that technology like this existed and because i do see the potential benefits of such technology.  it was the rhetoric of need and perfection that so staggered me and, quite frankly, annoyed me.

the person touting the glories of Zenph stated two things that i found quite troubling: 1) that Zenph technology can reproduce music perfectly and could "correct" the incorrect playing of someone like, say, Art Tatum and 2) that he "heard Art Tatum, live, on the stage without his being there."

well.  i wonder what exactly is personhood when the materiality of our bodies is not necessary.  is this some engagement with or divergence from Butler's Bodies That Matter, where what is of important is the discursivity of the materiality of bodies, and not the flesh.  what does it mean to make the latter claim, that Art Tatum was there by way of the music and sounds he produced?  but could he be "there" if his intentionality in his performances were not necessarily about the production of "perfection?"  it just seems to me that some technologies get taken up in discourse to do two different things: 1) resist notions of authenticity (if Zenph can reproduce Art Tatum without Art Tatum, then Art Tatum is not necessary to produce sounds of Art Tatum; hope that makes sense), or, to quote Stein, "there is no there there" and 2) asserts that there is some real essence, here in sound and music creation, performance and as you'd maybe say, re-performance, that can be discovered and, most problematically, owned, captured, secured, seized.  it appears to me, at least, that these two are divergent rhetorics that have at the heart of them the reduction and subsequent removal of the various ways in which Art Tatum (as a category) shows up and disrupts creation and performance.  

i'm sorta still thinking, aloud even, about how this is a repressive idea: rather than rhetorically understanding the ways in which technologies allow the flourishing of creation (the Pentecostal tradition i research is all about the Hammond B-3 organ and that's a technology and not "natural" nor "acoustic" but is still part and parcel of the social-sonic world), these technologies like Zenph are understood as replacing, revising and correcting.  and i'm not really cool with that latter.  

Scott Trudell

Performing the Book

Hello all,

I'm helping to organize an upcoming conference at Rutgers University that dovetails with our discussion, and I wanted to let you know about it.  The conference is entitled Performing the Book: Multi-Media Histories of Early Modern Britain, and it will be held in New Brunswick, NJ on February 11.

Have a look at our conference poster, which includes an abstract and the full program, here.  Although our focus is early modern England, we will be raising larger methodological questions about sound and "new" media history that will be relevant to many of you.

Those of you who are a NJ transit ride away would be very welcome, and those further afield should note that we will be experimenting with a live webcast of the event using Adobe Connect software.  Please contact me at trudell@eden.rutgers.edu to register, or for more information.

Cheers!

Scott

wcoogan

the most wonderful time of the year?

Thought it would be good to have holiday post :)

 

I admit that I'm a total Scrooge and can only tolerate Christmas music for about half an hour Christmas morning. Christmas itself is wonderful- it's just the music. I'm not trying to start a debate on its merits, but along with having to listen to this music on every radio commercial since August, I've noticed some other attributes that might be of interest here. How is it that the addition of sleigh bells to a normal radio commercial makes it a Christmas commercial? Do the voices seem more cheerful, even delusionally so, in these same ads? If that's what sells, why would they be less cheerful other times of the year?

 

Happy Holidays all!

 

Will Burdette

The sounds of holiday delusion

‪I hate Christmas music and movies. But this year, we tried to watch a Christmas movie every day in December leading up to Christmas. What this did was reaffirm my belief that most of it is crap. But it also made me understand that the Christmas movie is a sparse genre. I think the same is true for Christmas music. That is, I think there is just less of it. Not everyone attempts a Christmas song, but when they do, they usually sound like themselves. For example, The Ramones "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)" is not sonically that different from all their other songs. It sounds like The Ramones singing about Christmas. You might not like it because you don't like songs about Christmas. Or you might not like it because you don't like The Ramones. But that song doesn't sound like Christmas.‬

‪As for commercials, the bells and happy voices are precisely as you said, delusions. The bells call to mind The Santa‬ Delusion. The happy voices call to mind the delusion that holidays are (more than any other days) supposed to be all about happiness. I suppose these delusions are used by advertisers to get us to buy more stuff. I'm not saying that a commercial with a sleigh bell will sell more stuff than a commercial without one. But if it helps listeners participate in a collective delusion that collectively sells more stuff, maybe it is an effective tactic. That doesn't make it less anything. But, hey, when is advertising not annoying?

jstoever-ackerman

Sound Related Panels @ This Year's MLA in LA (1/6-1/9)

Sounding Out! has posted a run down of all of the sound-related panels at this year's MLA coming up this week in Los Angeles. We hope to see y'all there. . .or following us on Twitter if you can't make it: http://twitter.com/soundingoutblog 

 

The post includes a shout out to HASTAC!

http://soundstudiesblog.com/2011/01/03/mla2011_sound_panels/

 

 

FionaB

Listening to the sounds.... of sonic.

Happy New Year sound forumers! I just saw this Kickstarter project and thought of you: NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MIDI! From the write-up, "Now That’s What I Call MIDI is a project by Internet Archaeology. They want to make a full length EP containing 16 of your favorite Jamz from yesteryear (Nirvana, Ace of Base, Eminem, Jay-Z …) converted from MIDI format onto the plush sound of vinyl. It will be limited to 500 copies only." It definitely made me laugh, and brought back lots of old memories of awesome websites with midi music in the background, the "That's what I call..." ads on TV, and of course all of the excellent ringtones haunting the cell phones of my past.

trevor_hoag

Currents 2011 - Deadline Extension

Hello Everyone!

Currents in Electronic Literacy at UT-Austin's Digital Writing and Research Lab is still soliciting submissions for the 2011 issue. The new due-date for submissions is February 10, 2011. We would love to hear from you! For the full CFP, please see here (http://www.dwrl.utexas.edu/main/about/cfp-currents-electronic-literacy), and below:

***

Currents in Electronic Literacy (ISSN 1524-6493) solicits submissions related to the theme below. Submissions are due on Monday, February 10, 2011.

Spring 2011 issue: Writing with Sound

Today we live in a society defined--in many senses, and by almost all the connotations associated with the word as well--by the word 'current'.... The old hierarchies of linear thought, sublime (and sublimated!) engagements with art, poetry, music, science, and history are no longer needed to do the ideological work now conducted again along the lines of 'current.'  (Miller 32)

This call for projects begins with a sample, with the echoing of a familiar call to listen to a new kind of logic. The sample comes from Rhythm Science by Paul Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid), who encourages us to go with the flow, to find a good mix, and to listen for new ways of thinking and linking. In conjunction with Miller's appearance as part of the Digital Writing and Research Lab’s annual Speaker Series, we are excited to announce that the Spring 2011 issue of Currents will focus on writing with sound.

The issue will open with a compelling radio piece by Avital Ronell in which she--along with the flute accompanying her--insists that Nietzsche was a DJ. Remixing, it seems, is everywhere. For some time now, sampling and remixing has been a powerful metaphor for writing in digital culture; indeed, the College Composition and Communication Convention took remixing as its theme in 2010. The challenge now is to literalize the metaphor, to allow audio technologies to enter into the field’s descriptions of “the writing process(es),” which will change not just the way we think about and teach writing, but our processes, and so our “products,” as well. In order to encourage and embrace these changes, Currents invites—along with traditional academic submissions—audio essays, podcasts, oral histories, interviews, and other audio recorded genres, as well as webpages, videos, animations, slide presentations, etc., that address sound-related issues. Videos may be uploaded to YouTube.com and shared with currents@dwrl.utexas.edu. (Other video hosting sites may be used. However, YouTube.com meets more accessibility standards than sites like Vimeo.) Audio may be uploaded to SoundCloud.com and shared with currents@dwrl.utexas.edu. Both YouTube and SoundCloud allow for private sharing. During the submission process, please make your audio and video materials available to a limited audience. Audio/video/visual submissions should also include a 500-word document explicating method and performance.

Some potentially interesting lines of inquiry include but are by no means limited to the following:

  • How does the mixing of audio recording and writing create new genres?  How do soundscapes and text work together?
  • How do technical instrumentalities, such as, the materials used to record sounds affect the message? Can sound ever be virtual? 
  • What have we not heard by focusing our attention on the printed page?  How can teaching with sound revitalize the rhetorical canons (especially memory and delivery), as well as the issue of "voice"?
  • What roles do silence and accessibility play in the discussion of "voice"?  What does "voice" mean for deaf and hard of hearing individuals as students, professors and authors?  How can new technologies and pedagogies help educators meet the goal of providing direct and uninhibited language communication access to curriculum?  How can we listen to the "oral" histories, poems, songs, and stories that belong to the signing Deaf community and Deaf culture?
  • How does the practice of remixing change the way we think about literacy?
  • Multimedia encourages a shift in roles from writer to producer--what are the implications of this shift? 
  • Alphabetic writing and audio recording both begin as inscriptions on a surface, but in what ways does the waveform of audio recording differ from alphabetic writing?
  • How might workspaces in the world of audio recording change the way we write?
  • Many theorists, rhetoricians, and philosophers have argued in favor of an "ethics of listening." What further rhetorical and pedagogical implications might such an ethics entail? 
  • Through phonography, audio recording, and writing share a history, what parts of this history do recorders and writers need to bring to light, retell, and reimagine?
  • Through dictation, writers have written with sound for a variety of reasons in a multiplicity of social and technological configurations, not all of which have been mutually beneficial. How might we imagine a productive dictating relationship that ethically distributes power? 
  • From recording for the blind and dyslexic to screen readers, sound reproduction has often been used to extend our (sense)abilities. What kinds of dictation, transcription, reading, and writing tools are on the horizon of assistive technology?
  • As the tools and techniques for capturing and storing literacy narratives and oral histories proliferate, we increase our ability to build and study archives of audio material from many different cultures. What literal and virtual spaces are shared by fields such as sound studies, ethnomusicology, rhetoric and literature?  What are the risks and benefits of building and studying archives? Who might be the secret beneficiaries?  
  • In a classroom setting, how might the use of sound recordings introduce students to the affective and emotional textures of historical experience? In other words, how might sound influence students' understanding of historical context? 
  • In terms of both pedagogy and research, how might we use sound to convey intangibles such as Barthes' "grain of the voice"? What other kinds of intangible, ephemeral, or otherwise ghostly affects and ideas are better captured through sound rather than the written word?

All submissions should adhere to MLA style guidelines for citations and documentation. Submissions should state any technical requirements or limitations. Currents in Electronic Literacy reserves all copyrights to published articles and requires that all of its articles be housed on its Web server. It is the policy of Currents that all accepted contributions must meet Section 508 accessibility standards (e.g., captioning for video and transcripts for audio). While all Currents articles are accessible, readers are advised that these same articles may contain links to other Web sites that do not meet accessibility guidelines.

Please direct all submissions and questions to: currents@dwrl.utexas.edu

stephceraso

The Audible Past, The Mutable Future

NCOUNTERS: The Audible Past, The Mutable Future*

University of Alberta, Graduate Music Students’ Association

 

University of Alberta Department of Music

 

March 4-5, 2011

 

In his influential text *The Audible Past* Jonathan Sterne writes:

“[C]hanges in the form and consistency of sensory experience are bound up in

much larger social and cultural transformations.” Music scholarship is also

bound up in these transformations.*Ncounters: The Audible Past, The Mutable

Future *is an opportunity to explore new approaches to the study of sound

and how they might be integrated with established scholarship. Presented by

the *University of Alberta Graduate Music Students’ Association*, this

conference involves a collaborative series of lectures, performances, sound

experiments and demonstrations. (Ethno)musicologists, music theorists,

composers, performers, sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers are

invited to respond.

 

Many graduate students are exploring novel ways for presenting research on

the subject of music. In response to these innovations and in the interest

of stimulating dialogue across disciplines, *Ncounters* is designed to

extend the conference space both through programming and through the

expansion of modes and settings for presentation. In addition to the

traditional conference hall setting, research and creative work can be

presented by avatar, video, as a stage show, a talking circle, or through

busking. *Ncounters* is a place to experiment, to share, and most

importantly, to explore the possible means for communicating research to

fellow graduate students.

 

*Call for Submissions*

We invite all graduate students from a variety of disciplines to participate

in a forum for theoretical, conceptual, or performative experiments we call

*Ncounters*. In an effort to be inclusive and environmentally conscious we

encourage presenters to share their work in person, by real-time Internet

broadcast (e.g. Skype), or by pre-recorded video with a real-time audio link

for audience feedback.

 

We welcome work on *any* theme, from *any disciplinary *or *

transdisciplinary* perspective. Suggested topics include (but are not

limited to):

 

- acoustics

- acoustic ecology

- aesthetics

- composition/improvisation

- (ethno)musicology

- history/historicism

- music technology

- pedagogy

- philosophy

- popular music

- theory

 

*Compositions*

We are accepting submissions for* *any type of work no longer than *ten

minutes* in length, including:

 

- composed concert works (performers must be provided by the composer, or

a recording can also be presented)

- electroacoustic compositions (stereo only)

- improvised music

- works that make use of interactive technologies

- installations (please note that space is limited)

 

You may choose to have your composition streamed via Skype if you cannot be

present.

 

**

 

*Performances*

We are accepting performances of any kind that showcase aspects of

historical or contemporary technique, pedagogy, or performance practice.

Lecture recitals are welcome.

 

*

All presentations will be allotted a maximum 20 minutes. Each will be

followed by a 10-minute Q&A period. Performances/Compositions will be given

an optional 5-minute period to introduce the work.*

 

*Submissions* must be sent to *uofa.gmsa@gmail.com* by *January 21, 2011 at

11:59pm*

in one of the following formats:

 

- An abstract of about 100-250 words suitable for publication on the

conference website

- A short video clip

- mp3

 

*Submission should include all technical requirements*

 

--

Kariann Goldschmitt

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Music

Colby College

kegoldsc@colby.edu

kariann@gmail.com

skype: kgoldschmitt

 

 

 

Warnner

Sound not only enhances the

Sound not only enhances the story and text that is already there.  In audiobooks, the addition of sounds provides the words, emphasis, emotions (and at time the ambience) that text alone can't convey.  The sound helps makes the story - the story!..Halloween Scavenger Hunt

jwstone

Sound Studies bibliography wiki

Hi everyone, 

I've been meaning to post something here for a long time and do today hoping that there is still an audience of sorts. I'm currently reading for my fields exam here in the Center for Writing Studies in the English Department of the University of Illinois. My dissertation will be focused within Sound Studies -- in my case in what I am calling "Sonic Rhetorics". In essence, I'm interested in how music and sound are rhetorical. Putting the list together was a struggle (I'm sure that I've left important books and articles off of it). It occurred to me that it might be helpful to publish the relevant part of my bibliography for public use (and scrutiny!). It would be fantastic if folks who are pursuing similar scholarly goals would contribute to my list (which I have set up as a shared google doc) with titles of their own. It seems that one of the best things we can do to help those doing or beginning work in this new field is keep an eye on what people are reading.  Click on the link below to access and contribute to the bib. Thanks!

Jonathan Stone, University of lllinois English Department

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zUsAQtSAgtHFAPlvsoyY3DKRQWW3dC3xgQvC...

Will Burdette

Thanks, Jonathan!

I can't wait to read this in more detail. Thanks so much for getting it together.

Off the top of my head (and not in MLA format) I would add these titles:

  • Noise by Jacques Attali (theory)
  • Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines by Lisa Gitelman (history)
  • Drifting on a Read by Michael Jarrett (mystory)
  • Living With Music by Ralph Ellison (literary memoir)
  • That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader by Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal (Reader)

They are all very different and they have been helpful to me in mapping the sub-discipline of sound studies in the humanities. Each represents a different approach to sound and music and there are a ton of others for each approach. 

This is awesome! Woo! Keep bringing the noise to English departments!

~Will