Sound studies: listening & creating between the material, medium and metaphor

Course Description: 

This is a University-wide Course and it is open to all CEU students.

Sound studies is a name for the interdisciplinary ferment in the human sciences that takes sound as its analytical point of departure or arrival. By analyzing both sonic practices and the discourses and institutions that describe them, it redescribes what sound does in the human world, and what humans do in the sonic world. (Sterne, 2012 p.2)

In recent years there has been an explosion of work on, with or through sound by researchers in the social sciences and humanities. Highly interdisciplinary and often undertaken in cooperation with those outside academia, from musicians to professionals, the field of sound studies is increasingly diverse, daring and exciting.

Using sonic frames to think through how technology mediates relations, how cultures of perception are learnt and changed, and how the growth and diversity of mass media informs communication can help us develop fresh approaches to longstanding questions, whatever our disciplinary home.

This interdisciplinary and experimental course into the cultural, social, political and material dimensions of sound and listening will challenge students to both rethink their existing ideas and develop new interests. Taking sonic mediums seriously, the course includes practical sessions in which students will learn how to create audio materials relating to the topics and theories explored in class including: soundwalks/field recording, podcast production and sound-image-sound transduction.

We will explore questions such as: What is ‘noise’ and why do states seek to regulate it? How does culture shape sound? How does architectural practice change as cities become nosier? What role does sound play in film? What is the relationship between music and social structure? How does technology mediate listening? What can listening more and reading less do to academic practice? How do people listen to religion? How can sound be seen? What else do we listen with apart from our ears?

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will:

  • have an understanding of the possibilities sound studies offers for research within and across disciplines
  • become acquainted with some of the key debates in the field
  • learn how to do field recordings
  • learn how to make a podcast
  • learn how to transduce images into sounds
  • experiment with applying theoretical and analytical insights in work across different sonic mediums

1. Critical questions or comments

(10 % of final grade along with attendance)

2. Presentation

(25 % of final grade – students will be graded on how well their case relates to the topic(s) of the week, the clarity of their presentation and originality of application or argument)

3. Class Podcast

(25 % of final grade pass/fail)

4. Final assignment: Students can choose between three audio production works they wish to develop for their final assignment.

(40 % of final grade - work will be assessed on understanding of key concepts and theories, the application of theories to a case study, originality of approach and clarity of presentation, including production quality)



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