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Tuning In: Soundscapes, Music, and Audio Culture

By John Hyland


While listening to Louis Armstrong, the unnamed narrator of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man discovers a “new” way to hear the “unheard sounds” between the beats, so that he is listening in time and space. Ellison’s novel, with its turn toward music to negotiate the visual ideologies of race, is located at a site of crossings and re-crossings, a site where the narrator realizes that “few really listen”—but even more than listening, it is a feeling of and in the space between the beats that most affects him, a feeling that permits the narrator to descend into the “underworld of sound.” In this course, we will follow Ellison’s lead and dive into this sonic underworld. We will begin by developing a critical vocabulary for the analysis of sound and then proceed to read and listen to a range of cultural production such as audiobooks, sound art, and music. We will study the relationship between sonic experience and cultural formations, consider the role of sound recording in literary works, and interrogate how acts of listening are culturally determined and mediated. Paying particular attention to the material facts of sonic experience, we will develop a deep appreciation for the ways that sound constitutes the self, community, space, race, gender, history, and politics

Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:triceratops.brynmawr.edu:10066/16444
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