Jentery F Sayers
Explores fundamental technologies of expression such as the book, film, and the computer and their implications for social and individual identity-formation, cultural critique, and art-making. Examines how media functions to shape human identity.
FOR SUMMER 2011: “Technologies of Expression: Sound Reproduction Studies"
Since the 1850s, sound reproduction technologies have changed over time. As some were rendered obsolete, others became cutting edge. In one sense, this course is an opportunity for students to trace the history of those technological shifts by attending to everything from the phonograph and magnetic tape to the turntable and the computer. Yet in another sense, the course is a chance to explore how those technologies are culturally embedded. For example, how have artists and writers integrated sound reproduction technologies into their work, and to what effects on other media, such as print? Through advertisements and film, how were certain technologies marketed, to whom, and for what purposes? And when, where, and for whom does a sound seem pleasant, a recording appear high fidelity, or an environment feel noisy?
No doubt, these questions will keep us busy and curious throughout the quarter. And during our conversations, we will also tap into some theories related to listening and seeing. More specifically, we will unpack how those two sensory modalities are often situated in opposition to each other, as well as how they are frequently attached to particular value systems. We will determine how to critically respond to such tendencies by conducting in-class listening sessions, which will focus on various media (e.g., vinyl records, phonograph cylinders, cassette tapes, film, the CD, and the MP3).
The ultimate aim of the course, then, is for students to walk away with competencies in how to approach sound as a historical, aesthetic, and political object of inquiry. To put those competencies into tangible practice, each student will gather several sound sources over the course of the quarter and mix them into a digital audio essay intended for academic audiences.
Student learning goals
Become familiar with key moments in the history of sound reproduction.
Evaluate how settings and material conditions influence human perception.
Examine the intersections of various media, be they audio, visual, or audiovisual.
Understand how to historicize technologies as cultural artifacts.
Practice critical listening through several collaborative and individual exercises.
Produce a persuasive, academic essay through the use of digital audio.
General method of instruction
The class will blend group discussion, in-class listening sessions, and hands-on modules in digital audio. Lectures will be few and far between.
I will provide all course materials, including audio and texts, in class or via a course website. Students should expect to spend little to no money on textbooks or the like. They may wish to acquire their own digital audio recorders.
There are no prerequisites for this course. Students invested in cultural studies, media history, sound studies, and/or audio production may be especially interested in taking the class.
Class assignments and grading
Over the course of the quarter, students will iteratively develop an audio portfolio.
I will evaluate each step in the process, and students will also receive periodic feedback from their peers.