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“Sounding American”
BRING THE NOISE
What does it mean to listen, rather than to read? How does hearing differ from seeing? Can sound carry the same burden of meaning as a written text? While not necessarily aiming to answer all of these questions (or even to pose them), part of your task in this assignment will be an investigation into the aesthetics, politics, and sociality of sound that will help you question the medium you will use to think.
Your topics can range from the interrogation of a specific theoretical point (Which aural cues establish the difference between irony and sincerity? How do writers convey tone on the page, and how do they read it aloud? What are the social uses of vocal fry, and where do you encounter it? What is the border between speech and music?), to a critical interpretation of one of the poems, articles, stories, audio recordings, songs, or books we’ve encountered on the syllabus. Although you may use more than one object in your analysis, and while you can include material from outside the class, your materials must support a clear central argument whose main argument addresses the materials and theme of the class.
Resources:
Who Sounds Gay? | Op-Docs | The New York Times  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lkm0rmigGOw
https://www.npr.org/2015/07/23/425608745/from-upspeak-to-vocal-fry-are-we-policing-young-womens-voices
Film “Sorry to bother you”
http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_valley/2013/01/lexicon_valley_on_creaky_voice_or_vocal_fry_in_young_american_women.html
Tony Schwartz, “Nueva York”
Requirements:
1) 3 pages essay.
2) You must not repeat material you already wrote about in your first essay for this class.
3) You must submit a written “works cited” page that follows MLA or Chicago format and lists the works cited in your recording.
Grading:
You can quote a sound in much the same way you would cite another piece of supporting evidence. In fact, sound should allow you to add a further dimension to your essay: you might splice a passage from Studs Terkel’s Working with Tony Schwartz’s “Nueva York” to comment on the intersectionality between class and race.
In addition to shifts in vocal delivery and musical analysis, consider how a musical choice might frame your content (what would it mean to play Kanye West behind a quote about the sound of presidential voices?), how sound can index a medium bound to an historical epoch (through phonographic hiss and distortion or the digital manipulation of a signal), and how ambient noise brought to the foreground of a recording might imitate and comment on the tension between “natural” sound and the voice (pressuring the distinction between authenticity and representation).
Additional Information: If any of you think you’ll take your sound recording further in the future, or just want to get a sense of the field of recording gear, see: http://www.phonography.org/gear.htm
Some examples of standard and more innovative sound work can be found at On the Media (http://www.onthemedia.org/), Radiolab (http://www.radiolab.org/), This American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/), Radio Ambulante (http://radioambulante.org/),
To The Best of Our Knowledge (http://ttbook.org/), Studio 360 (http://www.studio360.org/), Sound Opinions (http://www.soundopinions.org/) and Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Old Time Radio Drama” (http://wpr.org/otr/).
Here is one example of an academic sound essay from another great resource: the blog Sounding Out! http://soundstudiesblog.com/2012/07/18/sounding-out-podcast-episode-7-celebrate- world-listening-day-with-the-world-listening-project/
Additional audio resources:
https://www.thirdcoastfestival.org/
http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/
https://www.thisamericanlife.org/
https://www.loc.gov/audio/
https://studsterkel.wfmt.com/
http://www.ubu.com/resources/

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