Students are required to write papers on the following topics. Sample papers presented below are courtesy of the students and used with permission.
For this paper, choose a word describing a particular kind of sound — e.g., ring, ping, zoom, whoosh, clang, buzz, bang, sigh, hush — and try to reconstruct a possible history of the word. You might begin by looking to the Oxford English Dictionary for the word’s etymology and for early usages. If the word has a scientific or technical meaning — as does, for example, reverberation — include and discuss in your history how that meaning arose and has or has not been modulated by popular meanings. Answer these questions along the way: how would you situate your word in an acoustemology? How and in what sorts of soundscapes does it figure? What is the relationship of your sound word to the category of noise? You must engage with class readings to aid your analysis. Provide a bibliography, formatted in the way you see sources cited here in the syllabus.
Exemplary Student Papers
Shera, Katherine. “Siren.” (PDF)
This paper should deliver a discussion of a technology of sound relay or reproduction in connection with these two matters: the question of retrieving sound from other places and times and the question of how to imagine property in sound. Anchor your discussion by choosing a particular example of sound sent or reproduced — as do Feld, Taylor, and Katz — thinking through how and whether your example’s medium of relay or reproduction (telephone, recording) shapes or is shaped by its political economic context. You must engage with class readings to aid your analysis. Provide a bibliography, formatted in the way you see sources cited here in the syllabus.
Describe a sonic public we’ve not discussed in class. Present an example of how a community uses sound (speech or music or even silence) to express or enact its identity. As part of this assignment, deliver a sound-based artifact — a recording, an audio essay, a piece of sound art. You may use any mode of sound representation/reproduction you like — a wax cylinder, an audiotape, phonograph records, a digital file, sound notation. Be ready to present your work to the class. You must engage with class readings in your paper. Provide a bibliography/discography, formatted in the way you see sources cited here in the syllabus.