21A.360J | Spring 2008 | Undergraduate
The Anthropology of Sound

Listening, Readings and Films

Required Books

Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985. ISBN: 9780816612871.

Bull, Michael, and Les Back, eds. The Auditory Culture Reader. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, 2004. ISBN: 9781859736180.

1 Course introduction      
2 Thinking about sound Vitiello, Steven. Sounds Building in the Fading Light. Creamgarden Records, 2001.

In The Auditory Culture Reader:

  • Bull, Michael, and Les Back. “Into Sound.”
  • Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.”
  • Ihde, Don. “Auditory Imagination.”
  • Schwartz, Hillel. “The Indefensible Ear.”

Feld, Steven, and Donald Brenneis. “Doing Anthropology in Sound.” American Ethnologist 31, no. 4 (2004): 461-474.

3 Acoustemologies

Voices Of The Rainforest: A Day In The Life Of The Kaluli People. Rykodisc, 1991.

Public Works (aka The Tape-beatles). “Waves of Waves,” “Earlids” From Music with Sound. Staalplaat, 1991. [Download from UbuWeb.]

Feld, Steven. “A Rainforest Acoustemology.” In The Auditory Culture Reader.

Stoller, Paul. “Sound in Songhay Possession, Sound in Songhay Sorcery.” In The Taste of Ethnographic Things: The Senses in Anthropology. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989, pp. 102-122. ISBN: 9780812212921.

Lenoir, Timothy. “Helmholtz & the Materialities of Communication.” Osiris 9 (1994): 185-207.

Evens, Aden. “Sound and Noise.” In Sound Ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005, pp. 1-24. ISBN: 9780816645374.



Soundwalk at MIT

Lucier, Alvin. 1970. I Am Sitting in a Room. (MP3 - 21.1 MB) [Download via Lucier’s UbuWeb page.]

Schafer, R. Murray. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Destiny Books, 1993, pp. 3-99. ISBN: 9780892814558. (Reprint of Knopf, 1977.)

Smith, Bruce. “Tuning into London c. 1600.” In The Auditory Culture Reader.

Buy at MIT Press Thompson, Emily. “The Origins of Modern Acoustics.” In The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004, pp. 13-57. ISBN: 9780262701068.

5 Voices

Fay, Mark, and Melinda Simon, compilation eds. Various 20th century. One of One: Snapshots in Sound. St. Helena, CA: Dish Recordings 002.

Artaud, Antonin. To Have Done with the Judgment of God. Radio play, 1947. [Read by Artaud, in French, 1968, from Pacifica Radio Archives.]

Whitehead, Gregory. “The Problem with Bodies.” (MP3 - 2.0 MB) On Music Overheard. Vol. 2. Edited by Damon Krukowski. Institute for Contemporary Art, 2006.

Seremetakis, Nadia. “The Screaming.” In The Last Word: Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991, pp. 64-81. ISBN: 9780226748764.

Miller, Thomas Ross. “Object Lessons: Wooden Spirits, Wax Voices, and Collecting the Folk.” In Properties of Culture/Culture as Property: Pathways to Reform in Post-Soviet Siberia. Edited by Erich Kasten. Berlin, Germany: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2004. ISBN: 9783496027683. (PDF)

Samuels, David. “Alien Tongues.” In E.T. Culture: Anthropology in Outerspaces. Edited by Debbora Battaglia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005, pp. 94-129. ISBN: 9780822336211.

Praat: Doing Phonetics by Computer

Pygmalion. Directed by Anthony Asquith, 1938.

Klingon language documentary from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, 1984.


Telephones and radio

Soundscapes, revisited through sound sculpture

Welles, Orson. The War of the Worlds. Radio play adaptation of the novel by H. G. Wells. Mercury Theatre on the Air, October 30, 1938. [Listen to audio or download mp3 from the Internet Archive.]

The Conet Project. Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. Irdial-Discs, 1997. [Listen to audio or download mp3s from the Internet Archive.]

The Parapsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative. The Ghost Orchid: An Introduction to EVP. Kudos, 1999.

Sterne, Jonathan. “Machines to Hear for Them.” In The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 31-85. ISBN: 9780822330134. [Preview this chapter in Google Books.]

Sconce, Jeffrey. “The Voice from the Void.” Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000, pp. 59-91. ISBN: 9780822325727. [Preview this chapter in Google Books.]

Kunreuther, Laura. “Technologies of the Voice: FM Radio, Telephone, and the Nepali Diaspora in Kathmandu.” Cultural Anthropology 21, no. 3 (2006): 323-353.

Soundscapes, revisited through sound sculpture

Coleman, Beth, and Howard Goldkrand. “Anatomy of an Amalgamation.” Leonardo Music Journal 16 (2006): 53-55. (PDF)

7 Phonograph and gramophone records, compact discs, MP3s  

Davis, Erik. “Recording Angels: The Esoteric Origins of the Phonograph.” In Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music. London, UK: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003, pp. 15-24. ISBN: 9780826464507.

Kittler, Friedrich. “Gramophone.” (1986). In Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Translated from the German by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999, pp. 21-114. ISBN: 9780804732338.

Downes, Kieran. “‘The Most Important Feature of Digital is Analog’: Heterogeneous Users and the Remaking of the Compact Disc.” Manuscript under review for publication, 2008.

Sterne, Jonathan. “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact.” New Media and Society 8, no. 5 (2006): 825-842.

Scratch. Directed by Doug Pray, 2001.
8 Sound, culture, property

Discussed in Feld

“Hindewhu (Whistle) Solo.” Anthology Of World Music: Africa — Ba-Benzele Pygmies. Rounder, 1998.

Hancock, Herbie. “Watermelon Man.” Head Hunters. Sony, 1997 (Reissue of Columbia 1973 release).

Madonna. “Sanctuary.” Bedtime Stories. Sire, 1994.

Mama, Zap. “Babanzélé.” Adventures in Afropea. Vol. 1. Luaka Bop, 1993.

Discussed in Taylor

Enigma. “Return to Innocence.” Love Sensuality Devotion: The Greatest Hits. Virgin Records, 2001.

Chen, Bobby, Huang Lian-Yu, and New Formosa Band. “Song for Jolly Gathering.” New Formosa Band — Best Live & New Remix. Rock Records, 1996. [30-second sample from iTunes.]

Discussed in Katz

Yarbrough, Camille. “Take Yo’ Praise.” Iron Pot Cooker. Vanguard, 1975 (Reissued 2000).

Fatboy Slim. “Praise You.” You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby. Astralwerks, 1998.

Japanese Hip-Hop complied by Ian Condry

People Like Us. Recyclopaedia Britannica. Mess Media, 1992-2002. [Download from UbuWeb.]

Feld, Steven. “Pygmy POP: A Genealogy of Schizophonic Mimesis.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 28 (1996): 1-35.

Taylor, Timothy. “A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery.” In Strange Sounds: Music Technology and Culture. New York, NY: Routledge, 2001, pp. 117-135. ISBN: 9780415936842.

Katz, Mark. “Music in 1s and 0s: The Art and Politics of Digital Sampling.” In Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004, pp. 137-157. ISBN: 9780520243804. [Preview this chapter in Google Books.]

Duckworth, William. “Art and Ethics Online.” In Virtual Music: How the Web Got Wired for Sound. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005, pp. 123-145. ISBN: 9780415966757.

Condry, Ian. “Hip-Hop, Japan, and Cultural Globalization.” In Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006, pp. 1-23. ISBN: 9780822338925. [Preview this chapter in Google Books.]

9 A political economy of sound and noise

Discussed in Attali

Various selections.

Discussed in Fink

Glass, Philip. Koyaanisqatsi. Nonesuch, 1998.

Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Translated by Brian Massumi. University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

Fink, Robert. “Introduction: The Culture of Repetition.” In Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005, pp. 1-22. ISBN: 9780520245501. [Preview this chapter in Google Books.]

Warner Brothers cartoons: Porky in Wackyland (1938), Dough for the Do-Do (1948). [Wikipedia entry on these films.]
10 The sound of music Various recordings selected by Peter Whincop.

In The Auditory Culture Reader:

  • Kahn, Douglas. “The Sound of Music.”
  • Henriques, Julian. “Sonic Dominance and the Reggae Sound System Session.”

Pinch, Trevor, and Karin Bijsterveld. “Sound Studies: New Technologies and Music.” Social Studies of Science 34, no. 5 (2004): 635-648.

Pinch, Trevor, and Frank Trocco. Introduction; “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” chapter 1; and “Shaping the Synthesizer,” chapter 3. In Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 1-31, 53-69. ISBN: 9780674016170. [Preview this book in Google Books].

Theremin. Directed by Steven M. Martin, 1993.
11 Sonic publics  

Gilroy, Paul. “Between the Blues and the Blues Dance: Some Soundscapes of the Black Atlantic.” In The Auditory Culture Reader.

Kun, Josh. “Introduction: Strangers among Sounds,” and “Against Easy Listening, or, How to Hear America Sing.” In Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005, pp. 1-47. ISBN: 9780520244245. [Preview these chapters in Google Books.]

Hirschkind, Charles. “The Ethics of Listening: Cassette-Sermon Audition in Contemporary Egypt.” American Ethnologist 28, no. 3 (2001): 623-649.

12 Styles of silence  

Buy at MIT Press Svenbro, Jesper. “Archaic and Classical Greece: The Invention of Silent Reading.” In A History of Reading in the West. Edited by G. Cavallo and R. Chartier, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003, pp. 37-63. ISBN: 9781558494114.

Bauman, Richard. “Let Your Words Be Few: Speaking and Silence in Quaker Ideology.” In Let Your Words Be Few: Symbolism of Speaking and Silence among Seventeenth-Century Quakers. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 20-31. ISBN: 9780521275149.

Connor, Steven. “Edison’s Teeth: Touching Hearing.” In Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening and Modernity. Edited by Veit Erlmann. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, 2004, pp. 153-172. ISBN: 9781859738283.

Arehart, Kathryn H. “The Nature of Hearing and Hearing Loss.” Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology 6, no. 1 (2005): 9-14.

In Deaf World: A Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook. Edited by Lois Bragg. New York, NY: NYU Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780814798539.

  • Flournoy, J. J., Edmund Booth, et al. 1858. “On Planning a Deaf-Mute Commonwealth.” pp. 13-26.
  • Woodcock, Kathryn. 1992. “Cochlear Implants vs. Deaf Culture?” pp. 325-332.
  • Dively, Valerie. 1999. “Contemporary Native Deaf Experience.” pp. 390-405.
  • Humphries, Tom. 1996. “On Deaf-Mutes, the Strange, and the Modern Deaf Self.” pp. 348-364.

Into Great Silence (Die Große Stille). Directed by Philip Groening, 2005.

Sound and Fury. Directed by Josh Aronson, 2000.

13 The sounds of science

Niemetz, Anne, and Andrew Pelling. 2004. The Dark Side of the Cell.

Redolfi, Michel. Sonic Waters #2 (Underwater Music) 1983-1989. Hat Hut Records, 1990.

Dunn, David. The Sound of Light in Trees: The Acoustic Ecology of Pinyon Pines. Earth Ear Records, 2006.

Recordings from ESA / NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.

  • Radar echoes from Titan’s surface, 2005. (MP3)
  • Speeding through Titan’s haze, 2005. (MP3)

Heat and the Heartbeat of the City

Campregher, Christoph. Molecular Code Project. [As discussed and linked in Bohannan, John. “Can Scientists Dance?” Science 318 (2008): 905.]

Mody, Cyrus C. M. “The Sounds of Science: Listening to Laboratory Practice.” Science, Technology, and Human Values 30, no. 2 (2005): 175-198.

Roosth, Sophia. “Screaming Yeast: Sonocytology, Cytoplasmic Milieu, and Cellular Subjectivities.” Under review at Critical Inquiry. 2008.

Johnson, Emma, and Robert Lecusay. “In Space, NASA Can Hear You Scream: Examining the Meaning Behind Acoustic. Representations of Outer Space.” Paper presented at the 27th Annual Conference of the Society for the Social Studies of Science, Pasadena, California, October 20-22, 2005.

Beer, Gillian. “Wave Theory and the Rise of Literary Modernism.” In Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 295-318. ISBN: 9780198186359.

Helmreich, Stefan. “An Anthropologist Underwater: Immersive Soundscapes, Submarine Cyborgs, and Transductive Ethnography.” American Ethnologist 34, no. 4 (2007): 621-641. (PDF)

Polli, Andrea. “Heat and the Heartbeat of the City: Sonifying Data Describing Climate Change.” Leonardo Music Journal 16 (2006): 44-45. (PDF)

Joachim, Dale. The Owl Project. 2006-2008.

14 Class presentations of sonic communities paper      
Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2008
Learning Resource Types
assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples