Listening and Society

Timbre, loudness, attack, decay, distortion, softness. We have many descriptors for sound that convey its aesthetic qualities, and that suggest what (not) to listen for. But how exactly does listening take place and what are the broader effects of listening? This seminar explores the emergent field of sound studies from the perspective of listening. Drawing on case studies from a range of historic periods and geographic locations, it will address the following issues: the 19th-century emergence of audio technology as part of disability research; how we perceive spatial dynamics through listening; the cinematic relationship of sound and the moving image; listening as a mode of engaging the environment; and listening as an interdisciplinary research method. Materials from this seminar can be used for curriculum in the history of science, film and cinema studies, music and popular culture, and acoustic ecology, as well as the more general fields of history, social studies, English, and biology.