First Year Seminar 14: Fall 2022
Writing Sound

Time/Location: T/R, 11:00am-12:15pm, West Hall Q116

Instructor: Ming-Yuen S. Ma
Phone: x74319

Office + Hours:

• Scott Hall 213 (Office hours will be on Zoom or outdoors)
• Tuesday 4:00pm-5:00pm
• Thursday 3:00pm-4:00pm
• Wednesday by appt.
• Use to make an appt.

Course Description
If writing is defined primarily in visual terms, then how does one write about sound? This seminar takes an exploratory approach to think through and write on noise, voice, the soundscape, sound in media and film, as well as other auditory frameworks to introduce students to ways of learning historically and culturally about sound and listening. Sound studies is an inherently interdisciplinary field.  While this course is grounded in media studies, it also intersects with history, visual and performing art, architecture, music, cultural studies, anthropology and ethnography, as well as other disciplines. The course will survey wide ranging topics and cultures including American and European industrialization; rainforest soundscapes of Papua New Guinea; cassette sermons by Islamic preachers in Cairo, Egypt; avant-garde music and DJ culture, to name a few.

I also regularly teach Introduction to Sound Studies, which is a more expanded version of this course, to introduce students to ways of thinking historically and culturally about sound and listening. It and this seminar both prepare students for intermediate and advanced level sound studies courses including MS114: Film Sound and MS115: Sound, Art, and Power.

This is a Writing Intensive Course
This course, if completed successfully, will fulfill Pitzer's Written Expression educational objective.  It is designed to help you - a first year student - develop a strong foundation in critical thinking (i.e., thinking in analytical ways about facts and ideas) and in writing within an academic discourse community comprising of faculty, fellow students, and an educated audience.  Practice in writing for an academic discourse community will prepare you for a wide range of writing, both in your other classes and beyond.  You will gain practice in academic argumentation (presenting a cogent and effective case for a position), as well as in creative expression.  You will develop and refine a set of intellectual tools that make effective college writing a smoother and easier task. All letter-graded assignments will receive written feedback from me. Please meet with me during my office hours at least twice during the semester to discuss your assignments, as well as visiting Pitzer's Writing Center outside of class meetings for help and feedback on your writing assignments.

First-Year Seminars
Required of all first-year students, FYSs are writing-intensive courses that fulfill the college’s Written Expression educational objective. During the course of the semester, students are expected to write upwards of 25 pages, including formal assignments and polished essays, in-class writing, and informal writing exercises outside of class. Drafting, peer review, and revising are central to the process-oriented view of writing that the seminars seek to foster. In response to feedback from the professor and/or their peers in the class, students will have the opportunity to revise at least 10 pages of their written work. Students are also encouraged to visit the Pitzer Writing Center for additional feedback.


The Pitzer Writing Center

Located in 131 Mead Hall, just across from the fountain, the Pitzer Writing Center offers virtual and in-person consultations with peer Fellows trained to work with writers on assignments in any discipline and at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming ideas to polishing a final draft.  The Writing Center is one of Pitzer’s most popular academic resources, holding close to 2,000 one-on-one consultations per year.  I encourage you to make use of the center early and often during the writing process.  To book a 50-minute session or learn more about workshops and other resources and events, visit Specialized appointments are also available for fellowship applicants and multilingual writers. Students working on substantive research papers, like senior theses, may book 90-minute appointments.




Statement of Student Learning Outcome (SLO)
First-year seminar challenges students to achieve the following aspirations:

  1. Engage in an ongoing process of intellectual inquiry and “conversation” through writing:
  2. Grapple with the ambiguity and complexity found within texts, which range from the written word to film, art, performance, and beyond; respond to texts critically and thoughtfully.
  3. Regard learning to write well as a life-long pursuit, not the accomplishment of a single semester or even an entire undergraduate career.
    1. Appreciate and experience the creativity, independent thinking, and intellectual risk-taking involved in effective academic writing.
    2. Craft thoughtful and insightful questions worthy of investigation; raise significant problems.
    3. Recognize and contend with alternative viewpoints/counter-arguments.
    4. Identify research/information needs.
    5. Locate appropriate scholarly and popular sources.
    6. Engage with, evaluate, and draw inferences from sources.
    7. Craft a clear, arguable, and compelling thesis.
  4. Experience writing as a complex social interaction between writer and reader:
    1. Participate in an intellectual community of peers where writing and ideas are exchanged and critiqued.
    2. Rethink and deepen ideas through a recursive process of discussing, drafting, receiving and giving feedback, and revising at any and every point along the way.
    3. Gain awareness of audience and of voice.
  5. Practice writing as a form of critical thinking, rather than merely the achievement of sentence-level correctness.

Seminar-specific SLOs:

  1. To develop an understanding of some of the major schools of thought and areas of study within the field of sound studies;
  2. To develop a sense of the historical and cultural contexts of sound, listening, and sound reproduction technologies;
  3. To develop a beginning knowledge of major sound theories;
  4. To develop the tools to critically address sound across styles and modes of practice, presentation, and acoustic experiences;
  5. To be able to discuss and convey the above-mentioned knowledge and skills in critical written arguments, oral presentations and discussion, as well as through other forms, including sound recordings and media projects;
  6. To be able to work and learn in both individual and group contexts.


Course Organization
Attendance is mandatory at all class sessions every week. Tuesday classes are normally comprised of a lecture and media presentation.  You need to complete all of your readings for the week by class on Tuesday. Thursday class sessions are normally reserved for discussion of the readings, media, and other relevant class topics. There is ample time allotted to discuss the readings and other course material. Normally, class activities include group discussion, online commentary (e.g. discussion questions), media, writing assignments (both in-class and take-home), peer reviews on writing, and student presentations. There may also be guest speakers as well as site visits depending on relevance to our class topic and level of interest. Your participation in class activities will factor into your final grade.

You are required to help frame at least part of the discussion on Thursday by posting 2-3 discussion questions to Sakai/Forums by Wednesday night. Asynchronous discussion of these questions can take place on Sakai forums before and after the class discussion, which should focus the important questions and discourses for the class. Any additional media (e.g. sound recordings, video and other media clips, link to blog posts and articles, etc.) that you think might be relevant to class can be posted to the Sakai/Forums for reference during class meetings.

Attendance and participation of all classes is required. Do not miss class or arrive late! Two absences are permitted without impacting your final grade, while each additional absence will discount your total grade percentage by one (1) point. Absences must be cleared by me before or after (in case of emergencies only) the class you missed in order for it to not affect your final grade. Attendance is determined by when I take roll.

Laptop computers with an internet connection and appropriate software, sometimes smart phones and other mobile digital devices can be used in class only for class-related activities (e.g. taking notes or relevant web searches). I ask students to agree to these conditions for class: no recording of audio, photo, or video unless pre-approved by instructor; no emails, texting, messaging, checking your social media accounts and other non-class related activities on your device. These and other diversions are not acceptable during class time, and will lower your grade.

Course Requirements
1. Attend all classes
2. Participation in class discussions and presentations
3. Completion of all individual and group assignments


Class Participation
Your active, well-prepared participation in class discussions is essential to creating a dynamic (i.e. not boring!) learning environment. Although you will not receive a letter grade for class participation, it will figure into your final grade based on my observations.

We may study sexually explicit, political, and otherwise challenging material in this course. These are not included for shock value, but are legitimate investigations of controversial subject matters in media. You are certainly encouraged to explore difficult and complex subject matters in your work, and you should be prepared to consider these issues intellectually, emotionally, and with responsibility. Our class is a safe space in which students can express their beliefs and opinions within the context of the course material. You always have a voice, but please be respectful of others as well. Abusive language and behavior are not tolerated. Open-mindedness is encouraged!



COVID-19 Policy
While COVID-19 cases have decreased substantially since fall of 2021, COVID-19 remains a pandemic. More transmissible variants are a major concern. Pitzer urges everyone to continue to take steps to protect not only themselves, but other students, faculty, staff, and the Claremont community by practicing good hand hygiene, staying home if you are sick, being up to date on vaccinations and boosters, and wearing a mask indoors. There is evidence that masks are effective in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., Li et al., 2020, Lima et al., 2020, Talic et al., 2021) and everyone is strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear masks while indoors. As COVID-19 safety guidelines and recommendations continue to evolve, please read Pitzer’s Community Messages and FAQs and visit the Student Health Services (SHS) COVID page for the latest campus information and guidance.


Class Assignments

1. Reading assignments should be completed by the Tuesday of the week they are assigned, unless announced otherwise. These assignments are crucial to your understanding of the course material, your ability to participate in class discussions and to complete other class assignments, and will figure in your class participation grade. (part of class participation grade, 10% of final grade along with attendance, etc.)
2. Discussion questions should be posted to Sakai by 10PM each Wednesday night, unless announced otherwise. These questions serve two main purposes: the first is to give you a place to ask questions about the readings and other class material I may present. Some of the readings in this class are difficult and the discussion question gives you an opportunity to address any confusion you may have, or to highlight an idea or topic you are excited about. The second function is to allow myself and the other students to see what the class is collectively having a hard time with or most interested in as we prepare for discussion on Thursday. No letter grade will be given for each week's questions, but I do keep track of who has posted them. You will get one “free pass” on discussion questions, but if you miss more than that for an undocumented reason your grade will be impacted. (10% of final grade)
3. Essay 1 - description & reflection take-home assignment, 3 pages, letter-graded. Topics will be announced closer to assignment due dates. (10% of final grade)
4. Essays 2 - constructing an argument take-home assignment, 3-5 pages, letter-graded. Topics will be announced closer to assignment due dates. (20% of final grade)
5. Essay 3 - research paper letter-graded, final draft due Finals Week. Topic to be determined by student. See assignment guidelines for due dates, criteria, topic options, and other prompts. (30% of final grade)
6. Final presentation: during the last two weeks of this semester, all students will do an oral presentation of their research paper in class. These presentations will take a form of a series of panels. Each student will present for 10-15 min., and each panel will have 60 min., including time for feedback from and discussion with the class. The panel groups will be organized according to your Essay 3 Abstracts. Each group is responsible for organizing their own presentation. See guidelines and grading criteria on group projects. (10% of final grade)
7. Other writing assignments these are short, 1 paragraph to 1 page assignments I will assign throughout the semester, both in and outside of class. They will be in a variety of formats, including responses to sound recordings or other media, historical perspectives, definitions, profiles, and more. These assignments will not receive a letter grade, and some will receive written feedback. Your work here is considered when I assign your class participation and performance grade. (10% of final grade)

All writing assignments must be double-spaced, typewritten or word-processed. Use a 10 or 12-point font, 1-inch margins. As students and scholars, you are expected to learn the basics of academic writing, including appropriate style, source documentation, as well as other practices and styles. Reference to class readings are expected when the assignment specifies such requirements, as are citation of your sources. You are expected to make use of a standard citation format, such as the Chicago Manual or MLA-style, in documenting sources - see Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference, MLA Handbook (ebook available) or another style manual for specifics (OWL - Purdue University Online Writing Lab, recommended by the Writing Center staff, is free and online.) All of these are available at the Huntley Bookstore for purchase, or at the Hannold Library for reference.

Clarity of expression, accuracy, thoroughness, and neatness are among the criteria that will be evaluated. Proofread your writing assignments carefully!

Hand your work in on time. Unless an extension is approved by myself in advance of the due date, your grade will be reduced by one letter grade (i.e. B to C) per class day your paper is late. Excessive tardiness could lead to no credit (i.e. an "F") for the assignment.

Revisions are an integral part of academic and other forms of writing. You have the option to revise Essays 1 or 2 (choose one) based on the feedback you have received for a different grade. These revisions are due on Thursday 12.8. Revisions are a part of the process for Essay 3. They are mandatory and are scheduled into the syllabus (due on Thursday 12.8, final draft due during Finals Week on Thursday 12.15).

In this class, you are required to meet with me individually during my office hours to discuss your assignments, your grades, and your overall performance in class. This is a good practice to cultivate for other courses you will take during your academic career. I am always open to suggestions and feedback!



Sound & Other Media
Films, videos, and other moving image media shown and discussed in class are usually on Sakai (, see "Film Playlist") or on the internet (e.g. YouTube) which are linked to this web syllabus. Sound recordings are either accessed through links or posted in a Box folder called "Sound Studies Audio Resources" ( which I will give all of you access to before a listening assignment. Lastly I may draw from a no-longer-active class blog built by students in earlier version of Introduction to Sound Studies.

Reading Assignments
You should complete all the reading assignments by the Tuesday of the week when they are assigned. Please purchase the Sterne textbook. Required readings, when selected from optional textbooks, will be posted on Sakai/Resources. Reading assignments are drawn from the following texts:

Required Textbook
(can be purchased at the Huntley Bookstore)
Jonathan Sterne, ed., The Sound Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, 2012

Optional Textbooks (Required readings from these books will be posted on Sakai, some are available as ebooks through Claremont Colleges Library)
Michael Bull & Les Back, eds., The Auditory Culture Reader (Sensory Formations), London: Berg Publishers, 2004
Christoph Cox & Daniel Warren, eds., Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, London: Continuum, 2004
Caleb Kelly, ed., Sound, Documents of Contemporary Art Series, London/Cambridge, MA: Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press, 2011
Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013
Mark M. Smith, Hearing History: A Reader, Athens: Georgia University Press, 2004

Additional References (Many are available as ebooks at the Library. A good place to start your research for final paper and projects)
Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound (Film and Culture Series). New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
---, editor, Sound Theory Sound Practice. New York: Routledge, 1992. G. Douglas Barrett. After Sound: Toward a Critical Music. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
Jacques Attali. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2002.
Jean-Francois Augoyard & Henry Torgue. eds. Sonic Experience: A Guide To Everyday Sounds. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006.
G. Douglas Barrett. After Sound: Toward a Critical Music. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
Jay Beck & Tony Grajeda. eds. Lowering The Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
Karin Bijsterveld. Mechanical Sound: Technology, Culture, and Public Problems of Noise in the Twentieth Century (Inside Technology). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.
Barry Blesser & Linda-Ruth Salter. Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.
Michael Bull. Sirens. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.
---, Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience. New York: Routledge, 2007.
John Cage. Silence: Lectures and Writings, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961.
Adriana Cavarero. For More Than One Voice: Towards a Philosophy of Vocal Expression. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.
Michel Chion. Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.
---, Film, A Sound Art (Film and Culture Series). New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
---, The Voice in Cinema. trans. Claudia Gorbman, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
---, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. trans. Claudia Gorbman, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Seth Kim-Cohen. Against Ambience and Other Essays. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
---, In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art. New York: Continuum, 2009.
Steven Connor. Beyond Words: Sobs, Hums, Stutters and Other Vocalizations. London; Reaktion Books, 2014.
Donald Crafton. The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931. History of The American Cinema, Vol. 4, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997.
Mike D'Errico. Push: Software Design and the Cultural Politics of Music Production. New York: Oxford University Press, 2022
Mladen Dolar. A Voice and Nothing More. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.
Leslie C. Dunn, and Nancy C. Jones. eds. Embodied Voices: Representing Female Vocality in Western Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Frances Dyson. The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense, Economy , and Ecology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014.
---, Sounding New Media: Immersion and Embodiment in the Arts and Culture. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2009.
Nina Sun Eidsheim. The Race of Sound: Listening, Timbre, and Vocality in African American Music. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.
---, & Katherine Meizel. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019 .
---, Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015
Veit Erlmann. Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality. New York: Zone Books, 2010.
--- ed., Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening and Modernity. London: Berg Publishers, 2004.
Scott Eyman. The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.
Robert Wallace Fink, Melinda Latour, Zachary Wallmark. eds. The Relentless Pursuit of Tone: Timbre in Popular Music. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2018.
Ana Maria Ochoa Gautier. Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
Steve Goodman. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
Simon Frith & Andrew Goodwin, eds. On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.
Claudia Gorbman. Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
Greg Hainge. Noise Matters: Towards an Ontology of Noise. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
Paul Hegarty, Rumour and Radiation: Sound in Video Art. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
---, Noise Music: A History. London: Continuum, 2007.
Stefan Helmreich. Sounding The Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
---, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009.
Charles Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2006.
Don Ihde. Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1976.
James H. Johnson. Listening in Paris: A Cultural History. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995.
Yael Kaduri. The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Western Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Lilya Kaganovsky & Masha Salazkina, eds. Sound, Speech, Music in Soviet and Post-Soviet Cinema. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014
Douglas Kahn. Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in The Arts. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013.
---, Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
Kathryn Kalinak. Settling The Score: Music and The Classical Hollywood Film. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.
Brian Kane, Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Anahid Kassabian, Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Disturbed Subjectivity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013
---, Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music, New York: Routledge, 2000.
Michael C. Keith. Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008.
Caleb Kelly. Gallery Sound. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
---, Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.
Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young & Michael Wutz, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, eds.,  Sound by Artists. Toronto and Banff: Art Metropole/Walter Philips Gallery, 1990.
James Lastra, Sound Technology and the American Cinema: Perception, Representation, Modernity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Amy Lawrence, Echo and Narcissus: Women’s Voices in Classical Hollywood Cinema. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
Brandon LaBelle, Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance. London; Goldsmiths Press, 2018.
---, Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imagination. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
---, Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010.
---. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. London: Continuum, 2006.
Alan Licht, Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories, New York: Rizzoli, 2007.
Ming-Yuen S. Ma, There is No Soundtrack: Rethinking Art, Media, and the Audio-Visual Contract, Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2020.
---, & Erika Suderburg, eds. Resolutions 3: Global Networks of Video. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
John Melillo, The Poetics of Noise from Dada to Punk. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.
Paul D. Miller, Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.
David Morton, Off the Record: The Technology and Culture of Sound Recording in America, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.
John Mowitt. Sounds: The Ambient Humanities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015.
Jean Luc Nancy. Listening. Charlotte Mandell, trans., New York: Fordham University Press, 2007.
David Novak. Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
--- & Matt Sakakeeny. eds. Keywords in Sound. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.
Walter J. Ong. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge, 1991.
Dominic Pettman. Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics (or, How to Listen to the World). Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2017.
Dylan Robinson. Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020
Tara Rodgers, ed. Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.
Holly Rogers. eds. (with Jeremy Barham) The Music and Sound of Experimental Film. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2017.
---, ed. Music and Sound in Documentary Film. New York: Routledge, 2015.
---, Sounding the Gallery: Video and the Rise of Art-Music. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
Tricia Rose. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
R. Murray Schafer. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1977.
Leigh Eric Schmidt. Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion and the American Enlightenment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
David Schwarz. Listening Subjects: Music, Psychoanalysis, Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.
Hillel Schwartz. Making Noise: From Babel to The Big Bang and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Zone Books, 2011.
Kaja Silverman. The Acoustic Mirror; The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Mary Ann Smart. ed. Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Jacob Smith. Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2008.
Mark M. Smith. Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2007.
---, Listening to Nineteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Jonathan Sterne. MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Sign, Storage, Transmission), Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.
---, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.
Jennifer Lynn Stoever. The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening. New York: NYU Press, 2016.
Peter Szendy, Listen: A History of Our Ears. New York: Fordham University Press, 2007.
Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Timothy Taylor, Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America (1900-1933). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. (ebook available)
Marie Thompson. Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect, and Aesthetic Moralism. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
Gary Tomlinson. The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007.
David Toop. Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener. London: Continuum, 2010.
Steve Waksman. Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1999.
Alexander G. Weheliye. Phonographies: Groves in Sonic Afro-Modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.
Elisabeth Weis and John Belton. eds. Film Sound: Theory and Practice. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

Your final grade will be based on the following
Discussion questions 10%
Essay 1 10%
Essay 2 20%
Essay 3 30%
Final presentation 10%
Other writing assignments 10%
Class participation* 10%

* Your general performance in class including participation, attendance and punctuality, except in the special cases listed above, such as if you have more than 3 unexcused absences.

Generally, outstanding ('A') students in this class have good attendance and completed all their assignments on time. They are consistently well prepared for class, and actively participate in and advance our discussions with pertinent information, questions, and observations. Their work demonstrate their ability to innovate and respond to the topic at hand, awareness of the issues addressed by and the historical context for the media works and genres they are referencing, as well as their ability to articulate their observations and analyses in a clear and concise manner. Only letter grades are given out in this class.

Academic Accommodations
If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your faculty and Academic Support Services in the Student Affairs Office by email at the beginning of the semester if you have not already registered for accommodations. PASS email:

Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the faculty during office hours to discuss their disability/accommodation related needs. Use of Academic Support Services, including testing accommodations, requires prior authorization by PASS and compliance with approved procedures.

It is the college’s policy to provide, on a flexible and individualized basis, reasonable accommodations to students who have disabilities which may affect their ability to participate in course activities or to meet course requirements.

Academic Integrity
All Pitzer students adhere to the College’s Code of Student Conduct, which prohibits academic dishonesty, including those forms of academic dishonesty that are listed in the Pitzer College Student Handbook (Section III.C):

  1. Plagiarism. No Pitzer student shall appropriate the work of another—for example, parts of passages of another’s writings, the ideas and language of another, the artistic compositions of another—and pass them off as his/her own work. Students may not use substantial extracts from books, journals, or other sources without citation.
  2. Cheating. No Pitzer student may intentionally use or attempt to use unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in an academic exercise or examination.
  3. Duplicate papers. No student may hand in the same paper in more than one course without obtaining prior permission in writing from the instructor(s) and stipulating the conditions (such as extra research, length of paper, etc.).
  4. Facilitating Academic Dishonesty. Intentionally or knowingly helping or attempting to help another to violate this code of academic integrity.
  5. Claiming Credit Falsely. Intentional fraud, in which a student seeks to claim credit for the work or effort of another without authorization or uses unauthorized materials or fabricated information in any academic exercise. Academic dishonesty can include forgery of academic documents, intentionally impeding or damaging the academic work of others or assisting other students in acts of dishonesty.

In this class, we’ll discuss how to cite sources, how to engage dynamically with a range of sources to develop your own argument, and how to clarify for your reader where a critic’s voice ends and yours begins. Feel free to contact me if you any questions about these issues.

Extra Credit
Students are encouraged to attend relevant programs (e.g. screenings, exhibitions, performances, lectures, conferences, social media events, etc.)and write a 2 page (typed and double-spaced) report of the event or activity. Incorporate the event's relevance to the class as well as your personal responses to it. Students are allowed two extra credit papers. Announcements for events of interest to this class are done in the first 5 mins. of each class.

Questions About Grading
I try my best to make my grading criteria as clear as possible, and you are welcome to come and discuss your grades and your class performance with me. However, I only consider legitimate concerns, and be aware that your grade is as likely to go down as it is to go up after I reassess your assignment. I do not tolerate haggling, bribing, threats, and any other pointless arguments. I consider all aspects of your performance before I assign a grade, please respect my assessment as I respect your efforts.





Course Schedule:

Week 1: Introduction
Tuesday 8.30/ Thursday 9.1
Go over syllabus, assignments, reading, etc.
What is sound?
Hearing and listening
What is sound studies?
Sound, vision, and Modernism

Writing Assignment #1
Expanding on the sentence you wrote about the sound you chose to introduce yourself to the class with, write a one-paragraph reflection on that sound, and 1) how do you think it places or identifies you within our class community? 2) how does it compare to the other students' choices of sounds? 3) does our class's collective choices of sounds - a choir or orchestra perhaps? - reflect or convey something about our class community?
The final sentence of your paragraph should be an observation about the harmony or cacophony your heard. Your paragraph should be about 150 words in length. Due Thursday 9.1 - post it on Sakai in "Forums" (topic: Introduction) and be prepare to present your paragraph in class this week.

Required Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 1-17
Audio Culture, pp.10-14


I. Sound Theories

Week 2
: Listening

Tuesday 9.6 / Thursday 9.8
Listening as phenomenology
Modes of listening
Ontology of vibrational forces
Case study: cassette sermons in Cairo

Required Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 23-28, 48-72
Audio Culture, pp.10-14

Suggested Reading
Audio Culture, pp. 65-112
The Auditory Culture Reader, pp. 1-18, 25-60, 77-112
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, pp. 3-35
Sound, pp. 112-143
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 73-90

Media on MS52 blog


Week 3: Noise, Intercollegiate Media Studies
Tuesday 9.13 / Thursday 9.15

Silence and John Cage
Noise: The Political Economy of Music
Industrial noise and noise pollution
Avant-garde noise and noise music (time permitting)
Thursday: Intercollegiate Media Studies: guest speaker Elizabeth Affuso, IMS Academic Director

Required Reading
Audio Culture, pp. 25-28
The Sound Studies Reader
, pp. 29-39, 152-167

Suggested Reading
Audio Culture, pp. 15-61 (pp. 59-61 is an interview with Merzbow)
Hearing History, pp. 51-53, 319-330
Sound, pp. 93-107
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 427-448

Media on MS52 blog


Week 4: Voices, Writing Center, Essay 1 Assignment
Tuesday 9.20 / Thursday 9.22

The grain of the voice
Posthuman voices
Vocal uniqueness
Uncanny voices
Thursday: Pitzer Writing Center
Assignment for Essay 1

Required Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 504-519; pick one to read: 520-532 or 533-538

Suggested Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 491-503, 539-554
The Auditory Culture Reader
, pp. 381-480
Sound, pp. 93-107
Michel Chion, The Voice in Cinema
Leslie C. Dunn, and Nancy C. Jones, eds., Embodied Voices: Representing Female Vocality in Western Culture
Amy Lawrence, Echo and Narcissus: Women’s Voices in Classical Hollywood Cinema
Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror; The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema

Suggested Media (on Sakai/Film Playlist)
Strange Fruit (2002, U.S.) Directed by Joel Katz

Media on MS52 blog



II. Histories of Sound

Week 5
: Listening to History / Histories of Listening, Essay 1 Due
Tuesday 9.27/ Thursday 9.29
Aural history
The role of bells in 19th Century French village life
Feminist historiography of electronic music
Essay 1 due Thursday 9.29: upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

Required Reading
Hearing History, pp. ix-xxii, then read Hearing History, pp. 184-204
Or read The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 475-489 and watch this film:
Sisters with Transistors
(2020, U.S.) Directed by Lisa Rovner (on Sakai/Film Playlist)

Suggested Reading
The Auditory Culture Reader
, pp. 117-217
Hearing History
, the whole book!

Media on MS52 blog


Week 6: Histories of Sound & Technology, IGLAS, Essay 3 Assignment
Tuesday 10.4 / Thursday 10.6

Listening and medicine in 19th Century Edinburgh
The soundscape of modernity
Thursday: Pitzer Institute for Global/Local Action and Study (IGLAS)
Assignment for Essay Three

Required Reading
Hearing History, pp. 151-168
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 117-129

Suggested Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 213-224
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies
, pp. 176-197, 201-223, 298-319, 459-479

Media on MS52 blog


Week 7: Acoustic Archive, Library Tour, Essay 2 Assignment, Essay 3 Abstract Due
Tuesday 10.11 / Thursday 10.13

Preserving the voices of the dead
Mechanical to digital: sonification
Assignment for Essay Two
Claremont Colleges Library tour
Essay 3 abstract due Thursday 10.13: 1 page summary of your paper topic, typed and single or double-spaced (1-2 pages OK), upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

Required Reading
Hearing History, pp. 295-318
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, pp. 544-560

Suggested Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 304-324, 475-489

Required Media (watch on Sakai/Film Playlist)
Phantom of the Operator (2004, Canada) Directed by Caroline Martel
The Tailenders (2005, U.S.) Directed by Adele Horne

Media on MS52 blog

III. Sound as Media

Week 8
: Fall Break, Media Networks and Communities
, Essay 3 Bibliography Due
Fall Break - No Class Meeting on Tuesday 10.18
Thursday 10.21

Phonograph and Gramophone: media technology a priori
Gender and early telephone culture
Radio programming and community
Online music sites killed the radio star - or did they?
  Essay 3 bibliography due Thursday 10.21: upload research paper annotated bibliography to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

Required Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 234-247
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, pp. 480-502

Suggested Reading
Audio Culture, pp. 329-350
The Auditory Culture Reader, pp. 281-295
Hearing History, pp. 279-294
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, pp. 254-264, 411-439, 440-458
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 40-47, 283-303, 329-387
Sound, pp. 204-206

Required Media
(watch on Sakai)
PHANTOM OF THE OPERATOR (2004, Canada) Directed by Caroline Martel

Media on MS52 blog

Week 9: Film Sound, Essay 2 Due
Tuesday 10.26 / Thursday 10.28

Sound and film theory
Film sound as representation
Essay 2 due Thursday 10.28: upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

Required Reading
Audio-Vision, pp. 3-13
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 225-233

Suggested Reading
The Auditory Culture Reader, pp. 281-295
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, pp. 347-408
Sound, pp. 200-203, 206-208
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 248-253
Film Sound
, the whole book!

Required Media
Excerpts from PERSONA (1966) Directed by Ingmar Bergman - screened in class
Excerpts from PSYCHO (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - screened in class
Additional media on MS52 blog



IV. Sound Space

Week 10
: Soundscape, Career Services, Essay 2 Peer Review
Tuesday 11.1 / Thursday 11.3

The soundscape
Walkmans & iPods: music and urban space
Essay 2 peer review in class Thursday 11.3: please bring a hardcopy or digital copy of your peer review to class. It should be in a format that you can share with your classmate. After the class meeting, please upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.
Pitzer Career Services visit

Required Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 95-104, 197-208

Suggested Reading
Audio Culture, pp. 40-46, 88-93, 94-109
The Auditory Culture Reader, pp. 137-163, 303-374
Hearing History, pp. 85-111, 267-278, 319-330
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, pp. 39-78, 273-319, 526-543
Sound, pp. 187-193, 208-210
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 105-116, 140-151, 186-196, 265-282, 329-335, 468-474

Bring your mobile music device to class on Tuesday


Week 11: Acoustemology & Representation, Essay 3 Draft Due
Tuesday 11.8 / Thursday 11.10

Anthropology of sound
Representing soundscapes
Essay 3 draft due Thursday 11.10: please upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

Required Reading
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 168-185
The Auditory Culture Reader, pp. 223-239

Suggested Reading
Audio Culture, pp. 67-72, 82-87
The Auditory Culture Reader, pp. 241-279
Sound, pp. 112-117, 123-129, 187-193, 197-199, 219-222
The Sound Studies Reader, pp. 409-418

Media on MS52 blog


Week 12: Open Class Topic, Study Abroad

Tuesday 11.15 & Thursday 11.17
Thursday: Pitzer Office of Study Abroad and International Programs
Essay 3 draft due Thursday 11.17: please upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM and email a copy to the student you are reviewing, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

Required Reading

Suggested Reading


WEEK 13: Thanksgiving, Individual Meetings on Essay 3
Tuesday 11.22

Individual meetings

Thursday 11.24: Thanksgiving Holiday - No Class Meeting

Week 14: Student Panels

Tuesday 11.29
Student panel:

Thursday 12.1

Student panel:

No Required Reading

Week 15: Last Week of Classes, Student Panel, Essay 3 Due

Tuesday 12.6
Student presentations:

Thursday 12.8

Wrap-up discussion + class party!
Class evaluation
Essay 3 due Thursday 12.8: please upload to your Sakai Drop Box by 5PM, MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only.

No Required Reading

Thursday 12.15
Absolute deadline for Essay 3, upload to Drop Box by 5PM

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