Media Studies 78: Spring 2004
Intermediate Media Projects: Sound/Image

Time/Location: • Tuesday, 2:45pm-5:30pm, Scott Basement Room 3

Instructor: Ming-Yuen S. Ma
Phone: x74319

Office + Hours:
• Scott 213
• Thursday 2:30-4:00pm
• Tuesday/Wednesday by appt.

Course Description
An intermediate-level course focusing on sound theory and organized around the topic of "sound/image". This topic will be examined through reading assignments, screenings and listening sessions, writing and sound recording assignments, in-class presentations, and a media project. In producing their projects, students will engage with the history of audio reproduction and different concepts in sound theory, including the concepts of French theorist Michel Chion, the psychoanalytic theories on the female body and voice, the notion of the soundscape, and the relationship between ethnography, colonialism, and audio technology. Feedback on student projects will be implemented at different stages of the process through in-class presentations, written responses, and group critique session of works-in-progress as well as completed projects. Active participation in this intensive process is crucial. All projects will be presented publicly at conclusion of the class. Workshops on sound recording and sound editing will be held throughout the semester based on the skill level of the students, and the technical requirements of their projects. This class encourages a critical, creative approach to the medium, non-traditional solutions, and awareness of the history of sound technology and media production. Prerequisite: Intro to Video Production.

Course Organization
Class activities include discussion of reading assignments, group critiques, technical demonstrations, screenings and audio presentations. Both works by students and examples of independent media works will be presented in class. Depending on funding and availability, guest speakers (sound artists, film and videomakers, media artists, programmers, scholars, etc.) will be invited to class, or to the Media Studies cinematheque series - be prepared to attend out-of-class screenings and lectures.

Please turn off all cell phones and pagers during class. 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
3. Completion of writing assignments and media project (work-in-progress and final version)



Attendance and participation of all classes is required. Do not miss class or arrive late! If you miss class 3 times without a proper excuse, (e.g. a doctor's note if you are sick) you fail the class. 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.



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 often 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 and emotionally. Our class is a safe space in which students can express their beliefs and opinions. You always have a voice, but please be respectful of others as well. Abusive language and behavior are not be tolerated. Open-mindedness is encouraged!



Class Assignments and Media Project
Students will produce a media project following these guidelines:

_ Your project must respond to the topic of "sound/image," and should engage with class readings and discussions, as well as media works presented in class;
_ Project subject and format to be determined by student, and must be approved by instructor:
- Film/video/audio pieces: suggested length is 10 min.;
- Other suggested format - installation, performance, web-based, hybrid - please specify in your treatment.

_ The process by which you realize this project is as important as your final product. It is crucial that you follow the outline below because you will be graded at various points in the process, as well as when you complete the project.
1. 1-2 page treatment of your media project describing the subject, approach, strategy/methodology, production plan, etc.
2. A working document based on your treatment; it can be in the form of a script, flowchart, storyboard, or a combination of these.
3. Work-in-progress presentation due the week before Spring Break
4. Final version due the last week of classes. All projects will be presented publicly on campus.
I will schedule group crits and individual meetings with students at different points of this process. You will also be required to produce written assessments on yours and your classmates' projects. Both your project and your participation in this process will be accounted for in grading.

I recommend that you create a project folder to organize the different stage of your production. It will also expedite reviews of your process. I will show you examples of project folders in class.

You are encouraged to assist each other in different capacities - this is how independent videos are made in the real world!

Unless an extension is approved by myself in advance of the due date, your grade are reduced by one letter grade (i.e. B to C) per class day your project is late. You are encouraged to meet with me individually during my office hours to discuss your assignments, your grades, and your overall performance in class. I am always open to suggestions and feedback!

Reading Assignments

Required readings are drawn from the textbooks below and articles I will post on our class web site. If you want to purchase copies of the books, go to or

Rick Altman, editor, Sound Theory/Sound Practice, Routledge, New York, 1992.
Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, trans. Claudia Gorbman, Columbia University Press, New York, 1994.
Michel Chion, The Voice in Cinema, trans. Claudia Gorbman, Columbia University Press, New York, 1999.
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Blackwell Publishers Inc., Cambridge, MA, 1991.
R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 1977.
Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror; The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema, Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, 1988.
Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2003.
Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses, Routledge, New York, 1993.

Your final grade will be based on the following
Project (final version) 30%
Project (work-in-progress) 20%
3 assignments 30%
Class participation* 20%

* 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 un-excused 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 awareness of the issues at hand, the historical and theoretical context of their projects and the film and videos they are discussing, 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 honesty -all work done for this course must be the original work of the student submitting it, and should have been undertaken exclusively for this course. No work done prior to this class maybe used to fulfill the class assignments.

Extra credit - Students are encouraged to attend screenings, conferences, lectures, exhibitions and web events related to this course. Write a two-page (typed and double-spaced) report of the event or activity. Include your reactions and feelings. Proof of attendance is required (keep your ticket stubs, programs, etc.) 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.

* I try my best to make my grading criteria as clear as possible, and you are welcome to come and discuss your grades with me. However, I only consider legitimate concerns, and be aware that you grade is as likely to go down after I reassess your assignment. I do not tolerate haggling, bribing, threats, or 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.

Equipment Check-out

Please review equipment usage policy, posted on the Media Studies web site

Equipment is checked-out/in on Mondays and Thursdays between 9am—10pm at Scott Hall basement. Equipment that is checked-out must be returned by 12 noon the day it is due back.

Editing room access keycodes are given out by myself or Enid Blader (x73889, after in-class demonstrations of the equipment. Sign-up sheets for editing hours are posted in Scott Hall basement.

Videotapes and audiotapes for class projects can be purchased at the bookstore, on-line, or at any good A/V supply store (Ametron, Studio Film & Tape, etc.) If you go to a supply store or buy on-line, it is usually cheaper to buy in bulk, so a group of you may want to organize and purchase tapes together.

* A note on general respect and care: we are all depending on each other to keep our equipment in good working order. If the equipment breaks down, no one can complete his or her work! You are responsible for reading and following rules for equipment usage. Enid Balder or myself may revoke access privileges at any time if the rules are not followed. Use common sense and please be considerate of each other: return the equipment on time.



Course Schedule:

Week 1: Tuesday, January 20: Introduction
Class topic
Workshop topics


Week 2: Tuesday, January 27: The Audible Past: A History of Sound Reproduction
General discussion of sound as media
Images of the ear phonautograph 1. 2.
Demo of sound transduction
Examples of works by Christian Marclay
View Channel Untitled (2000) by Diane Bertolo

Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past, Introduction; pp. 1-29 and Ch. 1, pp. 31-85


Week 3: Tuesday, February 3: The Audible Past (cont.): Sound Technology into Media
Reading and discussion
Assignment 1: In-class writing assignment comparing two audio excerpts and discussing their historical  significance based on class readings on histories of sound reproduction

Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past, Ch. 4, pp. 179-214
STRANGE FRUIT (1940) Music and lyrics by Lewis Allan, performed by Billie Holiday (1946), Cassandra Wilson (1995), and The Cocteau Twins (1983)


Week 4: Tuesday, February 10: Audio-Vision
Demo 1 (microphones + other recording instruments)
Reading and discussion
Project treatments due (Treatment Guidelines)
Short in-class presentation

Excerpts from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) Directed by Irvin Kershner
Excerpts from PSYCHO (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Michel Chion, Audio-Vision, pp. 3-34, 185-213


Week 5: Tuesday, February 17: The Voice in Cinema
Reading and discussion
Written responses due

Excerpts from BLADE RUNNER (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott
Excerpts from PERSONA (1966) Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Excerpts from ALIEN (1979) Directed by Ridley Scott
Excerpts from THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) Directed by Victor Fleming
Excerpts from PSYCHO (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Michel Chion, The Voice in Cinema, pp. 1-13, 13-29, 49-57, 75-79, 125-151


Week 6: Tuesday, February 24: Body Talk
Reading and discussion
Demo 2 (digitizing sound, burning CDs)

Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror, Ch. 1 & 2, pp. 1-71
Excerpts from PSYCHO (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock


Week 7: Tuesday, March 2: The Fantasy of the Maternal Voice
Demo 3 (sound in Final Cut Pro + ProTools)
Reading and discussion
Working document due

Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror, Ch. 3 & 4, pp. 72-140
Excerpts from SANS SOLEIL (1982) Directed by Chris Marker
Excerpts from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1951) Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen


Week 8: Tuesday, March 9: In-class Presentations
Assignment 2: Prepare a 5 minute excerpt from a film to present in class. Write a 3-5 page paper (typed and double-spaced) that situates the film and its sound tactics within the context of class readings on sound theory and cinema.


Week 9: Tuesday, March 16: Spring Break


Week 10: Tuesday, March 23: Sound Theory, Sound Practice
Written response due
Screening + discussion

Rick Altman, Sound Theory/Sound Practice, pp. 1-31, 35-64


Week 11: Tuesday, March 30: The Production of Space - Social Space
Reading and discussion
Demo 3 (sound editing)

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, Ch. 2, part 1, 2, 3, pp. 68-168; Ch. 1 optional


Week 12: Tuesday, April 6: The Production of Space - Spatial Architectonics
Work-in-progress presentation
Reading and discussion

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, Ch. 3, part 1, 2, pp. 169-228; Ch. 4 optional
Structural Adjustments (2000) by Ultra Red, Mille Plateaux


Week 13: Tuesday, April 13: The Soundscape
Work-in-progress presentation
Reading and discussion

R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape, Ch. 1-3, 4-6, pp. 15-99
Second Nature (1999) by Ultra Red, Mille Plateaux


Week 14: Tuesday, April 20: Sound, Ethnography, & Colonialism
Work-in-progress presentation
Reading and discussion

Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity, Ch. 14-15, pp. 193-235


Week 15: Tuesday, April 27: Individual Meetings
Students meet individually with instructor this week
Written response due
Project assessment and completion plan due



Week 16: Tuesday, May 4: Final Class Meeting
Wednesday 5/4: Surprise Screening!
Class evaluations
Assignment 3 Presentations



Week 16: Thursday, May 6, 7pm
Wednesday 5/4: Surprise Screening!
Class presentation @ Broad Performance Space
Final version of project due



Week 17: Tuesday, May 11: Final Deadline for Everything
(In my Scott Hall mailbox by noon!)

Wednesday 5/4: Surprise Screening!
Project assessment
Class assessment
Final final version for project


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