Week 1 (Jan. 9) INTRODUCTION







- expanding modes of listening through experimentation

- investigation and interrogation of sound in current events

-  PERCEPTIONS: owning up to them – acknowledging your presence as co-creator and your responsibility towards your own perceptions – let listening act as an x-ray of your own sensibilities – let them be mobilized – notice what you’re drawn to and what repels you – become aware of your own make-up – it determines your perceptions – let yourself be centred and decentred – if you become aware of how you hear/listen, you can use it, mobilize it as material – how can you hear that which is out of conceptual reach?

- BUT ALSO, importantly, how sound connects you to the world, to other humans, to the non-human realm

- how it inflects your sense of TIME

- language is always important (glossary development)

- the relationality, instability, insufficiency of sound reflects on the act of categorization / the freezing of process: in fact, categories make and unmake themselves all the time, slip around, are uncontainable, like sound…


1 – listening / physics / performance (weeks 1-4)

2 – recording / schizophonia / control (weeks 5-8)

3 – space / noise / sociality (weeks 9-12)

3. THREE PROJECTS: performance of a mode of listening; field recording construction; and a sound intervention.


Become aware of your capacity to document sonic occurrences in your daily life, through your various devices. I’ll call on you at various times during the course for you to account for what you have learned through these captures. These recordings should be a combination of “intuitive” field recording grabs and experimental approaches. Make sure to always listen to what you have recorded and to take notes on what is occurring:
- on a phenomenal level
- how the recording differs from the original event, embodied/situated differently (listening to the event after the fact through the recording changes the event)
- start a Soundcloud account to document your evolving relationship with field recording and sonic experimentation (send me the link to post on the class website).


Always have your phone and laptop with you, even if at times we will be working in the computer lab (328).


Select a specific location in the Goldfarb building whose particular acoustics you would like to experiment in.

Select a mode of listening which you will instruct your classmates to adopt.

(OR vice-versa)

Organize a performance between 5-10 minutes which works with both the acoustics of the space and the mode of listening.

Your performance can be visible or invisible.

It can play with time structures (continuity / discontinuity).

Bring instructions or a score which would enable someone else to perform your work (be as detailed as possible).

You can employ language to build up a set of associations (to induce in error, or to intensify an impression).



Are we a visual culture?

The internet as a sonic mode of being: signals always crisscrossing, interpenetrating, mixing into the mess that is any given soundscape.
GPS is more akin to a sonic mode than a spatial mode by the satellite signals that inform its visual interface, back and forth.

sound pressures visuality – challenges the dominance of vision – hence its place in a department of visual arts - what kind of knowledge can only be grasped through sound, without the corrective impulses of vision? (“seeing is believing” vs. “i heard it through the grapevine”)

sound travels where vision cannot: the stethoscope, sonar, morse code, automotive engineering…

sound as process (inherently temporal)

the ears are oriented towards the FUTURE (keeping your ear to the ground) – a distant-early-warning system for perception (preempting vision)

always impure (always a blend of sources / signals – what are the distinctions between a sound and the environment in which it is present?)

SPATIAL IMMERSION: sound immersive / proximal in contrast to visual subject/object separation – SOUND SHAPES PERCEPTION OF SPACE
(TV is an acoustic medium: you can leave the room but still be immersed in it)

always blurring with other senses – inflecting them, infecting them

uncontainable – viral

unlocalizable (not operating in Euclidean space) – ubiquitous (everywhere and therefore nowhere)

lack of verifiability leads to manipulation possibilities

hearing as public sense – always on (prone to infection)

inherently socialrelational :

(“Sound is inherently and unignorably relational: it emanates, propagates, communicates, vibrates, and agitates; it leaves a body and enters others; it binds and unhinges, harmonizes and traumatizes; it sends the body moving, the mind dreaming, and the air oscillating. It seemingly eludes definition, while having profound effect. Sound teaches us, by always being temporal, spatial, and relational, that space is more than its apparent materiality, that knowledge is festive, alive as a chorus of voices, and that to produce and receive sound is to be involved in connections that make privacy intensely public.” – Brandon Labelle)

sound and technology are forever embedded: phonograph, telephone, radio…

sound as a framework to explore the non-sonic: networks (the internet) as sonic, GPS as sonic…

sound and communication are also deeply connected

breaking the binary between hearing and listening

unsound: voices in your head, tinnitus, inner monologue…



What Does Sound Look Like?

sound is differential: “to hear is to experience air pressure changing. . . . One does not hear air pressure, but one hears it change over time…To hear is to hear difference.”

sound is relational: sound is emphatically not where it sounds like it is and also isn’t where it appears to be (i.e., coming from the loudspeakers)

sound is multiplicitous: the relative intensities of the invariant series of overtones produce the timbre of a sound, sometimes called its “color.”

LUCIER—I AM SITTING IN A ROOM (1969) as model for the course.



Describe in a couple of sentences an encounter with sound that was compelling and remains in your memory. The catch: describe your experience without the use of visual metaphors or language pointing to visual realities – description can be analytical, descriptive, conceptual…



Figuring out how to ask questions of what we’re experiencing.

Ives, Stalling, Amacher, Snow, Allora & Calzadilla, Cage.



1. RESEARCH the sound-related link: come prepared to talk about its context, implications, modes of operation etc.

2. LISTEN TO A Brief History of the Waveform

3. I AM SITTING IN A(NOTHER) ROOM:  Organize an experiment in a room of your choice whose acoustics and frequencies you want to investigate. Follow Lucier’s method.

a) Use a phone (A) to record, and another phone (B) connected to a boombox or more sophisticated stereo system which will project the sound more powerfully into the room. Send the recorded files from Phone A to Phone B via email.

b) Use Lucier’s text as material.

c) Repeat this step until your words become unintelligible and turn into a melody.

d) Upload the final file.

FULL TEXT: “I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.”