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In case you missed our special “War of the Worlds” listening event, you can listen in again to the first part of our broadcast, hosted by Brian Hanrahan, and featuring critical reflections from a dozen prominent radio historians (in order of appearance), including Shawn VanCour (New York University), Kathleen Battles (Oakland University), and Alex Russo (Catholic University) [Part 1]; Brian Wall (SUNY Binghamton), Paul Heyer (Wilfrid Laurier University), and Tom McEnaney (Cornell University) [Part 2]; Kate Lacey (University at Sussex), Jason Loviglio (The University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Paul Heyer (Wilfrid Laurier University), Damien Keane (SUNY Buffallo), Josh Sheppard (The University of Wisconsin-Madison), and John Cheng (SUNY Binghamton) [Part 3]. Part one focuses on radio in the year 1938, part two focuses on Orson Welles, and part three focuses on the War of the Worlds broadcast itself, the media panics which ensued, and aftermath.
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Sound Bites: Vampire Media in Orson Welle’s Dracula– Debra Rae Cohen
Editor’s Note: Welcome to Sounding Out!‘s fall forum titled “Sound and Play,” where we ask how sound studies, as a discipline, can help us to think through several canonical perspectives on play. While Johan Huizinga had once argued that play is the primeval foundation from which all culture has sprung, it is important to ask where sound fits into this construction of culture; does it too have the potential to liberate or re-entrench our social worlds? Here, Roger Moseley challenges us to rethink the philosophical discourses of both sound and play and locates the moments in which they intersect and interface. From games of Telephone to Guitar Hero, Moseley considers the ways in which sonic play can help us understand the phantasmic binaries of the analog and digital.–AT
Throughout the distinguished intellectual lineage of play (where it is touched on by notable philosophers such as Plato, Montaigne, Kant, Schiller, Gadamer, Derrida, and Baudrillard), little attention has been paid to the parallels that can be drawn between sound and play as both media and phenomena. The very name of today’s most prominent cultural and technological locus of play, the video game, overtly privileges the eye at the expense of the ear. As recent research and creative work by such figures as Aaron Oldenburg, Aaron Trammell, George Karalis, and Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo indicates, a surge of interest in audio games, as well as video games that emphasize the importance of sound while eschewing or minimizing visual stimuli, is acting as a salutary corrective to this oculocentrism. In what follows, I suggest that bringing sonic and musical techniques to bear on this history might afford new insights into play and its myriad configurations. Conceiving of play sonically entails thinking of sound playfully. This intersectional logic can, I argue, unpick binarisms that enforce problematic distinctions and constrict thought. To demonstrate this, I conclude by deploying the concept of play to redefine the relationship between the digital and the analog—and vice versa.
How can play be defined in a manner that encompasses its farrago of meanings and associations? For video game designers and theorists Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, the answer is deceptively simple: play is “free motion within a more rigid structure” (Rules of Play, 304). To illustrate the flexibility of this definition, Salen and Zimmerman allude to the phenomenon of light playing upon the ocean waves. They leave unexamined, however, the intimacy and richness of the relationship between play and sound. From a scientific perspective, the patterned oscillation of which a sequence of sound waves is constituted consists of free motion within the limits set forth by the laws of physics. When disciplined and deployed as a cultural technique–take the play of musical instruments for example–sonic play is humanized and rendered transitive. But, we might also suggest that instruments play people, citing the sensation of automation with which fingers flash over fretboard or keyboard. Moving further away from anthropocentrism, we can observe how sonic technologies render play intransitive once more. From the barrel organ to the iPod, sound plays without human aid when mechanically reproduced. This way of framing reproduction invokes and extends Roger Caillois’s playful category of mimicry, which can be construed as faithful imitation, deceptive fakery, or even a Baudrillardian attempt to simulate a phenomenon that never existed.
In order to pay due attention to both the technologies through which sonic play is mediated as well as the cultural techniques imbue it with significance, I suggest that we supplement Salen and Zimmerman’s definition by thinking of freedom, motion, and structure in both digital and analogical terms. To an extent, the adoption of this modish epistemological framework acknowledges that conceptions of play are always constrained by their prevailing intellectual context. More importantly, however, I contend that technologies of sonic generation and representation from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries can be understood to play with the categories of the digital and the analog avant la lettre (ou le chiffre). The two categories are not mutually exclusive and to treat them as such would be to subjugate the granularity of the analog to the binary logic of the digital. Rather, they co-exist as modes between which sounds and players freely oscillate.
The origins of digital sonic play lie within the human body. As Johan Huizinga put it, “the link between play and instrumental skill is to be sought in the nimble and orderly movements of the fingers.” In the course of musical performance, human digits perform innumerable calculations. At its crudest level, musical performance from a score can be construed as a sort of algorithmic play through which mimetic fidelity is evaluated (and wrong notes relentlessly tallied). This ludic logic is at its most visible in rhythm-action video games such as Guitar Hero in which the score is no longer a text but rather a quantitative analysis. The iconography of these games usually indexes a set of digital technologies used primarily for the recording, editing, and playback of music. On the one hand, this relationship can be traced back to Leibniz’s exposition of ars combinatoria and his “invention” of binary; on the other, it is realized by the hydraulic organ and composing machine devised and programmed by the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher, both of which are depicted in his Musurgia universalis (1650). In media-archaeological terms, the combination of Leibniz’s concepts and Kircher’s mechanisms gave rise to the hardware and software of Joseph Marie Jacquard’s revolutionary loom, Charles Babbage’s prototypical Analytical Engine, the player piano, the IBM punch card, and the MIDI sequencer before resurfacing in Guitar Hero, a piece of software that, in purely algorithmic terms, enlists the player’s digits to verify checksums.
Such digital grids may constitute the field and the rules of sonic play, but they must be supplemented by analog elements if play is to flourish. As detailed in C. P. E. Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (1753/62), the clavichord and its descendants distinguished themselves from the harpsichord and the organ by endowing the keyboard with an infinite sensitivity to touch, thereby enabling a mimetic spectrum of emotional flow with unprecedented verisimilitude. Analogicity also provides another perspective on Caillois’s concept of mimicry, according to which one object or activity playfully stands in for another via imitation, deception, or make-believe. Additionally, the curves of Ernst Chladni’s figures, which materialized sound as sand, exemplify this sonic and mimetic trajectory as they rely on both Hermann von Helmholtz’s pioneering work on acoustics and the complex history of phonography to the development of analog synthesis.
In terms of sonic play, digital and analog elements can be chiastically recombined and reconfigured. A sonic communication game such as Telephone relies on the human propensity for analogy and its corrupting influence on the integrity of information transfer, playfully inverting the conditions and functions of the “real” telephone (which was engineered to compress informational content digitally without jeopardizing meaning). In much electronic dance music, the digital latticework, simultaneously visualized and rendered audible by the sequencer’s grid, constitutes a field of play overlaid with vocals, sweeps, and other analog elements that, in turn, have been captured via digital sampling. As a kind of meta-game, a mash-up plays with sonic elements whose relations can be parsed in the digital terms of Leibnizian recombinatorial play, but equally important are the unintended associations and analogies which inevitably emerge. And while games such as Guitar Hero foreground digital techniques of sonic reproduction, they simultaneously foster diverse forms of analogical play involving the player’s manipulation of the sonic (and social) behavior of her on-screen avatar—and vice versa.
There is no doubt that the status of sound and its mediation through and as play have too often gone unacknowledged. As well as seeking to rectify this state of affairs by stressing the importance of sound in relation to the playful operations of other media, we might also dwell on the distinguishing features that set it apart: sound and the techniques that shape it are unique in the ways they simultaneously trace and are traced by the materials, technologies, and metaphors of play.
Roger Moseley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music at Cornell University. His most recent research brings a media-archaeological perspective to bear on musical performance and improvisation. He is particularly interested in how the concept of play informs sonic practices and cultural techniques. Active as a collaborative pianist on both modern and historical instruments, he has recently published essays on digital games in the contexts of musical and visual culture. His current book project is entitled Digital Analogies: Interfaces and Techniques of Musical Play.
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Papa Sangre and the Construction of Immersion in Audio Games– Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo
Happy SO! Blog-o-Versary 4.0 to readers, writers, and supporters! Before I once again have the privilege of counting down some of the blog’s many blessings, I want to extend a big welcome to our new readers and a hearty thank you to those who have been down from day one. In our four years of publication, we have never forgotten that SO! is here because y’all are here, and this Blog-o-Versary is as much about commemorating the solid gold vibrancy of Sound Studies—a state we have all helped to bring about—as it is celebrating another year of our Monday morning offerings.
This year I, Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, dare to fill the glittering stilettos left by Dionne Warwick as your host for Sounding Out!’s Solid Gold Summer-themed countdown, along with co-hosts Liana Silva-Ford (Managing Editor) and Aaron Trammell (Multimedia Editor). As the beat of our latest Blog-o-Versary mix drops—don’t forget to download it here—I will count down the site’s top ten greatest hits of this past year, with some glimmers of how SO! will continue to thrive in year five! If you feel like bringing it like a Solid Gold Dancer, don’t worry, no one here will look askance; in fact, just try to stop us from catching that groove.
10. “On a Mission” (New Mission Statements!): You want to know what Sounding Out! is all about? Peep our new mission statement, hot off the presses by Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman and our new podcast editorial statement by Multimedia Editor Aaron Trammell.
9. “Suite Thursday” (Monthly Podcasts!): As of January 2013, Sounding Out! has moved to a monthly podcast format, coming to you on the last Thursday of every month. This year, we have brought you sonic dispatches ranging from ethnographic research on noise policing in Brasil, interviews with leading acoustic ecologists and Theremin masters, to audio documentaries of digital humanities sound projects such as #Tweetasound (Soundbox, Duke University). In addition to downloading from our site or subscribing via iTunes, you can now stream us on Stitcher!
8. “Thursday’s Child” (Sound Off! // Comment Klatsch!): Also as of January 2013, Sounding Out! has provided readers with an open, active comment forum in real time, where we discuss a range of topics such as 2012’s most memorable sound, the connection between sound and cinema, and the racial politics of listening. The Sound Off! // Comment Klatsch (or SOCK, as it is affectionately called around the editorial table), begins with a deceptively simple question penned by writers and editors, and lasts as long as the comments do. Whether you are a regular or are new to the scene, we’d love for you to join in this upcoming Thursday, August 1, 2013, when regular writer and Portugal-based multimedia artist Maile Colbert will incite discussion on psychological responses to sound. To peruse prior Comment Klatsches, click here.
7. “Celebrate” (Reception at ASA!): This year, SO!, was honored to co-host the first annual “Meet and Greet” of the Sound Studies Caucus at the annual American Studies Association meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was amazing to bring our virtual community into “meat space”—making new colleagues while keeping the old well-fed with happy hour snacks, drink specials, and excellent conversation. Look for more of these events at conferences with a sound studies presence in year five! For photos of the ASA meet and greet, click here.
6. “Get it Together” (More CFPS/forums/series): This year Sounding Out! has brought you even more themed programming, integrating our wide variety of sound studies inquiry with Calls for Posts, seasonal series, and month-long forums that focus our content on key issues in the field. In year four alone, we brought you a summer series on radio auteur Norman Corwin, two forums on Sound and Pedagogy full of great ideas, examples, and syllabi, and a “virtual panel” with IASPM-US on the “sonic borders” in/between sound studies and popular music studies. We just wrapped up our annual July “World Listening Month” observance—which featured an exclusive podcast series from the 2013 Tuned City Brussels event—and we are still in the throes of our summer series on “Sound and Sport”—next up on June 29th, a post and a podcast by Josh Ottum on Sound in skate parks! On deck for Fall/Winter 2013, Aaron Trammell will curate a forum on sound and play (featuring the work of Cornell ludomisicologist Roger Moseley), Neil Verma will edit an ongoing series on Orson Welles (more details below) and I will launch a CFP for an upcoming forum on sound and the 19th century that will feature a post from Voxtap’s Caitlin Marshall.
5. “Come Together” (IASPM-US Joint Feature): Thanks to the collaborative super group of Justin Burton at IASPM-US and Liana Silva and myself at Sounding Out!, we brought you a six-week long interchange on “sonic borders” within and between popular music studies and sound studies. Featuring new scholarship from heavy hitters such as Devon Powers, Marcus Boon, Shana Redmond, Barry Shank, and Tavia Nyong’o and number-one-with-a-bullet newcomers such as Regina Bradley, Tara Betts, Airek Beauchamp, Theo Cafetoris, and Liana Silva, this joint “virtual panel” was listed in the program of the annual IASPM-US conference in Austin, Texas and posted simultaneously on both IASPM and Sounding Out!. Not to mention, it was a hell of a lot of fun. If you missed the series, click here for a rewind.
4. “New Kid in Town”: (Our first official Guest Editor!): As Sounding Out! continues to expand its reach and publication schedule, we will be calling on the intellectual and curatorial expertise of our colleagues. I am proud to announce that radio and sound studies scholar Neil Verma, professor at the University of Chicago and recipient of the 2013 SCMS First Book Prize for Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and Radio Drama—will be our first official guest editor, curating an exciting series on Orson Welles called From Mercury to Mars: Orson Welles on Radio After 75 years. The commemorative series begins on August 4th, 2013 and will continue once a month through January 2014. It will feature new and exciting research from the likes of Tom McEnaney (Cornell), Debra Rae Cohen (University of South Carolina), Jacob Smith (Northwestern), and Murray Pomerance (Ryerson and York Universities), as well as a broadcast on the 75th anniversary of “War of the Worlds” on October 30th, 2013.
3. “Turn My Swag On” (Logos, Buttons, and Stickers!): Thanks to Riverside, CA artist Dan Torres, Jersey’s finest Jimmy Buttons , and the good people at Los Angeles’s Blackstar Printing, Sounding Out! got visible, tangible, and walk-around-able this year with limited edition buttons and stickers. If you already have yours, wear and stick them proudly—and don’t forget to send us a photo to add to our growing “SO! around the way collection.” If you are in need of a little SO! swag in your life, there are three ways to come up on some: join our mailing list, network with one of our editors at a conference, or participate in the next SO! Comment Klatsch on August 1st.
2. “Everybody, Everybody” (Global coverage and audience grows!): As of Blog-o-Versary 4.0, Sounding Out! is being read in over 182 countries worldwide, a number that only continues to grow with our increasingly international focus. This year, we published pieces exploring youth street party culture in São Paulo, Brazil, chants of “Allah-oh-Akbar” from rooftops in Iran, post-liberation radio broadcasts in Africa, sonic legacies of the slave castles in Ghana, sonic artistic practices in rural Portugal, the “Tuned City” festival in Brussels, how South Korean students sound Shakespeare in Seoul, Canadian public school curriculum that enables students to remix recordings of political struggle and “media capitalism” in turn-of-the-twentieth century Egypt. Our world will only get wider in year five!
1. “We are Family” (Advisory Board, Guest Writers and Podcasters): This year the Sounding Out! family continued to grow, adding an all-star advisory board, three new regular writers—a solid gold Sounding Out! shout out to Regina Bradley, Maile Colbert, and Primus Luta—and a talented cadre of over 30 new guest writers! And, as so many of you know, once a writer joins the SO! team, their number never gets retired. Because Sounding Out! is as devoted to producing community as it is content, we keep our guest writers connected, fostering their input, seeking their participation (SO! Tumblr correspondent, anyone? Contact Aaron Trammell at firstname.lastname@example.org), and publicly celebrating their graduations, promotions—congratulations to newly-minted Ph.D.s Regina Bradley, Steph Ceraso, Ashon Crawley, Mack Hagood, and Nicolas Knouf and new Associate Professors Ziad Fahmy, Damien Keane and Samantha Pinto—publications, and other milestones! For more of what our talented and productive guests have been up to this year please read on below this post. As always, check in with our SO! Media page to keep up with Team Sounding Out! as our work spreads beyond our own .com to infiltrate websites, syllabi, reading lists, and print journals near you.
And most importantly, Stay gold, Team Sounding Out!, stay gold.
Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman is co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor for Sounding Out! She is also Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University and a 2011-2012 Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.
Team SOUNDING OUT! Highlights Reel:
In addition to publishing THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali with Winged City Press in 2013, Tara Betts wrote for the character Maddy James in the multimedia dance show Any Resemblance that was presented as part of the La Mama Moves! Festival in NYC in June 2013. Tara is slated to present at Feminisms & Rhetorics at Stanford, SAMLA 2013 in Atlanta, and MLA 2014 in Chicago. “They Do Not All Sound Alike: Sampling Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur, and Angela Davis” will be reprinted in About Place for their upcoming issue “1963-2013: A Retrospective of the Civil Rights Movement” edited by Black Earth Institute Fellow Richard Cambridge.
Regina Bradley completed PhD at Florida State University in African American Literature. Her dissertation is titled “Race to Post: White Hegemonic Capitalism and Black Empowerment in 21st Century Black Popular Culture and Literature.”
In addition to contributing “Sounding Shakespeare’s S(e)oul” this spring, Brooke Carlson is leaving Seoul, Korea, for Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii, and is working on an article in progress: “Jonson, Sprezzatura, and the (Un)Doing of Nobility.”
Steph Ceraso defended her dissertation, “Sounding Composition, Composing Sound: Multimodal Listening, Bodily Pedagogies, and Everyday Experience,” and finished her PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. She will be teaching at Georgetown University in Fall 2013. Ceraso was a guest co-editor with Jon Stone for Harlot’s latest special themed “Sonic Rhetorics” issue. Her digital audio piece, “A Tale of Two Soundscapes: The Story of My Listening Body” will appear in SoundBox’s forthcoming open access multimodal book, Provocare: A New Collection of Sonically Inspiring Projects. She will also be presenting a paper entitled “Sonic Rhetorics: Teaching Listening in the Multimodal Composition Classroom” at the 2013 Feminisms & Rhetorics conference at Stanford University in September. You can find out more about her work and upcoming projects at www.stephceraso.com
Maile Colbert had a residency at the iAir (International Artist Residency) at RMIT University. (Reel of the work created and synopsis: https://vimeo.com/66574320). She also completed the sound design and composition for the feature length documentary by director Irene Lusztig “The Motherhood Archives.” Maile presented “Wayback Sound Machine” at Musique et Écologies du Son/Music and Ecologies of Sound: Theoretical and Paractical Projects for the Listening of the World, Universitê Paris 8. She performed ”Come Kingdom Come” at Sintoma: Performance, Investigation, and Experimentation, University of Porto, Fine Arts, Portugal. She performed with a new “field-recording” instrument with Andrea Neumann, Sabine Ercklentz, Marcelo Dos Reis, Angelica Salvi, Susana Santos Silva at Serralves em Festa.
Robert Ford was hired in February 2013 as the new play-by-play broadcaster for the Houston Astros major league baseball team.
Julia Grella O’Connell‘s book, Sound, Sin, and Victorian Religious Conversion, will be published by Ashgate in 2014. She recently made her debut with Syracuse Opera as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro.
In August Amanda Keeler will begin a new position as an Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the College of Communication at Marquette University.
Damien Keane completed his book Ireland and the Problem of Information, which will be published as part of the Refiguring Modernism series from Penn State University Press. In addition, his essay “Poetry, Music, and Reproduced Sound” appeared in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry, edited by Fran Brearton and Alan Gillis. Also, Keane came through to the other side of the tenure process at SUNY-Buffalo!
Roshanak Kheshti performed as Bluebeard (guitars and voice) at the UCSD Professor Unscripted event on June 5, 2013 narrating a biography through songs from concerts she has attended throughout her life. Some highlights included “Sweetest Taboo” by Sade, “Better Things” by Massive Attack, and “For Today I am a Boy” by Antony and the Johnsons.
Bill Kirkpatrick‘s essay, “Voices Made For Print”: Crip Voices on the Radio” appeared in Radio’s New Wave: Global Sound in the Digital Era. In addition, he and Alex Russo started the Radio Studies Special Interest Group within the Society for Cinema and Media Studies over the past year.
The 20th anniversary edition of Eric Lott’s Love and Theft is on its way this summer, with a new foreword by Greil Marcus. He will be speaking at CUNY Grad Center’s 20th celebration of Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic this fall.
Primus Luta has been working on reshaping the breadth of Concrète Sound System, which grew from a live set to a label, but is coming to embody almost a philosophical approach to sound. The label saw several 2013 releases, including the Services Rendered project for which Luta did the art and music. Additionally, in 2013 he has taken to performing live again, specifically live free jazz with the group Odon which is fronted by Daniel Carter. He remains on the Rhythm Incursions podcast team, and is particularly proud of the “IDM is a MILF” episode from earlier this year. He was also given the opportunity to do a mix for Hank Shocklee at the end of 2012 which will likely get a follow-up before 2013 is done.
This year, Andreas Duus Pape had the agent he used in ”Experiments in Agent-based Music Composition” and in “Further Experiments in Agent-based Music Composition” accepted for publication in Games and Economic Behavior (in joint work with Kenneth J Kurtz). A version of the paper can be read here. SUNY Binghamton is now offering Advanced Graduate Certificates in Complex Systems Science and Engineering, which is a program Pape helped found.
D. Travers Scott will publish “Refining Intertextuality as Resonance: Pet Shop Boys Score Battleship Potemkin” in the upcoming issue of Music, Sound and Moving Image. “Intimacy Threats and Intersubjective Users: Telephone Training Films, 1927–1962” was published in Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies in 2012. His book on technology and disease is currently under review. He is also the new Co-Chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Special Interest Group of the International Communication Association.
Aram Sinnreich’s new book, The Piracy Crusade, will be published in December. The book’s first draft is freely available to read at http://piracycrusade.com, and the final edition can be preordered via Amazon here: http://j.mp/TPC-AMZ
Jonathan Sterne released in 2012 MP3: The Meaning of a Format and The Sound Studies Reader. In 2013 he published “What the Mind’s Ear Doesn’t Hear” in Music, Sound and Space: Transformation of Public and Private Experience, and “Escape from Soundscape” in Soundscapes of the Urban Past: Staged Sound as Mediated Cultural Heritage.