Happy happy #Blog-O-Versary 3.0 to our readers, writers, retweeters, and supporters of all kinds!! This year proves that, to quote De La Soul quoting Schoolhouse Rock, “three is the magic number.” Of course a mic check also has to go out to another important trio, SO!‘s editorial crüe: Plug One: yours truly JSA, Editor in Chief and Guest Posts Editor, Plug Two: Liana Silva, Managing Editor, and Plug Three: Aaron Trammell, Multimedia Editor.
Here’s just a sample of the goodness that SO! has brought to y’all this past year, with some hints of how we “can’t stop won’t stop (the awesomeness)” on into year four!
- #itoughttobeillegaltolookthisgood: After copious troubleshooting meetings and readers’ polls–thanks for the great feedback, btw–we changed to our new layout on January 1st, 2012, an effort spearheaded by Managing Editor Liana Silva. #lovingit #ohsoreadable
- #ontheregular: SO! welcomed two new regular writers to our roster this year, multimedia artist Maile Colbert, who works out of Binaural Nodar in Lisbon, Portugal. and African American Studies scholar Regina Bradley, coming to you out of Florida State University. Look for their posts on full regular rotation in 2013.
- #puttingourbizinthestreets: The word is out! This year Sounding Out! has been all over the Internet and even the print-o-sphere–with citations (American Quarterly), links (The European Sound Studies Association), features (IASPM-US), re-posts (Cultural Weekly), allusions (Wi: A Journal of Mobile Media), recommendations (The Chronicle of Higher Ed‘s Prof Hacker), responses (SheSeesRed) , and even an analysis of our #Occupy coverage (The Incredible Kaleidophone). For the full listing of all the folks we’ve caught talking about Sounding Out! since Blog-o-Versary 2.0, see our brand spanking new media page. And, if you have taught an SO! post in your class, cited one in an article, discussed SO! in a blog, or even had a really good dream about SO!, drop me an email and tell me about it: firstname.lastname@example.org
- #hotoffthepresses: Sounding Out! worked overtime this year to be responsive to the sonic edge of major events–#Occupy, the murder of Trayvon Martin, the #casseroles protests, the Helen Vendler/Rita Dove American poetry anthology debates, the sudden international popularity of The Artist –showing the relevance of our scholarly work in everyday life and, now more than ever, the importance of the humanities and social sciences in interpreting the world we share.
- #aaaahpushit: Our writers added over 15 new categories at SO! this year alone, based on the exciting new scholarship pushing sound studies into new directions: advertising, animals/animal studies, Carribbean Studies, curation, dance/movement, Deafness, economics, games/gaming, Islam/Muslim identity, Jewishness/Jewish identity, medicine, pedagogy, sound and region, religion and religious studies, time, vision/visuality, and writing. Big ups to Managing Editor Liana Silva for keeping our back catalogue up to date as new categories emerge, ensuring SO! will remain a fully searchable and usable tool for research, teaching, and pleasure reading.
- #seriesandforumsandCFPsohmy!: In addition to plotting our more broad general coverage, I began organizing special “Series” and “Forums” that took more lingering listens to specific issues and particular sites. In February 2012, SO! hosted a month-long forum on Deafness; throughout Spring 2012 we featured a series of dispatches, “Live From the SHC” that shared the new scholarship from the Sound Studies fellows gathered at Cornell’s Society for the Humanities. We just wrapped up a July forum on Listening in observation of World Listening Day and are in the midst of a summer series on radio history, “Tune in to the Past,” that sifts through the legacy of Norman Corwin. Look for a pedagogy forum to ring in the start of the academic school year in August, featuring the winner of our recent Call for Posts, “Sound and Pedagogy: Amplifying the Teachable Moment.” In fact, we received so many great pitches, we will offer a “refresher course” forum in spring 2013!
- #Puttingtheworldinworldlisteningday: U.S.-based sound studies is often critiqued for, well, being too U.S.-based. As a result I have sought out more posts that explore sound in transnational and diasporic contexts–such as “Everyone I listen to Fake Patois,” “Beat-ification: British Muslim Hip Hop and Ethical Listening Practices,” and “Listening to Disaster: Our Relationship to Sound in Danger”–and in sites across the globe: Ireland, Canada, England, and Portugal so far in 2012. Look for research focusing on (and located in) Ghana, Brasil, and Egypt in the months to come.
- #trippingthesoundpodcastic!: Directed by Multimedia Editor Aaron Trammell, SO!’s podcast series expanded this year to include regular quarterly installments, promising you a minimum of four experimental sonic explorations a year, with bonuses along the way. Since last year’s Blog-O-Versary podcast mixtape, we have taken you into the listening practices of sound artists, the roadside prayer containers of pious American truckers, memories of record store shopping, and deeper awareness of the soundscape. Subscribe to us on Itunes so you don’t miss a thing this year!
- #gonnagetourselvesconnected: Sounding Out! has forged relationships with many excellent sound-related organizations: American Studies Association Sound Studies Caucus, the Society for Ethnomusicology Sound Studies Special Interest Group, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Sound Studies Special Interest Group, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), the Society for the Humanities at Cornell and the World Listening Project. Look out for our upcoming IASPM-US collaboration (on tap for February 2013), which will involve cross-blog programming and conversation about the relationship (and tensions) between pop music studies and sound studies. Not to mention, we’ve hosted 46 guests and counting, representing over 37 unique institutions!
And that’s just a glimpse of how Sounding Out! “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (the Awesomeness)” on and on until the break of dawn (or at least until 9:00 a.m. every Monday morning). Now go ahead and take a listen with our annual downloadable mixtape–a seriously kick ass 90 minute TDK tape super-megamix that spans six decades and a dizzying array of genres–courtesy of Team SO! You’ve earned it!
–JSA, Editor in Chief
Click here for Sounding Out!‘s Blog-O-Versary 3.0 mix with track listing
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.
Today, Society for the Humanities Director Timothy Murray sings us back home with a meditation on the soundscapes of study at the A.D. White House this year, closing out our spring “Live from the SHC” series covering new research on “Sound: Culture, Theory, Practice, Politics.” The 2011-2012 Fellows have got to say goodbye for the summer–and sadly beyond–but we all hope that next years’ Fellows (2012-2013 Theme: Risk @ Humanities) enjoy all the good vibrations we will leave behind, and that you, Dear SO! readers, have enjoyed our broadcast! Our summer series, “Tuning In the Past,” on radio and legacy of broadcaster Norman Corwin, featuring Neil Verma, Shawn VanCour, and Alex Russo begins at the end of June. And, of course, every Monday in between and beyond, we’ll keep giving you something you can feel. –JSA, Editor in Chief (and 2011-2012 SHC Fellow)
Many thanks to Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman for hosting “Live from the SHC” on Sounding Out! What a fantastic experience it’s been to have Jennifer screening and tweaking Sounding Out! from her garret office overlooking the gardens behind the A.D. White House, the Cornell home of the Cornell’s Society for the Humanities. Readers of “Live from the SHC” have read various strains of this year’s focal theme, “Sound: Culture, Theory, Practice, Politics.” The aim of this year’s residential research project was to contemplate and analyze the resonance of historical and contemporary representations, movements, ideas, and negations of sound.
Open to study of the broadest cross-cultural range of contexts and media that cross the boundaries of time and space–from East and West/South and North–the Fellows’ research delved into the complex ways that sound abounds in visual, textual, and aural realms. From “voicing” to “listening,” sound shaped the framework of our critical and philosophical analyses of the body, affect, and social publics. Sound came to be appreciated for its shaping of the parameters of psycho-cultural imaginaries, social practice, religious ritual, and political regulation throughout history and across the globe. Just as sound differs in the global context of capitalism and cosmopolitanism, not to mention the specificities of ethnic difference and cultural diversity, “voice,” “hearing,” and “listening” frame the humanities disciplines in relation to their aesthetic properties and political ramifications.
The Fellows found themselves reflecting on several key issues. Which criteria differentiates natural from artificial sounds? Does sound challenge disciplinary distinctions between the visual and the oral/aural/tactile? Can the loud noises of industrial culture be distinguished from the synthetic sounds of electronic music, the stammerings of performance and the vibrations of philosophical manifestos? It should come as no surprise to followers of Sounding Out! that sound marks the passage of time, the correlation of the aural to the movement of the body in dance and performance, the sonic promise of cartographic projects of social movements and migrations, and the cultural and ethnic specificities of acoustic fields and rhythms in the age of sampling and mixing, not to mention the gender, racial, and ethnic import of voice and spoken narrative.
Adding vibrant texture to our year-long discussions were the three weeks spent in extended dialogue with the Society’s Senior Invited Fellows. Emily Thompson (The Soundscape of Modernity) charted the histories of the architectonic sounds of cinema houses as well as the untraceable wealth of the historical sounds of New York City as its peripheries morphed from country estate to urban zone. Brandon LaBelle came from Norway to take us on a journey of artistic imagination and phenomenological hopefulness as he cruised his writings on Acoustic Territories and Site Specific Sound while sampling the background noises of his multimedia installations. Then Norie Neumark, fresh off the release of VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media (co-edited with Ross Gibson and Theo Van Leewen), arrived from Australia to follow up on our 2003 online seminar on Sound Cultures. She reminded us of the deep history of sound studies down under, while focusing our attention on voicings and her own multimedia art practice that blends spoken narrative, synthetic noise, mouthed breath, and shocks in the ear. [The “Live From the SHC” logo is a piece from Neumark and Maria Miranda’s “Shock in the Ear”–ED].
Various other visitors throughout the year included multimedia artists Mendi and Keith Obadike whose “not” Afrofuturism walked us through their exciting series of performance works,“Four Electric Ghosts,” Caitlin Marshall from Berkeley who brought cyborg speech to life with her prosthetic soundings, and renowned choreographer William Forsythe, whose four-hour choreography piece “Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time“–performed amidst amidst over 150 hanging pendulums–combined dance and environment as a means of physically manifesting the process of thought. Marjorie Garber from Harvard rode our acoustic wave to reflect on the future of the humanities while Norma Coates came down from Western Ontario to sensitize us to the mixes of pop sound and culture.
In listening back to the echoes of the year past, rather than here retracing the specific projects of our Fellows (you can consult the critical tales already Sound[ed] Out! by Damien Keane, Tom McEnaney, Nina Sun Eidsheim, Jonathan Skinner, Eric Lott, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, and Jeanette Jouili), I find myself sampling the sounds, noises, and glitches that provided unexpected reverbs for the academic writing happening behind closed office doors throughout the A. D. White House.
Sounds of glee, delight, and play first arrived on the scene at the end of August with gaggles of laughing and screaming kids running wild and climbing trees in the gardens, surrounded by bemused adults and envious dogs. Accompanying partners brought to the mix the diverse soundings of African film, suspicious packages, software beats, performance art, critical geography, and real estate hawking. No wonder the assembled Fellows strayed so readily, if not unconventionally, from the promised strictures of already exceptional research projects that brought to our weekly seminar table the street sounds of Egypt, Turkey, Korea, early modern Germany, contemporary Islam, American hip hop, contemporary art, circuit bending, gaming, German, Irish, U.S. and Latin American radio, voices of performers, animals, and posthumans, urban soundscapes, and, here making a loud call out to one Stoever-Ackerman, sonic color-lines.
Resounding throughout the year to give cadence and timbre to our serious ponderings were the spontaneous soundings that seemed always to give ample depth to the provocative interstices of intellectual life. There were the noises of glitch, circuit-bending, and Guitar Hero that stretched and extended the purpose of music and machinics. There were spontaneous voice lessons that turned anxious performers into wild choreographic objects. Singing above in the hidden alcoves–when not streaming through the high Victorian ceilings of the A. D. White House–were our flying mammal friends whose echolocation extended beyond the reach of our mere human ears. Then were the sudden noisy reminders of the vulnerability of our corporeal organs. Who could forget the reported imaginary of the crunch of human leg against car as two of our Fellows found themselves under assault from a crazed pizza delivery guy – luckily no lasting damage?
Our fellows will carry away the subliminal lacings of the lighter sounds of improvisation and camaraderie. There were the poundings of feet and slappings of bodies dancing late into the night after hours of laborious conferencing to the beats of DJs Marcus Boon, Art Jones, and Earmuffs.
At the end of the year, Fellows grooved to the beat of Tom McEnaney playing bass with The Vix Krater out at the Rongo in Trumansburg, NY (down the road from the home of Moog), before retreating to the bowels of the A. D. White House basement for another dusty, late night jam session with drums, synthesizer, guitars, bass, and various acoustics, led by the ultimate sound blogger herself, the guitar heroesse, Jenny S-A. [Well, I’m learning. So far I know E-Minor. It was Trevor that really broke my strings in! –ED].
And, yes, there was always the accompaniment of the clinks of glasses and bottles bearing the liquid life blood of any noisy crew.
The French philososopher, Jean-Luc Nancy, reminds us in Listening (2007) that the shared space of noise and sound entails “a totality of referrals: from a sign to a thing, from a state of things to a quality, from a subject to another subject or to itself, all simultaneously. Sound is also made of referrals: it spreads in space, where it resounds while still resounding ‘in me'” (7). What resounded and referred this year at the Society for the Humanities was the very immaterial and inchoate touch of sound, which is a-live in intensity and force. But who would have imagined the intensity of the noise of referral that remained so constant throughout the year to envelop the solid academic work of our Fellows in the wilding vibrations of jouissance? Indeed, perhaps the best lesson of the year, at a moment when the humanities finds itself threatened and in transition by the supposed certainty of metric and assessment, is that the Society’s scholarship in sound was driven by the relentless noise of referral and the unpredictable delight of the commune.
Featured Image Credit: Brandon La Belle, Duck Duck Goose Installation, Ausland, Berlin
Timothy Murray is Professor of Comparative Literature and English and Curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. He is the Cornell Principal Investigator of the Central Humanities Corridor, generously supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and he sits on the International Advisory Board of the Consortium of the Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) and the Steering Committee of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC). He is Co-Moderator of the –empyre- new media listserv and the author of Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (Minnesota 2008); Zonas de Contacto: el arte en CD-ROM (Centro de la imagen, 1999); Drama Trauma: Specters of Race and Sexuality in Performance, Video, Art (Routledge, 1997); Like a Film: Ideological Fantasy on Screen, Camera, and Canvas (Routledge, 1993); Theatrical Legitimation: Allegories of Genius in XVIIth-Century England and France (Oxford, 1987). He is editor of Mimesis, Masochism & Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought (Michigan, 1997) and, with Alan Smith, Repossessions: Psychoanalysis and the Phantasms of Early-Modern Culture (Minnesota, 1997). His curatorial projects include CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA and Contact Zones: The Art of the CD-Rom.