Cultural Acoustics: Recent Courses

Auralized Architectures: Re-Sounding the Ancient Past

Enlivened with sound, ancient sites, structures, and musical instruments are given voice by archaeoacoustics research techniques. How can digital technologies enable us to engage these long-silent traces of past life? How might sonic re-constructions or "auralizations" be situated to communicate multiple interpretations of the distant past? How do sonic architectures relate to other archaeological evidence? We examine such questions through cross-disciplinary readings and discussion of theories and methods commonly and uncommonly employed in archaeology and sound studies. Via computer laboratory and field exercises, we explore how audio digital signal processing (DSP) techniques can be applied to questions of ancient humanity and musical archaeology. Comparative examples of local, present-day sonic dynamics of the built environment additionally inform our inquiry.

Sound, Space, and Sense of Place

How does the human perception of sound influence our relationships with our environments? How does sound contribute to "sense of place"? What concepts and practices do we engage to structure sonic environments–real, or imagined–or to deconstruct them? This cross-disciplinary exploration combines ethnography, experimental measurement, and subjective testing with textual/media research. Course participants draw on their personal specializations, and blend scholarly investigation, scientific methodology, and creative production. Through a process of individual and group activities, reflection, and production, we explore understandings of space, place, and human sonic experience, seeking specificity in expression.

Sonic Architecture: Sound as Anthropogenic and Experiential Medium

Sound––heard or otherwise perceived––influences human existence, how we interpret lived experience, how we understand places and events. Yet our awareness of sound varies individually and contextually. This course posits sound as a medium that can be constructed and environmentally transformed. How do spatial acoustics inform and affect us? How is sound intrinsic to individual and social experience? Built environments and architectural forms embody structured acoustic dynamics, whether their particular sonics are design features or ephemeral artifacts of spatial constructs. Musical and engineered sound products directly engage the human activities of sound making and consuming, often abstracted from specific spatial environments, yet substantially linked to sense of place through cultural context. From vibratory mechanics to conceptual design, we will examine the material and immaterial (intangible) ramifications of sonic structures and the structuring of sounds, their human interactive potentials and experiential implications. An interdisciplinary range of texts, works, and concepts will drive our exploration and analysis of sound as an environmental constant and fundament to human experience. Students will develop two projects: a concise research paper that initiates a literature review and poses a perspective on a sonic topic (based on a response to a scholarly article), and a design proposal, presented to the class, for a space/structure, object, artwork/installation, software app, device, event, experiment, music/sound composition, or other sonic realization.