Seminar on Sound


Columbia University

Anthropology and American Studies

Spring 2007

Course Requirements

1. Regular attendance and participation at the seminar

2. Two or three class presentations based on papers of approximately 5 pages

3. A term paper of approximately 15-20 pages due on April 24


Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, eds. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. NY, 2004

Mark Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. Berkeley, 2004 (with CD)

Michel Chion, Audio Vision

Packet of Readings (All of the required readings, other than the texts listed above, are in the packet)


Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Noise/Silence vs. Music


Rick Altman, "The Material Heterogeneity of Recorded Sound," in Rick Altman, Sound Theory/Sound Practice, 1992.

Murray Schafer, "The Music of the Environment," Cox/Warner, pp. 29-39

John Cage, The Future of Music: Credo," Cox/Warner, pp. 25-9

Eric De Visscher, "'There's No Such Thing As Silence. . .': John Cage's Poetics of Silence," Musicworks 52 (Spring, 1992)

Mark Skoka, "Listening for Silence: Notes on the Aural Life," Cox/Warner, pp. 40-6

Theodore Gracyk, "Pump Up the Volume," from Rhythm and Noise (1996)

"Glossary" and "Chronology," Cox/Warner, pp. 409-418 and pp. 399-408

Week 3: Listening vs. Hearing


Steven Connor, "What I Say Goes" [excerpt], in Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism, 2000

Jacques Attali, "Listening" in Noise: The Political Economy of Music, 1985 [1977]

Roland Barthes, "Listening" in The Responsibility of Forms, 1985.

Pierre Schaeffer, "Acousmatics," Cox/Warner, pp. 76-81

Ola Stockfelt, "Adequate Modes of Listening," Cox/Warner, pp. 88-93

Brian Eno, "Ambient Music," Cox/Warner, pp. 94-97

Jonathan Burston, "Theatre Space as Virtual Place: Audio Technology, the Reconfigured Singing Body, and the Megamusical," Popular Music 17, 1998

Recommended Reading:

Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933.

Week 4: Music in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction


Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," 1936

Walter Benjamin, "A Small History of Photography," 1931

Michael Taussig, "The Talking Machine" in Mimesis and Alterity, 1993

Theodor W. Adorno, "The Form of the Phonograph Record," [1934] in October 55, Winter, 1990

Recommended Reading:

Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, 2000)

Lisa Gitelman, Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines, 1999

Allen S. Weiss, Breathless: Sound Recording, Disembodiment, and the Transformation of Lyrical Nostalgia, 2002

Theodor Adorno, "The Curve of the Needle" and "Opera and the Long-Playing Record" in October 55, winter, 1990)

John Alderman, Sonic Boom: Napster, MP3, and the New Pioneers of Music.Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2001

Week 5: The Technology of Sound Recording


Simon Frith, "Technology and Authority" in Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music, 1996

Glen Gould, "The Prospects of Recording," Cox/Warner, pp. 115-126

Brian Eno, "The Studio as Compositional Tool," Cox/Warmer, pp. 127-130

Recommended Reading:

Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture,1999

Weeks 6 & 7: Music As Industrial/Artistic Product


Mark Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. 2004

Paul Théberge, "Toward a New Model of Musical Production and Consumption," Any Sound You Can Imagine, 1997

Sample the readings in Cox/Warner in the sections on "The Open Work," "Experimental Musics," "Improvised Musics," and "Minimalisms."

Recommended Reading:

Evan Eisenberg, "Phonography," in The Recording Angel, 1987

William Howland Kenney, Recorded Music in American Life: The Phonograph and Popular Memory 1890-1945, 1999

Geoffrey O'Brien, Sonata For Jukebox: Pop Music, Memory, and the Imagined Life.

Week 8: Audio Ethnography: Early field recording, Works Progress Administration, Commercial Recordings of Ethnic Music, World Music; Surveillance and Domestic Espionage, Audio Imperialism, Terrorism and Revolution


Erika Brady, "Collectors and the Phonograph" in A Spiral Way: How the Phonograph Changed Ethnography, 1999

Andrew Goodwin and Joe Gore, "World Beat and the Cultural Imperialism Debate," Socialist Review, No. 3, 1990

Paul Fleischman, "Swat Radio," The New Yorker, December, 1997

Recommended Reading:

John Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism, 1991

Erika Brady, A Spiral Way: How the Phonograph Changed Ethnography, 1999

Peter D. Goldsmith, Making People's Music: Moe Asch and Folkways Records, 1998

William Howland Kenney, Recorded Music in American Life: The Phonograph and Popular Memory 1890-1945, 1999

Stephen Paul Miller, The Seventies Now: Culture as Surveillance, 1999 - see "tape" in the index for its use by Nixon and Warhol

Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, 1975; A: A Novel by Andy Warhol, 1968

Weeks 9 & 10: Originality, Plagiarism, and Copyright: Covers, Answer Backs, Bootlegging & Piracy, Sampling, Multi-tracking, Synthesizers, Drum Machines, DJ-ing


David Sanjek, "'Don't Have to DJ No More': Sampling and the ‘Autonomous' Creator," Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, 10 (1992), 607-624

Thomas G. Schumacher, "'This is a Sampling Sport': Digital Sampling, Rap Music and the Law in Cultural Production," Media, Culture & Society 17 (1995), 253-273

Colin Hinz, "Plagiarism: A Collective Vision. A Few Thoughts on Sampling, Originality, and Ownership," Gray Areas, Fall, 1993

Joost Smiers, "Copyright is Wrong," Le Monde Diplomatique, September, 2001

John Oswald, "Battered By the Borrower," Cox/Warner, pp. 131-137

Chris Cutler, "Plunderphonia," Cox/Warner, 138-156

Kodwo Eshun, "Operating System for the Redesign of Sonic Reality," Cox/Warner, pp. 157-59

Recommended Reading:

Jeremy J. Beadle, Will Pop Eat Itself? Pop Music in the Soundbite Era, 1993

Jane Gaines, "'These Boots Are Made For Walkin': Nancy Sinatra and the Goodyear Tire Sound-Alike," in Contested Culture, 1991

Weeks11 & 12: The Art of Noise


Luigi Russolo, "The Art of Noises: Futurist Manifesto," Cox/Warner, pp.10-4

Mary Russo & Daniel Warner, "Rough Music, Futurism, and Postpunk Industrial Noise Bands," Cox/Warner, pp. 47-54

Simon Reynolds, "Noise," in Cox/Warner, pp. 55-8

"The Beauty of Noise: An Interview With Masami Akita of Merzbow," Cox/Warner, pp. 59-61

Douglas Kahn, "Histories of Sound Once Removed" in Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead, eds., Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde, 1992

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, "Production-Reproduction: Potentialities of the Phonograph," Cox/Warner, pp. 331-33

William S. Burroughs, "The Invisible Generation," Cox/Warner, pp. 334-40

Christian Marclay & Yasunao Tone, "Record, DC, Analog, Digital," Cox/Warner, pp. 341-47

Paul D, Miller, "Algorithms: Erasures and the Art of Memory," Cox/Warner, pp. 348-53

David Toop, "Replicant: On Dub," Cox/Warner, pp. 355-57

Simon Reynolds, "Post-Rock" Cox/Warner, pp. 358-61

Karlheinz Stockhausen, "Electronic and Instrumental Music," Cox/Warner, pp. 370-80

Karlheinz Stockhausen, "Stockhausen vs the "Technocrats," Cox/Earner, pp. 381-385

Screening: excerpts from Modulations, Scratch, and Ohm

Recommended Reading:

Ulf Poschardt, DJ Culture, 1995

Week 13: Sound and Vision: The Relation of Sound to Image (soundtracks & voice-overs, soundies, music videos, internet, CD-Rom, etc.)


Michel Chion, Audio Vision

Recommended Reading:

Jeff Smith, The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music

Robert Hershon, "They're Playing Your Song: The Role of the Music Supervisor," Cineaste, Summer, 2001, pp. 24-26, 55

Michael Ondaatje, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing (2002)

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American studies, anthropology, audio ethnography, copyright, music industry, noise, sampling, sound recording, syllabi