Undergraduate seminar open to Lang, Parsons, & Jazz students
We hear car horns and jackhammers and catch snippets of passerby conversation. The subway rumbles beneath our feet. Amidst the clamor, however, we can still discern the particular rings of our cell phones. Urban dwellers develop distinctive modes of hearing in order to cope with what sociologist Georg Simmel calls the “intensification of nervous stimulation” that characterizes modern metropolitan life. Yet the city has never been silent. Its walls – brick, stone, glass, steel – have always reflected the voices of urban inhabitants, human and animal, and the sounds of labor and transit. In this seminar we examine the city as a sonic environment. We’ll listen to the history of the sonic city by exploring the impact of early audio technologies and other sound-making devices on urban form and urban experience, and by imaginatively recreating the soundscapes of ancient and early modern cities around the globe. Then, turning an ear to the modern city, we’ll address such topics as urban music scenes and portable music devices; audio recorders, cell phones, and loudspeakers, and their impact on urban planning and experience; the politics of noise and silence; and sound art.
Fall 2009: Syllabus
Field Trip: Central Park Sound Tunnel with Composer John Morton
Panel Discussion: “New York I Love You (But You’re Bringing Me Down): Indie Rock in the City”[WNSR Recording]