21A.360J / STS.065J / CMS.710J The Anthropology of Sound

Spring 2008

Photo of a small group of adults and children, wearing colored jumpsuits and in various poses of concentrated listening.
Listening as a collective act. (Photograph courtesy of Chiu Longina.)

Course Description

This class examines the ways humans experience the realm of sound and how perceptions and technologies of sound emerge from cultural, economic, and historical worlds. In addition to learning about how environmental, linguistic, and musical sounds are construed cross-culturally, students learn about the rise of telephony, architectural acoustics, and sound recording, as well as about the globalized travel of these technologies. Questions of ownership, property, authorship, and copyright in the age of digital file sharing are also addressed. A major concern will be with how the sound/noise boundary has been imagined, created, and modeled across diverse sociocultural and scientific contexts. Auditory examples — sound art, environmental recordings, music — will be provided and invited throughout the term.
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Prof. Stefan Helmreich

Course Meeting Times

1 session / week
3 hours / session