Spring 2021

Listening, Hearing, and the Human

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as ANTH-233  |  Music, as MUSI-232


Jeffers L. Engelhardt (Section 01)


If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? A provisional answer from the field of sound studies is: no, the falling tree produces vibration, but does not make a sound absent a listening, hearing human subject. Take another step, and we arrive at ethnomusicologist John Blacking’s time-honored (but not unproblematic) definition of music as “humanly organized sound” and “soundly organized humanity.” In this course, we linger at the intersections of sound and music, listening and hearing to learn about the human. What happens as we encounter music, sound, and voice as forms of vibration available to our senses rather than as texts and sonic objects? How are listening and hearing culturally specific practices shaped by particular histories, identities, technologies, hierarchies of the senses, capitalist desires, human ecologies, concepts of ability and disability, and the work of performers, scholars, and sound artists? In addressing these questions through listening exercises and readings in music, sound, media studies, and anthropology, and listening exercises, we will employ what Pauline Oliveros calls “Deep Listening” (an ethical practice of listening to other humans and non-humans and to music) as a research methodology. Ultimately, this course will attune us to the urgency of listening to the sounds of protest, hearing voices speaking and singing across differences of power and privilege, and attending to what the sounds of the Anthropocene signal.

Spring semester. Limited to 25 students. Professor Engelhardt. Hyflex format with as much face-to-face learning as possible. Online elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom and the course website.

MUSI 232 - L/D

Section 01
M 06:20 PM - 07:40 PM ONLI ONLI
W 06:20 PM - 07:40 PM ONLI ONLI


Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023