Spring 2025

Listening, Hearing, and the Human

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


Jeffers L. Engelhardt (Section 01)


(Offered as MUSI 232 and ANTH 233) 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.

Limited to 25 students. Professor Engelhardt. 

How to handle overenrollment: Priority given to music and anthropology majors, then to seniors and 1st-year students.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on written work, independent research, field work or trips, visual analysis, aural analysis.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2025