Organizing Sound

my current research forms the book proposal Organizing Sound. The book is a study of people who produce technologies and techniques for making and hearing sound.

I use two ethnographies to demonstrate the processes by which sound comes to mean different things to actors interacting in organized settings. The first is an audio engineering laboratory and the second a sample of music classrooms in public schools.

Audio engineers interact with sound in organized spaces that transforms the material, and the product becomes the basis of digital audio technology. Digital engineers claim this technology will provide superior experience if tailored to the individual. This decision emerges from a set of cultural norms: tailoring sound reflects a moral good of including the bodies of all listeners — and not just those who meet the standards of elite audiophiles.

These engineering debates run parallel to pedagogical debates about the best way to educate students in music. Music teachers translate philosophies and classification systems into curriculum performed with bodily practices of wide variation. The object of these practices is the distinction of musical from non-musical sound, the meaningful from meaningless. Emerging from such micro-cultural practices is a perception of the world communicated as technical knowledge.