School Starts Tuesday

on what should be a beautiful 30 degree day (that’s 87, American readers). I hope they’ve fixed the A/C in my seminar room. Apart from that little worry, I am feeling the usual beginning-of-the-year optimism. Perhaps it’s tempered a little bit by the knowledge of the administration that lies in wait for fall, but I also know what to expect as I enter my 2nd fall as chair.

While chair, I teach a half load, which I’ve concentrated in the fall. So it’s two courses in fall and none in winter.

For COMS 210: Intro to Communication Studies, I resisted the urge to do major revisions to the course, simply adding one reading (Nick Couldry’s) and dropping one (Bourdieu on symbolic power). However, there is one big change. I had even more problems with WebCT this summer, and I’d had enough after my struggles with this poorly put-together program. Rather than wasting more time with them, I took matters into my own hands, and built a second website for the course. now has the announcements, schedule and course documents, while WebCT will contain a few “private” course elements: a place for students to look up their grades, discussion boards (students’ enrollment in a course is supposed to be private information in Canada), and a practice exam when the time comes. I’ve never used two sites for a course before but this should give me the best of both worlds: an easy to update and access interface for managing content and dates (basically, a WordPress blog with rss), while still offering students the few features that WebCT does well.

I finally have a unique course number for COMS 608: Sound Studies, my graduate seminar in, well, sound studies. I tinker with the course every time I teach it, and this time it’s a tighter organization than ever before (and timing is partly arranged around Montreal visits by Emily Thompson and Lisa Gitelman), with lots of content from 2006 or later. Also, for the first time ever, I also left a week intentionally blank toward the end of term. By then I’ll have a good idea of what people were working on. I had originally thought of including an additional week on one the subjects already covered (perhaps aesthetics? no, wait, the voice! no, wait, listening! you see the problem) or a week just dedicated to all the awesome work that’s out now in ethnomusicology, but instead, I’ll know by then what people are working on based on their proposals, and will offer some methodologically-oriented readings that are relevant — or we’ll just re-discuss stuff from previous weeks. I also for the second time am starting off with my own book, which is awkward, but I found it more awkward not to teach it before. I make about $20 off the proposition (give or take), which is then spent buying students drinks after class. Since it’s a morning class this term, we’ll have to meet up at the end of the day.

Sound studies is now a pretty big field. It’s amazing how much stuff has come out and how much I had to leave aside. Here are some books that I had planned to include but left out for reasons of structure or timing. It’s not even close to an exhaustive list, either.

Smith, Vocal Tracks
Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape
Feld and Keil, Music Grooves
Meintjes, Sound of Africa!
Fox, Real Country
Rath, How Early America Sounded
Doyle, Echo and Reverb
Anderson, Making Easy Listening
Blesser, Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?
Flinn, Unheard Melodies
Truax, Acoustic Communication (though he gets some time in an early lecture, along with McLuhan, Ong and Heavelock)
Martin, Hello, Central?
Hilmes, Radio Voices
Douglas, Listening In or Inventing American Broadcasting
Drobnick, Auditory Cultures
Cox, Audio Culture
Connor, Dumbstruck
Schmidt, Hearing Things
Wurtzler, Electric Sounds
Gallo, Mexican Modernity
Davis, Enforcing Normalcy
Baynton, Forbidden Signs
Schmidt, Hearing Things
Erlamann, Hearing Cultures