Assignment 4: Soundscape

Goals: To consider the backdrop of ordinary sound against which we hear music, and to practice methodologies of Ethnomusicology: Fieldwork, Transcription and Analysis

Harvest between twenty and forty sounds/sound segments using a portable sound recorder. Keep recording until you have at least twenty minutes of combined sound. Harvest from as many environments as possible: school, work, home, commute, gym, and street, everywhere. You may wish to include voice cues explaining what you are about to record. Listen carefully to your tracks and create an index listing sound sources or locations and durations in minutes/seconds, and the sequence in which they appear on the tape. Turn in your tracks and index along with the results of parts two and three.

After listening to your sound harvest thoroughly, select three to six sounds to transcribe visually. Choose your sounds for their quality, value and meaning according to your own ear. They could be beautiful, significant, elegant, exciting, or have any quality that you find compelling.
In drawing the sound you can use methods we develop in class and any artistic means at your disposal, refining the transcriptions until there is a clear correspondence between sound and drawing. The goal is to transcribe your sounds in a two-dimensional visual notation that has the expressive power of a painting or a sculpture and also the logical power of a diagram, or map of the sound.
There are many ways to do this correctly; after all, the drawing is a visual interpretation of the sound. But the transcription is meant to be much more than a sketch, or a diagram. The most successful and meaningful transcriptions are those in which the sound has inspired a detailed, repeated and sustained response from the analyst (you).

In a 3-5 page essay reflect on the correspondence between sounds and drawings and how they seem to “mean” to the listener. Explain how the sound is structured, how it progresses, how its boundaries naturally occur, or were imposed by you. Discuss how your hearing changed through the act of repeated listening and drawing. Explain what could not be put into visual information with your transcription, and reflect on your sound’s significance for you or others. In addition to the analysis you supply for the sound or sounds that you have transcribed, please discuss your sound harvest as a whole, and explain how sounds that you have chosen reflect notions of tone, pulse, timbre, form etc. that we have discussed in class. Comment on what the sounds say about your environment.

To be turned in: Labeled Sound tracks (total at least 20 minutes), Index, Transcriptions and Essay