Sound, Culture & Society (P4084)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

This module introduces you to the role of sound in human culture and society. It seeks to foster an understanding of aurality in the past and present and the relationship of sound to various modern media.

It provides you with a solid and wide-ranging introduction of the main historical, theoretical and practical thinking around the subject of sound. It encompasses music and speech but places them in the context of sound and listening more broadly.

The approach is global and interdisciplinary, combining historical perspectives with textual analysis of contemporary films, programmes and soundscapes with emerging work on auditory cultures and online media in both 'Western' and 'non-Western' parts of the world.

Subjects covered would include:

  • hearing and the senses (including perception, mood, and memory)
  • the concept and history of the 'soundscape'
  • sound before and after modernity (including the concept of 'oral culture', the role of sound in political and social struggles through history, the electrification and recording of sound)
  • sound and ethnography (eg sound in everyday life in varous cultures)
  • the voice (including styles of speech and the ways in which 'personality' is supposedly revealed through voice and gender)
  • cinema and sound (including film sound design in the past and present)
  • music and new media (including new forms of music production and reception, and the production of taste).

You will also be introduced to some of the key terms and concepts used in analysing sound, both in the study of soundscapes and in the study of soundtracks.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: