Media and film studies

Sound, Culture & Society

Module code: P4084
Level 5
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

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.

Module learning outcomes

  • Identify and describe the ways in which the place of sound - and listening - in everyday life and culture have changed historically in various parts of the world.
  • Analyse the role of sound (including but not only music and dialogue) in a range of modern audio-visual media, such as TV, film, and online.
  • Explain and deploy theoretical approaches and concepts to understand aspects of sound and modes of listening.
  • Demonstrate skills of presentation, synthesis of ideas, analysis and argumentation in oral and written communication.