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Listening for Learning

Performing a Pedagogy of Sound and Listening

Chris McRae

Whoosh, crunch, buzz, inhale, exhale . . . Listening for Learning: Performing a Pedagogy of Sound and Listening presents sound, listening, and pedagogical interactions as performances that create relationships, ways of being and knowing, and that provide an opportunity for transformations of existing and taken-for-granted practices in the classroom. By using performative listening and performative writing this book presents fragments of sound and listening as sites of learning and knowledge production. The written fragments throughout this book are offered as performances that listen for and hear sound as a central feature to educational practices in terms of bodies, classrooms, and pedagogy. The goal in sharing this performance of listening is to create opportunities for recognition, to invite further listening in educational contexts, and to employ listening as an opportunity for transforming and re-imagining educational spaces and interactions.

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Chapter 4. Listening to and from the Performance Lab


Nina Sun Eidsheim begins her consideration of voice and music as multisensorial phenomenon with a reflection on the popular hypothetical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Rather than attempt an answer to the question, Eidsheim draws attention to the arbitrary and impossible separation of sound from the other experiential phenomena that a falling tree would involve. The reduction of a tree falling in the woods to a question of sound works to reduce and maintain what she refers to as the “figure of sound” (2). Eidsheim explains, “With this term I attempt to capture the process of ossification, through which I argue that an ever-shifting, relationally dependent phenomenon comes to be perceived as a static object or incident” (2). Approaching sound as a singular figure yields understandings and questions about sound, voice, and music that are acontextual reductive.

Eidsheim instead proposes a rethinking of sound as a practice of vibration rather than as a static and measurable object (a figure of sound). She explains the paradigmatic approach to music enabled by the practice of vibration in contrast to the paradigm of the figure of sound explaining, “Vibrations, however, are unbounded: their relations are defined by process, articulation, and ←111 | 112→change across material” (17). What the practice of vibration does for Eidsheim is importantly to create a more nuanced understanding of sound, listening, and music making as dynamic, relational, multisensorial, and intermaterial acts...

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