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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 6. Listening and Sounding Spaces


In Alvin Lucier’s 1969 performance, I Am Sitting in a Room, Curatorial Assistant of the Museum of Modern Art, Martha Joseph, explains:

Lucier read a text into a microphone. Attempting to smooth out his stutter, he began with the lines, “I am sitting in a room, the same one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice.” As described in the text, his voice was recorded, then played back into the room. This process was repeated, and with each iteration Lucier’s recorded speech grew muddled, sounding distant, and specific sonic frequencies started to dominate the recorded sound. These tones that began to overwhelm the text and abstract the sonic landscape are the room’s resonant frequencies and are entirely specific to the architectural particularity of a given space.

One feature of Lucier’s performance that I find compelling for thinking about listening and sound as practices that create space is that the repetition of recording creates a gradual, but noticeable shift in perspective from voice to space. What at first seems to be the recording of a voice is a recording of a space. Steven Jones’s explanation of the function of sound recording is in line with Lucier’s performance. Jones says, “Sound recording thus captures ←145 | 146→ambient sound, or put another way, the sound of the space surrounding the sound source” (241). Lucier’s performance exemplifies Jones’s definition of the function of sound recording. The 29 fragments presented and performed in this chapter...

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