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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 7. Listening as Pedagogy


In her discussion of the racial formation of vocal timbre, Nina Sun Eidsheim demonstrates the ways vocal timbre is constituted as innate via informal and formal pedagogical practices (40–60). She explains: “Voice is not innate; it is cultural. Voice is not unique; it is collective. Voice’s source is not the singer; it’s the listener” (40). For Eidsheim, vocal features, like vocal timbre, come to be understood as either performed (e.g. learned aesthetic qualities) or essential and natural (e.g. racial, ethnic, or gendered) based on an understanding of sound as a knowable and stable form. Eidsheim refers to this as the “figure of sound (FoS)” (50). The figure of sound engenders a practice of listening that approaches and discerns sound as identifiable and knowable, which yields distinctions that include both identifications about aesthetic vocal qualities and about voice as an indicator of social categories like race and ethnicity (56).

In order to unpack racist discriminations based on interpretations of vocal timbre Eidsheim explains:

In carrying out an analysis that is conscious of the fact that any voice is part of the collective voice, and that listening contributes to shaping that voice, we must listen to how we listen. With the knowledge we gain from listening in this way, we can ←169 | 170→deconstruct the situations that without such an analytical breakdown, will serve only to reinforce structures of power. By insisting on voice as event, as encultured even before birth, and as collectively projected, we can...

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