Writing with Sound – RHE 330C

Writing with Sound – RHE 330C

Casey Boyle 


This course will examine recording, editing, and distribution of sound as a form of writing. In a contemporary world where writing is mostly digital, we often overlook the presence of sound—music that accompanies video, voice published as podcasts, noise remixed into an ambient art form or as background for daily life. In order to understand the rhetorical effects of sound compositions, this course will read and discuss important works in the field of sound studies and offer an introduction to using open source digital audio editing tools for writing with sound.


Course Outcomes

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify various sound genres and their rhetorical effects.
  • Understand the technical and practical affordances for producing sound.
  • Compose effective digital podcasts and audio essays.

Note: This course will be organized as a project-based workshop (especially in the second half of the semester). In addition to readings and discussions, several of our class meetings will be opportunities for hands-on practice with digital audio tools that will involve your classmates and the instructor. Please be advised that such work demands regular attendance and requires active participation.


Texts and Materials


Sound Cloud – Account

  • Headphones (earbuds are fine, but on-ear or over-ear headphones preferred)
  • Additional essays, articles, and podcasts will be provided on the course site.





Reading Responses & In-Class Assignments (10%)

Written responses to required readings (300-500 words). Responses will be opportunities to critically and creatively engage course readings and case studies as well as provide the starting point for much our class discussion. Also, there will be a number of in-class audio exercises designed to be responses to our in-class instruction.

DUE: Often


Soundscape Composition (15%)

This assignment will ask students to compose a sonic landscape using field recordings and found sounds. Exact forms for this assignment will vary, but might be framed as “Sonic Postcards.”

DUE: Feb 4


Podcast Analysis (15%)

After identifying/subscribing to a podcast, students will script and compose a 3-5 minute analysis of the podcast series that examines the themes, genres, online distribution, and technical dimensions to the serial program.

DUE: Feb 25


Podcast Series (60%)

This final assignment will include a short proposal, three podcast episodes of 3-5 minutes, and a brief prospectus that outlines a digital distribution plan. Of your three podcasts, one will include an interview, one will include a sonic remix or remediation, and one will include a site recording.


Proposal: Mar 4

Ep1: Mar 23 | Ep2: Apr 1 | Ep3: Apr 15

Prospectus & Presentation: Apr 27 & 29


Text Abbreviations:

  • Sound Studies Reader [SSR]
  • Acoustic City (AC]
  • Reality Radio [RR]
  • Additional Readings will be made available by links or PDFs on Canvas

Note: All readings should be read BEFORE the date listed.


Week One: Intro to Sound Studies

T Jan 19 – Introductions and Expectations

In Class:

  • Syllabus Overview
  • List of places to check out Podcasts
  • 99% Invisible “Episode 1: Noise

HOMEWORK: Soundmap

R Jan 21 – Intro to Sound Studies & Audacity

Required Reading:


  • This American Life, “Mapping
  • Audacity Hack: Respond verbally to 99% Invisible Episode 1 or the This American Life “Mapping” segment in under 30 seconds via Audacity—record, export, edit, save.
  • Audacity Setup Discussion

HOMEWORK: Install Audacity


Week Two: Listening and/or Hearing

T Jan 26 – Listening I

Required Reading/Listening:

  • Barthes, “Listening” [PDF]
  • Steve Goodman, “The Ontology of Vibrational Force” [SSR]
  • Chion, “The Three Listening Modes” [SSR]


R Jan 28 – Listening II

Required Reading:


  • Assign: Sonic Postcard & Field Recording


Week Three – Soundscapes

T Feb 2 – Soundscapes

Required Reading:

  • Schaffer, “The Soundscape” [SSR]
  • Leppert “Reading the Sonoric Landscape” [SSR]
  • Attali, “Noise” [SSR]
  • In The Field: The Art of Field Recordings [selections]


ASSIGN: Podcast Proposal Assignment

R Feb 4 – Shaping Sound

Required Reading:


  • Soundscape re/design

DUE: Sonic Postcards


Week Four: Understanding Podcasting as a Genre and its Ethics

T Feb 9 – Genre Analysis

Required Reading:


  • Walk Through Genre Analysis

R Feb 11 – Ethics of Amplification

Required Reading:



Week Five – Writing Sound Stories

T Feb 16 – Podcasts

Required Reading:

In Class:

R Feb 18 – Editing Workshop

Required Reading:

  • Hilmes, “Radio and the Imagined Community” [SSR]

In-Class: Editing Podcast Analysis


Week Six – Sound Surrounds

T Feb 23 – Live Sound

Required Reading


  • Guest Speaker: Zach Richards from Big House Sound

R Feb 25 – Editing Workshop

Required Reading

  • Roberts, “Finding the Poetry”


  • Editing Workshop



Week Seven: Writing with Sound

T Mar 2 – Telling a Story

Required Reading:

  • The Kitchen Sisters, “Talking to Strangers” [RR]
  • Carrier, “That Jackie Kennedy Moment” [RR]


R Mar 4 – Listening to Stories (Interviewing)

Required Reading:

  • “Radio: An Illustrated Guide” [PDF]

In Class:

  • Interviewing Exercise
  • Hawk and Smith, “Digimortal

DUE: Podcast Proposal


Week Eight – Editing

T Mar 9 – Editing Workshop

R Mar 11 – Editing Workshop

DUE: Podcast 1 – Interview Podcast


March 14 -19 – Spring Break – No Classes


Week Nine – Remix

T Mar 23 – Remix I

Required Reading:

  • Mowitt, “The Sound of Music in the Era of Its Electronic Reproducibility” [SSR]
  • Lastra, “Fidelity v. Intelligibility” [SSR]

DUE: Podcast 1 – Interview Podcast



R Mar 25 – Remix II

Required Reading:

  • Atalli, “The Politics of Noise” [SSR]


  • RIP: A Remix Manifesto



Week Ten – Editing Workshops

T Mar 30 – Editing Workshop


  • 99% Invisible: The Sizzle
  • Sound Function Design Assignment


R Apr 1 – Editing Workshop

DUE: Podcast 2 – Sonic Remediation/Remix


Week Eleven – Urban Acoustics

T Apr 6 – Sound & Space

Required Reading:

Suggested Reading:

  • Rath, “No Corner for the Devil to Hide” [SSR]
  • Picker, “The Soundproof Study” [SSR]


R Apr 8 – Acoustic City

Required Reading:

  • Jones, “Sonic Ecology” [AC]
  • Albrechtslund, “Eavesdroppin” [AC]
  • Royaards, “The Space Between”[AC]

Suggested Reading:

  • Flitner “Machines over the Garden” [AC]
  • Kusiak, “Acoustic Gentrification” [AC]



Week Twelve – Editing

T Apr 13 – Editing Workshop

R Apr 15 – Editing Workshop

DUE: Podcast 3 – Site Recording


Week Thirteen – Circulating Sound

T Apr 20 – Sharing Sound I

Required Reading:

To Attract New Listeners, Podcasts Need to Move Beyond Sound

In Class:

  • Analyses of Podcast Distribution

R Apr 22 – Sharing Sound II

In Class:


Week Fourteen – Presentation Showcase

T Apr 27 – Class Showcase

R Apr 29 – Class Showcase

DUE: Podcast Distribution Plan


Week Fifteen: [Tentative]

May 3 – Cites & Memory Remix [In-Class]

Required Reading:

  • Voegelin, “The Landscape as Sonic Possible World” [PDF]

May 5 – Cities & Memory Remix [In-Class



These are some basic links related to the course and course content. More will be added as the semester progresses.

General Resources











Archived Spring 2015 Writing with Sound course 

Archived Fall 2014 Writing with Sound course 


RHE 330C - Writing with Sound
Casey Boyle | Spring 2016
T & Th 12:30-1:45 | PAR 104
Office Hours: T& Th 2:00-3:00;
W 11:00-:1200 & by appt.



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