by Steph Ceraso and Kati Fargo Ahern
Often when rhetoric and composition scholars talk about composing with sound, it is with the assumption that sound will be used to create linear, narrative-driven texts like audio essays or musical soundtracks. In contrast, the following two projects offer ideas for assignments that make composing with sound open to greater material and spatial opportunities. We share these abbreviated examples in an effort to further discussions about the possibilities of sonic composition.
The Sonic Object (Steph)
To defamiliarize the usual ways of working with sound in multimodal composition courses, such as recording and editing scripted podcasts, I have been experimenting with assignments that encourage students to approach their interactions with sound holistically—to pay attention to how sound shapes and is shaped by different contexts, material objects, and embodied, multisensory experiences. One assignment, based on what I call a “Sonic Object,” focuses on an object that uses sound to enhance a user’s overall experience. This project requires students to design their own sonic objects by sketching a model and talking through how it would work, as well as creating the distinct sounds for their object in an audio editor.
At CCCC 2014 in Indianapolis, I had a chance to test run a version of this assignment during a Sonic Pedagogy Workshop (due to time constraints, the workshop only dealt with the design phase of the project). One of the many interesting sonic objects designed in the workshop was a “Toy Fruit Basket.”