For almost 60 years, media technologies have promised users the ability to create sonic safe spaces for themselves—from bedside white noise machines to Beats by Dre’s Hear what you want ad campaign, in which Colin Kaepernick’s headphones protect him from taunting crowds.
Noise-canceling headphones, tinnitus maskers, LPs that play ocean sounds, nature-sound mobile apps, and in-ear smart technologies illuminate how the true purpose of media is not information transmission, but rather the control of how we engage our environment. These devices give users the freedom to remain unaffected in the changeable and distracting spaces of contemporary capitalism, revealing how racial, gendered, ableist, and class ideologies shape our desire to block unwanted sounds.
In a noisy world of haters, trolls, and information overload, guarded listening can be a necessity for self-care, but our efforts to shield ourselves can also decrease our tolerance for sonic and social difference.
This according to Hush: Media and sonic self-control by Mack Hagood (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019).
Below, the Beats by Dre/Kaepernick commercial.
Launched by Taylor & Francis in 2015, Sound studies aims to provide a forum for emergent ideas, theories, and topics, but it is also committed to an ongoing dialogue with some of the field’s rich legacy in areas such as soundscapes, sound art, film music, histories of listening, the tensions and synergies of sound and vision, and many others.
The editors also hope to initiate a broader conversation about sound across multiple geographic, social, and cultural spaces, and about how sound travels across such spaces, facilitating the formation of new communities and alliances in some cases while also creating new boundaries and distinctions in others.
Below, Matthew Herbert’s Foreign bodies, which is discussed in one of the articles in the inaugural issue—the recording assembles its sonic palette out of digestive gurgling, blood, toothbrushing, popping joints, handclaps, speech, non-verbal vocalizations, and singing.
Launched by Aarhus Universitet in 2011, SoundEffects: An interdisciplinary journal of sound and sound experience is a peer-reviewed online journal that brings together a plurality of theories, methodologies, and historical approaches applicable to sound as both mediated and unmediated experience.
The journal primarily addresses disciplines within media and communication studies, aesthetics, musicology, comparative literature, cultural studies, and sociology. To push the border of interdisciplinary sound studies into new areas, it also encourages contributions from disciplines such as psychology, health care, architecture, and sound design.
As the only international journal to take a humanities-based interdisciplinary approach to sound, SoundEffects responds to the increasing global interest in sound studies.
Launched in 2011, Journal of sonic studies provides a platform for theorists and artists to share relevant work regarding the sonic environment.
JSS presents, stimulates, and brings together a versatility of possible approaches; that is why it pays attention to the sonic design of consumer articles (cars, washing machines, coffee-makers) as well as to the influence of hearing on the relation between mother and fetus; to urban noise pollution as well as the use of sonic weapons in war zones; to interventions in public space by sound artists as well as the effects of background music in shopping malls.
JSS advocates multidisciplinary research and is open for knowledge from various fields of study—from history to philosophy, sociology and anthropology; from medical studies to architecture, legal and technical sciences; from ecology to sound art, performance and media studies; and so on.
Cows respond strongly to changes in the muted, subliminal strata of the cowshed soundscape; the elimination of such sounds, or their masking through music and other designed sound foregrounds, causes pronounced disturbances in the animals’ physiology and behavior.
A positive soundscaping for cowsheds must take advantage of the subjective implications of sounds such as the first moo of a newborn calf, which carries the strongest psychological impact even if it cannot be described as aesthetically beautiful.
This according to “The blessed noise and little moo: Aspects of soundscape in cowsheds” by Maru Pöyskö, an essay included in Soundscapes: Essays on vroom and moo (Tampere: Tampereen Yliopisto, Kansanperinteen Laitos, 1994). Below, a newborn calf demonstrates the little moo.
Related article: Radio for cows