Voice in the Cultural Soundscape: Sonic Literacy in Composition Studies

by Michelle Comstock and Mary E. Hocks



Sonic Literacy as Embodied Knowledge

Technological Literacies of Sound

Classroom Opportunities in Sonic Literacy

Voices in Soundscapes

Voice and Gender

Voice and Culture

Voices of Social Conscience



Works Cited

Video Clips





9. Conclusion

Sonic literacy, with its focus on critical listening and speaking, is important to a composition studies curriculum aimed at developing individual and collective voices. As Dionne and Dan demonstrate, producing a voice-over narration or musical soundtrack encourages students to consider their personal and cultural voices within a larger shifting soundscape. It also encourages them to use words more carefully to create resonance with their peers, audiences, and communities, as well as among their own voices. The uneasy collaborative voice of social conscience relies heavily on rhetorical appeals to pathos.

Adding sonic literacy to the composition curriculum does not substitute for textual or visual literacies, however; instead it relies upon and enriches them. Christy and Miku show how putting sound in relation to text and images can bring the cultural politics of voice to the fore. The voice-over narration itself encourages a careful and critical commentary of a document's images and visa versa. Although the technological literacies of sound, the foundational literacies of the editing software tools, and the time it takes simply to listen actively and hear consciously can pose challenges for writing students and instructors, sonic literacy offers writing students the knowledge and means for producing their own spoken words, their own soundscapes, and situating those projects within larger cultural and political contexts. When students begin to hear their own voices and the voices of others in different ways and contexts, they develop a stronger, more embodied sense of the power of language, of literacy, and of communication in general.


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