Of Sound and Nature (MET4102.01)

Joseph Alpar & Blake Jones

Sound is critical to the survival, social structure, and well-being of many organisms, human and non-human alike. In this interdisciplinary course we will examine how animals, plants, humans, and other forms of life impact one another through the calls, songs, and other vibrations they make. Using various case studies about music, sound, and society in Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, the Middle East, Southern United States, Brazil, Iceland, and a variety of music compositions spanning several centuries, we will begin to understand and appreciate how sounds of nature shape and inspire the musical and sound-making practices of different cultures throughout the world. On the non-human side, we will explore the different ways that birds, mammals, insects, plants, and other organisms produce sounds and the various reasons why these behaviors evolved. Further, we will focus on how non-human organisms have responded to living in a world that has become increasingly dominated by human-made sounds. This will be a highly integrative class, mixing foundational knowledge from both Ethnomusicology and Biology as well as other disciplines including sound studies, ecomusicology, multi-species anthropology, music composition, soundscape ecology, animal communication, and bioacoustics. Our work will include reading a diverse assortment of texts, reviewing scientific literature, active music listening in class and at home, and opportunities to conduct studies in the field.


Learning Outcomes:
1. Study a number of musical and cultural practices that are inspired by sounds of the natural world
2. Become familiar with key compositions and composers whose musical works have been inspired by nature or directly engage with non-human sounds
3. Learning foundational principles of Biology
4. Develop a robust knowledge of how anthropogenic sounds influence the natural world
5. Develop written and oral communication skills



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students should submit a statement of interest to both Joseph Alpar and Blake Jones explaining how this course will be useful to their Plan and academic goals.
Corequisites: Attendance at relevant Music and Science events (dates to be provided in syllabus at the start of term)
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
W 10:00AM - 11:50AM & W 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 14
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Fully In-Person , Environment , Biology , Ethnomusicology
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