Session 3.1.6: PANEL: Sonic Pedagogies

PANEL: Sonic Pedagogies
9:30, Saturday 8 May 2021 (1 hour 30 minutes)
Break    11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (30 minutes)
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Organizer: Walter S. Gershon, Rowan University

Whether speaking to racism and sexism in Anna Julia Cooper’s (1892) sonic framing of A Voice From the South (By a Black Woman from the South) or Franklin Bobbit’s promulgation of eugenics in the DNA of US education (1909, 1918; see also Gershon, 2020), education has long been a sonic affair. This is as much the case in material ways, conveying knowledge through organized sounds of talk and music, as it is through sound practices and metaphors. Pausing a moment to listen to trajectories of knowledge, the prevalence of the sonic in education is ubiquitous. For example, as articulated in Labov’s (1972) discussion of Black English Vernacular in schools and schooling R. Murray Schaffer’s Composer and the Classroom (1965), the instantiation of both sociolinguistics and sound studies are questions of education as much as they are explorations of the sonic. Scholarship over the past two decades has built on this long history of sound scholarship, possibilities paved as much by scholars such as Fredrick Erickson (1982, 2003, 2004), Liora Bresler (1995, 2005, 2009), and Ted T. Aoki (1991; Irwin & Pinar [Aoki], 2005) as by scholars like Cooper and Bobbitt. As is often the case, the constructions of fields, especially those that are inter/trans/disciplinary, are a simultaneous combination of historical recognition, definition, and potential trajectories. In this instance, it has come to our attention that recent trends in explicit declarations and concomitant amplification often create contexts that allow for erasures and claims of novelty where neither is appropriate or applicable. Examples include claims of the novelty of field recordings as method in education, the addition of mobilities to processes that are falsely conceptualized as being primarily sedentary, and the false application of literacies to existing knowledges and practices. This work in spite of both a long history of sound studies in education such as those described above and continuing work in educational subfields that claim and use the sonic (e.g., Dimitriadis, 2009; Daza & Gershon, 2015; Emdin, 2010; Gershon, 2006, 2011, 2017; Gershon & Appelbaum, 2018; Love, 2012; McCarthy, Hudak, Miklaucic & Saukko; 1999). Our point is not the calling out of instantiations of these concerns but, instead, that these emerging tendencies necessitate the kind of explicit naming that is this panel. Our purpose here is therefore the performative naming of educational sound studies. This terminology is at once theoretically pragmatic in providing an umbrella under which all sonically related educational scholarship might reside and practically theoretical in that it removes potential false binaries and boundaries between educational subfields, curriculum studies (Gershon, 2017) and educational foundations (Gershon & Appelbaum, 2020), and sound pedagogies (Gershon, 2020). Each of these three papers present aspects of the potential depth and breadth of what educational sound studies might be. Where Dr. Wozolek’s paper underscores how educational sound studies can function as social science, Dr. Mitchell’s paper enunciates possibilities for critical sound theorizing in education, and Dr. Gershon’s paper further articulates points raised in this summary through an exploration of sound pedagogies.

Boni Wozolek,“And These are the Chickens”: Sonic Entanglements of Violence and Joy at an Urban Middle School, Penn State Abington

We lead sonically entangled lives. This is because sound is not just about what is heard, or misheard (Daza & Gershon, 2015), it is about how sound both moves and is moved by human and nonhuman bodies. What resonates on, with, or against one’s ontoepistemological position is therefore just as much about what is perceived through listening as it is about what is felt through sound. To borrow from Barad (2007), we are all in an intra-action with resonances where we are responding to and with sounded experiences. Using the data from a two-year sonic ethnography (Gershon, 2017) with queer middle school youth of color in the United States, this paper argues that Black and Brown queer consciousness (McKittrick, 2021) was formed and informed by sounded quantum entanglements that resonated with and against students on a daily basis. This is important for at least the following reasons. First, as Gershon (2017) has argued, what one conceptualizes through sonic ways of “beingknowingdoing” (p. 2) contributes to how one can come to know and understand sociopolitical and cultural contexts. Second, conceptualizing sound as it territorializes and deterritorializes (Deleuze & Guattari, 1977) the spaces that marginalized youth encounter and inhabit on a daily basis can be significant in unpacking the everyday affects that are central to a place that where some students spend the majority of their time—at school.

Reagan Patrick Mitchell,Chocolate Spectral Resonances: Calling Sun Ra, Calling Alton Sterling, North Carolina School for the Arts

Afro-surrealists strive for rococo: the beautiful, the sensuous, and the whimsical. We turn to Sun Ra, Toni Morrison, and Ghostface Killah. We look to Kehinde Wiley, whose observation about the black male body applies to all art and culture: “There is no way to objectively view the image itself.” (Miller, 2012, p. 12) Of the artists mentioned in the 5th tenant of D. Scot Miller’s Afrosurreal Manifesto: Black is the New Black (2012) Sun Ra will be the focus of this paper. While viewed in the dichotomy of eccentric and genius, the central point that will be focused upon in this paper is Sun Ra’s ethics presented through his music. In his composition “Face the Music” (1994), Sun Ra, along the with his ensemble, the Arkestra, inquire/proclaim/imperatively assert, “What do you do when you know, that you know... that you know that you wrong? You got to face the music. You got to listen to the cosmos song.” The collective inquiry/statement is an ethical identification. One, whereby, Ra and Arkestra inquire about how responsibility will (and must) be engaged, in light of atrocities committed and observed by the public sphere. Sun Ra saw himself as sound scientist in search of the combination of tonalities which would heal the world (Szwed, 1997). It is with these ethical considerations by which I reexamine the lynching of Alton Sterling. Father, son, partner, lover, comedian, and neighborhood CD salesman Alton Sterling was violently lynched at the hands of the Baton Rouge police department on July 5, 2016. Sterling’s case is extremely unfortunate, however not uncommon. Specifically, the lynching of a Black/P.O.C./Poor/People with Disabilities/Queer Folks along with state sanctioned (supported) invisibility of their lives and character decimation. Additionally, as Miller asserts about the objective impossibility in viewing “black male body” (p. 12), afro-surrealistically considered, Sterling suffered from objectivism of the state. Again, what does it mean “to face the music” in regard to Sterling and the ethics of to Sun Ra? Altogether, this paper utilizes Sun Ra’s ethics, employed sonically, in two ways. First to re-examine the treatment of Alton Sterling and family, and secondly to consider broader possibilities of how afro-surrealist ethic, situated as sonic pedagogies, provides additional ways of actively doing in simultaneously formal and informal educational spaces/places.

Walter S. Gershon,Sonic Histories, Sound Pedagogies: Articulating Educational Sound Studies, Rowan University

Pedagogies are often falsely conflated with curricular questions, those about theories and knowledge, for example. This performative paper seeks to document the polyphonic panoply of possibilities that is educational sound studies through an examination of what might be called sound pedagogies. Split into two overarching parts, this work first details the kinds of events and understandings that might be conceptualized as “sound pedagogies,” an expansion from formal (schools) and informal (i.e., after school programs) schooling to be inclusive of ever-expanding pathways human animals might be taught by things, ecologies, and processes. This more traditional paper portion of the work is joined by a soundwork interwoven throughout that then stands on its own. The soundwork is at once utterly constructed and emergently meaningful, an intentional combination of disparate sounds, locations, and sources that articulate what sound pedagogies can mean while demonstrating that we have always already been taught by the sonic. Echoing sound movements—at once diffuse and targeted, positioned and mobile, emergent and decayed, resonant and reverberating—sounds seep in our pores and bounce off our bodies, teaching all the while.

Cornell University
Lecturer in Landscape Archoitecture
Penn State University, Abington College
University on North Carolina School of the Arts

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