A Review of Sounding Composition: Multimodal Pedagogies for Embodied Listening by Steph Ceraso

Shannon Kelly

For writing instructors, a key takeaway from Steph Ceraso's multimodal listening pedagogy is a more expansive practice for multimodal accessibility. Composing via multimodal listening does not tack on accessibility to retrofit a sound composition, such as making sure a student includes an alphabetic script to accompany audio files. Rather, multimodal composing via Ceraso's (2018) framework requires students to think expansively about their audience's embodied listening in terms of how sound itself interacts with various materials, technologies and environments, while also communicating "visible, audible, and tactile iterations of sound" (p. 78). Inclusive digital work means access via multiple senses and modes, and Ceraso offered writing teachers and students creative and rigorous models for composing this kind of work. An additional aspect of Ceraso's discussion on sonic accessibility has to do with interrogating what constitute our listening habits. For Ceraso, a key limitation of teaching sound-as-text has to do with the way this kind of teaching and learning assumes that listening is just something that students do—or not—as opposed to asking students to reflect on their listening practices as something learned and revisable. Inviting students to evaluate their listening practices while also creating meaning with audio compositions allows for listeners to become more thoughtful producers and consumers of sound (p.150).

For soundwriters, Ceraso offered new methods for composing that focus on diverse embodied audiences (pp. 51–54), making sound maps (pp. 91–93), and designing sonic objects (pp. 127–129). To situate these discussions, Ceraso argued that composers must be agile listeners, especially in the writing classroom, because multimodal pedagogy requires engaging sound in a variety of settings and physical locations (p. 146). Ultimately, her approach demonstrated that sonic experiences are "radically relational" (p. 146), and Ceraso offered students and practitioners more expansive methods for being attuned multimodal listeners of multisensory compositions.


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