A Review of Sounding Composition

Shannon Kelly

The first chapter explores how sound has been talked about and used in both rhetoric and composition and the field of sound studies. Steph Ceraso (2018) quoted Jonathan Sterne's definition of sound studies as "a name for the interdisciplinary ferment in the human sciences that takes sound as its analytical point of departure or arrival" (p. 14). Ceraso named listening, agency, space, digital production, and pedagogy as important intersections between sound studies and rhetoric and composition in order to produce more robust sound compositions. By calling on the particular affordances of these two distinct fields, sound compositions could do more than search for meaning or analyze already composed sonic texts. This is a place where Ceraso called for listening pedagogy that exceeds sound-as-text approaches, and instead argues for teaching in sound as opposed to with sound that ultimately parallels students' alphabetic writing. Often, if sound is introduced to classrooms, it functions as another text to interpret and analyze for meaning making as opposed to teaching students "how sound works and affects" (italics in original, p. 29). In other words, Ceraso called for writing instructors to teach sound's particular rhetorical affordances. For Ceraso, teaching sound's particular affordances happens through encouraging students to think critically about their own listening practices in spaces that include and preclude the digital, and to "take their own bodies and senses into account in more explicit ways" (p. 42).

The three sounding chapters are primarily theoretical and focus on different kinds of sound practitioners (a deaf percussionist, acoustic designers, and automotive acoustic engineers). Each chapter is followed by what Ceraso named a reverberation. The reverberations include a sample sound assignment, student examples, and ideas for approaching evaluation that correspond to the chapter's main focus. Ceraso interspersed her pedagogical resources throughout Sounding Composition, as opposed to including these resources in appendices, in order to demonstrate a value and care for pedagogical practices alongside the scholarship and research most often valued in our institutions. For example, Chapter 2 focuses on the materiality of sound, and how we might differently feel, see, and touch sound, whereas Chapter 3 explores soundscapes and the ways in which sound experiences are designed via ecological approaches. Chapter 4 takes a slightly different tone in discussing sensory marketing, in order for students to better understand sound as an integral design aspect of many everyday objects and experiences. The rhythm created from moving between theory and pedagogy allows for many voices, objects, and places to echo across each other to the reader.