Spring 2022 - CMNS 258 D100

History of Sound in Media (3)

Class Number: 2938

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SSCK 8652, Burnaby



An introduction to audio representation technology and a survey of the history of major sound-based media, including a discussion of the way sound design conventions have developed over time. Students both analyze sound in media and create audio-based applied projects. Specific techniques of field recording, interviewing, editing, sound processing, multi-tracking, and basic digital audio techniques will be explored using the school's studio facilities. Breadth-Humanities/Social Sciences.



How did the world change with the ability to record and play sound? How does sound function across different media? How are listening publics formed over time? What is the connection between the early telephone and Siri? This course surveys the history of sound in media, including the technical components of select mass media and telecommunication technologies such as: radio, the telephone, mobile technologies, as well as the use of sound in film, television, games and other digital media. The course aims to develop both a theoretical and a practical understanding of sound, and sound reproduction technologies, in a variety of media communication formats. Contemporary approaches to sound design will be evaluated and discussed through media analysis and production, emphasizing cultural aspects of sound and listening. Students will be introduced to the study of media soundscapes through basic audio recording and mixing techniques, communication analysis of digital media artifacts, and selected theoretical approaches to the study of sound. Assignments consist of short audio projects, short written analytical reports, one media analysis paper, and a final production project. Students will have access to high quality audio recorders, computers; and audio editing software through the school’s lab facilities.


Learning Goals:

  • Understand the history of recording sound, including sound’s commodification
  • Understand listening as a cultural and perceptual technique
  • How media establish production conventions and create listening publics

Applied Skills:

  • Learn how to record sound using professional equipment in the field
  • Learn how to edit, mix, and optimize sound into audio projects
  • Learn to apply production techniques and create foley sound effects


  • Podcast Media Analysis 15%
  • 3 Audio Projects 30%
  • Movie Scene Analysis 15%
  • Final Audio Project 20%
  • Participation and In-class Activities 20%


All deadlines in this course are firm: 5% penalty per day will be taken off for late assignments. If you have a legitimate reason to be delayed, feel encouraged to come and discuss this with us well ahead of time to strategize for a solution. This course has a zero-tolerance policy for academic dishonesty or plagiarism. Please familiarize yourselves ahead of time with SFU’s policies and how to avoid it, and check with us if you’re unsure how to use or cite materials: http://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/writing/plagiarism. Please note that you are expected to engage in professional behavior and communication: your academic standing is your responsibility. Take care to plan your term well and ask for help where needed ahead of time. Plan to ensure your assignments are submitted correctly on Canvas: SFU is NOT able to verify Canvas errors. There are a multitude of resources available to you in the library’s Learning Commons, e.g. writing help, tutoring, and referencing help. In the case of technological failure, the onus is on you to ensure the (right) assignment has been successfully submitted (online).

Note to advanced students:

CMNS 258 is primarily designed for students with none or only rudimentary knowledge of audio production. Hence the assignments start as simple basic exercises, leading up to a more sophisticated media product. Sometimes students with some or a lot of production experience find their way into CMNS 258 and these students may use this course to hone and advance skills they already possess and fine tune their creative and analytical skills. If you are one of these students, please speak with the TA or myself and we will make arrangements for advanced work that will benefit you while remaining within the parameters of this course.



The course readings will be listed in the syllabus and made available electronically via Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.