Courses in Acoustic Communication



Instructor: Milena Droumeva, K-8653, 778-782-3099, email:


Texts: B. Truax, Acoustic Communication, 2nd ed., Ablex 2001. (QC 225.15 T78)

B. Truax, ed., Handbook for Acoustic Ecology, CD-ROM edition, Cambridge Street Publishing, 1999.

S. Douglas, Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination
, Times Books, 1999. (HE 8698 D68 1999)

Projects: Project and Assignment details will be discussed at length in tutorials. Attendance at these is mandatory because a lot of project work will be done there. Recordings of previous assignments and additional instructive readings are available on request from instructor or TA.  Stereo Zoom cassette recorders will be provided on loan for the field recording project. You will edit your files in the Audio Workshop K-7655 with Peak and assemble mixes with ProTools.

Grading will be by letter grade average of the following projects:

Five short writing reports, 35%
Three Audio Projects, 30%
Media Analysis Essay, 15%
Final Audio Project, 15%
Attendance & Participation, 5%

The School expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, the School will also follow Policy T10.02 with respect to "Intellectual Honesty," and "Academic Discipline" (see the current Calendar, General Regulations Section).

Lecture Topics and Readings:

Note: All Readings are to be done for the date listed. AC refers to Acoustic Communication, 2nd edition.


Week 1


Week 2

Electroacoustic Communication - Theory and Frames

AC: chapters 1&8

Week 3

History of Electroacoustic Sound and Schizophonia

AC: chapter 9

Week 4

Electroacoustic Communication - The Listener

AC: chapter 2
Douglas, Ch. 1

Week 5

Commodification of the Soundscape

AC: chapter 10
Douglas, Ch. 6

Week 6

Sound in Broadcast Media – Radio and Mass Culture

Douglas, Ch. 7

Week 7

History of Electroacoustic Sound - Television

Williams, Altman

Week 8

History of Electroacoustic Sound - Telephone

Aronson, Mitchell

Week 9

Sound and the Audio Industry - Headphones and iPods

Bull, Dyson

Week 10

Sound and Listening in Film

Doane, Chion

Week 11

Sound and Listening in Games

Grimshaw & Schott, Jørgensen

Week 12

Electroacoustic Community - Regaining Control

Westerkamp, Franklin

Week 13

Electroacoustic Composition as Soundscape Engagement

AC: chapter 13

Additional Readings:


Dyson, Frances, “When the Ear is Pierced”, In M. A. Moser, D. MacLeod & Banff Centre for the Arts, Ed., Immersed in technology: art and virtual environments, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. xxv, 339, 1996.

Westerkamp, Hildegard, “Listening and Soundmaking: A Study of Music-as-Environment,” In D. Lander & M. Lexier, Ed., Sound by Artists, Art Metropole & Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990.

Franklin, Ursula, “Silence and the Notion of the Commons,” Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, vol.1(2), pp.14-17, 2000.

Grimshaw, Mark and Schott, Gareth (2007). "Situating Gaming as a Sonic Experience: The acoustic ecology of First-Person Shooters." Situated Play, Digital Games Research Association, pp.474-481.

Jorgensen, Kristine (2006). "On the Functional Aspects of Computer Game Audio." In Proceedings of AudioMostly 2006, Piteå, Sweden, pp.48-52.

Chion, M. (2003). "The Silence of the Loudspeaker or why with Dolby sound it is the film that listens to us." In Larry Sider, Diane Freeman & Jerry Sider (Eds.), Soundscape: The School of Sound Lectures 1998-2001, (pp. 150-154). London, UK: Wallflower Press.

 Bull, M. (2003) "Soundscapes of the Car: A critical Study of Automobile Habitation." The Auditory Culture Reader. In Eds. Michael Bull & Les Back, Oxford: Berg. pp.357-380.

Altman, Rick (1986) "Television Sound", In Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, Indiana University Press. Pp. 39-54 (google books)

Aronson, S. (1971) "The Sociology of the Telephone", International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 12(3), September 1971, p. 153-167.

Williams, E. (1975) "Programming: Distribution and Flow", Television: Technology and Cultural Form, London: Fontana; New York: Routledge

Bull, M. (2000) "Investigating the Culture of Mobile Listening: from Walkman to iPod", Sounding out the City, Chapter 7

Doane, M.A. (1985) "The Voice in the Cinema: The articulation of Body and Space", in Film Sound, In Eds. E. Weis and J. Belton.

Berland, J. "Radio Space and Industrial Time", in Canadian Music: Issues of Hegemony and Identity, B. Diamond and R. Witmer, eds., Canadian Scholars Press, 1993.

Chion, M. (1999) "Introduction", The Voice in Cinema, New York: Columbia University Press.

Projects  (Note: these are examples of possible projects; current semester projects will be discussed in class)

Editing Project

This project is designed to teach you basic digital editing techniques. You will interview each other for 10-12 minutes about the electroacoustic survey. You will listen back to and catalogue the tape, and input 5 minutes of material from it into the Peak or ProTools Program on one of the work stations in the audio workshop. You will fine-edit the material into a 2-3 minute sound document, using a minimum of three basic sound manipulation techniques. The aim is to select and reorganize the source material into a short compact electroacoustic acoustic statement that brings out the latent sonic, syntactic and semantic implications of the original material. Rhythm, sonority, continuity, etc will be emphasized as much as linguistic content: it idea is to explore the relationship between form and content.

Field Recording Project

Zoom recorders will be provided for this project and you will be taught how to use them to record "in the field." You will bring your recorded material into the audio workshop and edit it into a final form.

1. Sound Event/Soundwalk: Record a sound-event (any event in which sound plays a structuring role) that has a definable beginning, middle and end, or a Soundwalk which has a definable beginning, middle and end. Record no more than 25 minutes, including commentary, and later edit the recording down to 5-7 minutes in such a way that it gives the event's or the walks' aural character. In the edited version, the "envelope" of the event or walk should remain clear, ie. the beginning or "attack" portion, the middle or "steady-state" portion, and finally the ending or "decay" portion. In other words, tell a story with sound.

2. Sound Catalogue: Record 10-12 interesting examples of a single category or type of sound (e.g. footsteps, rain, metallic sounds). Provide a brief introduction indicating why you chose this set of sounds, and document each sound by giving a brief verbal description of it and the circumstances under which it was recorded. This may be done on the recording site, before or after the sound is heard, but may also be edited in later. Your commentary should include documentation of the recording (i.e. time/location/mic distance and position, etc.) and a description of the sound that notes its significant features and contrasts or compares it with other sounds recorded. Again, tell a story with these sounds.

3. Aural History Project: Interview someone who has a memorable story to tell, one which you consider valuable to preserve and important for others, including people who don't know the story teller, to hear. It should be based in the person's experience, and should communicate something about that experience and about the person. The aim is to convey the spontaneity and vividness of the story and its meaning. Therefore everything must be candid, and you should try to elicit the characteristic spoken language of the person you are interviewing. The final product should not include your questions, even though these should, during the interview, probe the speaker's memory. Include a spoken introduction, and, if necessary, conclusion to the piece. Length: 5-7 mins.


Final Project

Please declare your choice of final project at the beginning of March.

1. Second Aural History Project. Research an historical subject, event, theme or person and present it in the form of a audio documentary. It should involve some narration, field interviews and/or recordings, and quotation of documents where applicable. You may include music and sounds. Length: 8 minutes.

2. Soundwalk. Record a soundwalk and use editing and processing techniques to produce a composed sound document with your recorded materials. The document will contain only sounds recorded on the walk, and may or may not include your voice, but it should not include sounds or music or voice materials not recorded on the walk. Try, with this document, to tell a story. Length: 8 minutes.

3. Soundscape Composition. This project is similar to the Soundwalk, except that it is not the walk, but your choice of sounds which will determine the structure and aesthetics of the composition you will produce. Pay attention here to the relationship between the acoustic soundscape or soundscapes which are providing you with sounds and the electroacoustic soundscape you produce with them. This piece may or may not include your own voice. Length: 5 minutes.

4. Sound Text Composition. This is a composition in which sounds and voice, either scripted or improvised (or combinations of these) will be your only sound sources. You will not use music, Apply processing techniques you have learned in previous projects to make a piece which tells a story. Length: 4-5 minutes.

5. Community Affairs Project. This is a documentary on some community issue or problem. Interview people involved to get various stories and viewpoints. Field record any additional sound material. Research the issue and quote documentation where applicable. Length: 8 minutes.

6. Studio Project. Students with B grades or better in the first two projects will be given priority for this one. You will work in the Sonic Studio. The project is a sound-object study. Simple tape transformations of a single sound or sound sequence (this will be provided for you) are mixed to form a short, 3-5 minute, composition. Techniques such as speed changes, filtering, loops, feedback, mixing and reverb will be demonstrated in the studio tutorial and used for this project.

7. Performance Project. Create an electroacoustic composition can perform with. The performance might involve movement, voice, acting, instruments or combinations of these. The composition may be constructed from simple transformations of these. The piece might involve more than one performer. The performance should be rehearsed and performed in class in the last lecture of the semester. Please book in advance. Length: 8 minutes.

8. Mixed Media. If you wish to combine visual material with a tape accompaniment, formulate the project and discuss it with the Instructor.


Electroacoustic Listening Journals

Keep an electroacoustic listening journal. Here's what you do: report on one electroacoustic listening experience each week. An electroacoustic listening experience is one in which you are listening to electronically reproduced sound of any kind. In your journal entry describe the electroacoustic sound and source, describe how and where it and the context in which you are listening to it positions you. Pay special attention in your entry to the relationship between the electroacoustic sound and the acoustic sounds and soundscape in which it being reproduced: is the relationship a balanced one, an unbalanced one, an interesting one, an uninteresting one, etc.; does it create a hi fi or low fi soundscape; does the electroacoustic sound dominate, complement or submit to the acoustic sounds and environment? Make reference in each entry to the week's text reading and to lecture material and use the acoustic and electroacoustic terms you are learning. You may report, in these journals, on your own sound projects, making specific reference to how you are listening to them and how doing them has affected your listening habits. To repeat: you will be expected to demonstrate in your journals proficiency with the acoustic and electroacoustic terminology, and marks will be given for interesting story telling: in other words, don't write essays, write experiences. Length: 2 pages minimum, 3 pages maximum.