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The Age of Listening

Semester and Year SP 2020
Course Number WRTNG-UG1048
Section 001
Instructor Ben Ratliff
Days Wed
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U



Humans have always listened. But listening—to music or to anything else—has often been rendered as a passive activity, as the opposite of asserting, doing, achieving. It can’t be quantified. It doesn’t leave an immediate record. It can look like wasted time. There are no Grammy awards or Pulitzer Prizes for listening. (There should be. Perhaps there will be.) This is a seminar in reading about listening and writing about it—as personal essay, philosophy, or criticism. Primarily, though not exclusively, this class is about listening to music—electronic music, hiphop, rock and roll, jazz; notated and improvised music and anything else. We will think, read, and write about about listening as physical experience of sound, and as trance-state; listening as surveillance; listening with headphones vs. collective listening; two definitions of “social listening” (listening from a particular social identity, and social media-monitoring); deep-listening exercises developed by Pauline Oliveros and other 20th century composers; listening to the streaming-media algorithm, playlist, and DJ; listening to nature; the rise of concert and dance-music culture since the 1830s; and recent thoughts about the importance of listening in politics, education, and civil society. We will also draw from outside experience, and so this class may require attendance in a sound-walk and a musical performance in which there is a particular emphasis on the listening experience.


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Course Type

Advanced Writing Courses (WRTNG-UG)