Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Response to Siobhán McHugh’s “The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio”

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In her article “The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio,” Siobhán McHugh discusses the power of orality (speaking) and the power of aurality (listening) within communication. As a radio documentary maker and oral historian, she uses different works of her own to explain and provide examples of the how listeners draw emotional connections just by what they hear. The three key ways that listeners make emotional connections are through feeling, emotion, and affect: feeling is personal, and tied to the individual; emotion is social, and what is outwardly expressed; and affect is prepersonal, and a sort of non-conscious, automatic reaction. All of these connections are made by the listener, and each listener can have a completely different reaction to the same audio.

Minefields and Miniskirts: McHugh made this radio documentary in 1993, and it recounted a woman’s experience in Vietnam when she held a dying man who had stepped on a land mine. When McHugh asked people who had both listened to the woman’s interview and read the script of the woman’s interview, it was unanimously decided that the audio was more powerful. This solidifies the idea that sound can be a powerful tool that evokes emotion and affect from listeners. Although I couldn’t access the audio for this interview, the fact that the listeners thought the audio was more powerful than the script reminded me of an interview of Katy Perry that I heard. In the interview, she talks about her recent divorce from Russell Brand. Even without seeing the interview, you can hear the strain in her voice, the raw emotion that she feels when talking about him. This is something that can’t be conveyed by just reading the interview, and in that way the audio is so much more powerful. This interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R59l0-X4Ohs

Marrying Out: In this radio documentary, McHugh interviews different Australians about their experience with mixed marriages between Irish Catholics and Anglo-Protestants. While it is no longer a prevalent issue in Australia, mixed marriages were previously frowned upon and many were even shunned or disowned for doing so. In her interviews, she utilizes the different attitudes and emotions of her interviewees to change and set the mood of the broadcast. She also explains how she used exposition (narration) to help establish facts. She attempted to use dramatization in one instance by having an actress read a letter, but ended up using the original interviewee’s reading because her emotions and affect were much more real. 

This reading brought to light an idea that I had never really thought of, but that I am now much more aware of. The way that people speak and the way that individuals interpret that speech plays a huge role in how hearing it makes us feel. It may seem like common sense, but there is so much depth to this idea that it really is incredible. To end my response, I’m posting two different versions of the same song: one is acoustic, and one is electronic. The words are exactly the same, but the feelings and affect that are evoked by each of them are completely different for me. Are they for you, too?

Satellite (Original) – Above and Beyond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWLCMBKwVrY
Satellite (Acoustic) – Above and Beyond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd1mRXkwUrA

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A Response to John Shiga’s “Copy-and-Persist: The Logic of Mash-Up Culture”

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In his article “Copy-and-Persist: The Logic of Mash-Up Culture,” John Shiga discusses the key components of mash-ups, as well as how they came to be. There were three main topics pertaining to the mash-up culture that he wrote about, including the technology behind it, the community and culture that it has created, and the copyright and legality issues that mash-ups face. 

Technology: The rise in mash-ups can definitely be attributed in part to the technology behind it. Because of the popularity of mash-ups, many programs have been developed to help amateurs and experienced producers alike to create new mash-ups. Because mash-ups are essentially combinations of songs that already exist, it is easy for those who are interested in the genre to easily pick it up. Shiga also mentions that there are many websites and blogs for users to post their music and listen to others. Because mash-ups are primarily made on the computer, there is a definite ease of posting to these sites. Which leads to his next point…

Community and Culture: The web forums that feature mash-ups have allowed for a community to form. Within this community, there is a very broad range of listeners, and I think this can be attributed to the fact that mash-ups use music from different genres and blend them together, thus bringing the listeners of these different genres together. I personally love mash-ups for this exact reason; they are able to combine completely different sounds to create a new one that is reminiscent of all of the genres used. I have a few favorite mash-ups that are totally different from each other, but that I still genuinely enjoy. Here are two of them. The first is by Bassnectar, and is a mash-up of “Immigraniada” by Gogol Bordello and his own sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLASw6_woxA. The second is by Andrew Gentry, and is a mash-up of “First Snow” by Emancipator and “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HA3Cl-LskQ. Both songs are completely different, but are both mash-ups, which just goes to show how this community can have such different types of people within it. Mash-ups bring together sounds that conventionally would not be brought together, which appeals to a large number of people and helps to make this community so large and connected.

Copyright and Legality Issues: Unfortunately, combining different songs together that you didn’t write or produced has caused for some backlash from the people who did write and produce these songs. The copyright issues faced by mash-up producers has varied, though, because not all record labels have reacted the same way; some labels have tried to sue the mash-up artists, while others have released instrumental tracks with the specific intent of having others use them in mash-ups. This is still a hot issue within the community because there are differing views, but the strength of the community has been enough encouragement for these artists to continue making mash-ups. This will probably always be an issue within this community, but I hope that in time it will become less of a problem and all labels will begin to encourage mash-ups. Because they are awesome. 

A Response to Richard Berry’s “Will the iPod Kill the Radio Star? Profiling Podcasting as Radio”

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In his article, Berry talks about how the arrival of new medium, such as podcasts, have changed the way we listen to music and interact with the platform that we hear it on. For my analysis, I will compare podcasts and traditional radio broadcasts. 

Similarities: Podcasts and radio are both excellent means of listening to news, music, sports, opinions, and just about any other type of information that is conveyed through these means. Both also rely heavily on technology, as neither require face-to-face interaction with the user and are instead transmitted to them. That being said, both also feature a “blind interaction”, where the listener never sees who they are listening to, and vice versa. 

Differences: While podcasts and radio do have their fair share of similarities, it is the differences between the two that make each unique and distinct from the other. One main difference is the availability of each. Podcasts are essentially global, and can be listened to all over the world. Radio broadcasts, however, are geographically segmented and can only be heard by those within a certain distance of the broadcast. Additionally, radio is live and podcasts (unless streamed) are prerecorded. That leads to another difference in that radio has regularly scheduled programming and podcast uploads are more random and usually unspecified. 

In Berry’s article, he brings up the issue of advertisement. Advertisements have a HUGE impact on media content, but this impact is often unseen by users. This leads to another of his points, self-censorship. Because of sponsorships, contracts, popularity, etc., broadcasters often limit what they will and won’t say for fear of repercussion of those who are listening. While this has been more of an issue for radio historically, it is becoming more of a problem with podcasts, too, as their popularity continues to grow. And while podcasts are continuing to grow, Berry does not feel that radio is dead. Instead, he thinks that a revamp is in order. Seeing as the article was written in 2005, the radio has revamped itself in many ways (online streaming, increased online presence, etc.), and has continued to thrive alongside podcasts. 

A Sound Analysis of Etherwood’s “Begin By Letting Go”

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In her article “Sound Matters: Notes toward the Analysis and Design of Sound in Multimodal Webtexts,” Heidi McKee analyzes what she believes to be the four key elements of sound: vocal delivery, music, special effects, and silence. By giving in depth examples and explanations, McKee is able to convey the importance of each of these elements to the reader. Each element is important both independently and in relation to each of the other elements; it is necessary to examine all four elements in order to truly understand the sound (or lack thereof) being heard.

I have chosen to use the song and music video of Etherwood’s “Begin By Letting Go” for my sound analysis, and I will use the four elements of vocal delivery, music, special effects, and silence to give my interpretation of the sound.

Vocal delivery: Of the several qualities listed for vocal delivery in the article, the few that stood out to me as the most influential and important in this song are the breathiness, loudness, pitch, and vibrato. There is definite breathiness in the voice of the singer, which is carried on throughout the entire song. To me, conveys a feeling of carefreeness, which ties in well with the soft vocals throughout the song. Additionally, because it is a male with a higher pitch and more vibrato, it brings a personal, emotional touch to the song that makes it easier to have a personal connection with.

Music: The music in this song is very melodic, using drum and bass as the staple sounds to create the rhythm. By having varying tempos throughout the song, different emotions are evoked and the listener is able to experience the music on all three musical planes: the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane. In the sensuous plane, we hear how the instruments and the voice tie together, as well as the change in pace and sound throughout the song. In the expressive plane, the sounds that we hear in the sensuous plane evoke feelings and helps us to determine how we interpret the music emotionally. In the sheerly musical plane, we concentrate on the rhythm and the tempo, as well as the structure of the piece. By combining all three of these musical planes, we are able to truly feel the music and get a better understanding of why we feel the way we do about that particular sound.

Sound effects: There are many instances throughout the song that use sound effects. In some cases, it is uses to emphasize the preceding lyrics by echoing what was just said. In other cases, there are different high or low pitch sounds that are used to change the mood of the song and transition paces. Both are effective in encapsulating the listener in the song and taking them on a journey through the different sounds and rhythms.

Silence: The silence in this song is not a complete silence, but rather the noticeable lack of a familiar sound. By removing certain effects and tones throughout the song, Etherwood is able to make us recognize this removal as a change in rhythm, and therefore a change in mood. This is very effective in progressively transitioning the song, as well as the mood, without disrupting the song in its entirety. This recognition of a “present absence” allows us to more fully feel the presence of the sound, adding to our personal interpretation of the sound.

A Response to Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation”

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In Bolter and Grusin’s article “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation,” they speak of the many ways that we interact with different forms of media through different mediums. They elaborate on how the different aspects of the media – such as light, sound, and perspective – are portrayed differently in each form, essentially to bring out a different effect. Immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation are all ways of getting a message or story across to the view, but in separate and unique ways. 

In terms of immediacy, which essentially tries to do away with the artist, or employ a “vanishing medium,” the best example I have is video games. I feel that video games are highly engulfing for the user, and they often forget that they are in fact looking at a computer or television screen because they are so encapsulated by what is going on in the game. They may also become so used to using a keyboard and mouse or a controller that they forget that they are using one, and the act becomes automated. Video games have the power to make the user feel as if they truly are in the game, which seems to be a great way of conveying immediacy to users.

Hypermediacy differs from immediacy in the fact that the user is aware of the interface, and it is often used for the purpose of multitasking and organization. One great example of hypermediacy is an internet browser. Users are able to have multiple tabs open at the same time, and are able to access any of them whenever they choose to do so. These tabs are organized efficiently, allowing users to easily interact with each of them without having to search around for them each time. This organization reminds users of the interface that they are using (Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) without having to bombard them with information about how to use it because it is easily understood.

Remediation involves the transferring of modes or representations of one medium used in another form of medium. It involves taking an old idea and transforming it into something new, but without losing the original purpose or meaning behind it. A great example of this is music videos. Music videos take the original lyrics and sound and transform them into visual interpretations of the song. In doing so, they are able to remediate the song, the setting, and the overlying tone of the music in ways that were not previously possible. In some cases, the true meaning behind the song is much easier to identify after being remediated in a music video. One example in particular can be seen in the “Mirrors” music video by Justin Timberlake. This song was inspired by his love for his wife, Jessica Biel, but also by the marriage of his grandparents. The latter is not apparent in just listening to the song, but can be inferred by the video, as seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZE_IRwLNI. In instances such as these, remediation allows us to delve deeper inside different forms of media and experience them in more fulfilling ways.