Ceraso vs Alexander – Delivery and Reception of Sound

For Blog #3 I will be comparing and contrasting two articles relating to the human creation and reaction to sound: “Glenn Gould and the Rhetorics of Sound” written by Jonathan Alexander and “(Re)Educating the Senses: Multimodal Listening, Bodily Learning, and the Composition of Sonic Experiences” written by Stephanie Ceraso. Alexander’s article deals heavily with the human creation of sound. He uses Canadian pianist and composer Glenn Gould as the embodiment of his argument regarding the way voices can be layered and manipulated to tell a story simply beyond their textual implications. He questions how we might be able to manipulate a recorded narrative in a manner that wouldn’t simply be a documentation of its original form. Alexander discusses Glenn Gould’s radio documentary, The Idea of the North as an example of how voices can be added, layered, and sequenced in order to paint a more vivid story and add deeper elements to their textual nature. Ceraso’s argument deals more heavily with the reception of sound, and how we could teach students to better digest sonic experiences. Her main argument is focused around the listening practices of deaf solo percussionist and composer Dame Evelyn Glennie. Using Glennie as her example, she explains how multimodal listening is a far superior method of taking in sound than simply ear-ing, or listening strictly with our ears. Glennie has developed strong multimodal listening techniques over time due to her condition. For example: physical touch or feeling can be used as a listening device in the same way that our ears can. As Glennie grew up in the music classroom, she would put a hand to the wall in order to decipher notes as they made various parts of her body vibrate (Ceraso 108). In an interview with Glennie, she explained to Ceraso that listening is also very visual (Ceraso 109). To show this she discussed her ability to trick an audience by pretending to play notes very softly. Although she was not playing any sound at all, the audience still believed that she was playing notes to a very slight degree. As they watched her instrument from a distance, the visual sound they were experiencing took place of the earing they thought they were doing. Ceraso concludes by explaining that “multimodal listening pedagogy offers a way to teach students to be more capable and sensitive listeners during the production of multimodal compositions, and in their experiences with various sonic texts, products, and environments (Ceraso 120). Both arguments are similar in that they attempt to go beyond the traditional interpretations of how sound is both received and produced, particularly interpretations held by those who have little experience in the study of sound itself. They discuss on humans can adjust their mentality when it comes to sound to better their ability to interpret both voice as it comes through a narrative or music as it is performed. They differ in their angles of attack. While one attempts to speak on production the other is more heavily focused on reception, but then does proceed to discuss how reception can influence production in student composers. Ultimately, both have a very strong understanding of sound’s ability to influence a listener and both have a profound respect for it’s cultural importance as a whole.


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