If our definition of literacy in this post-print era fails to include construction (configuration) we will have a cognitively impoverished user, one who cannot transfer working knowledge from one technological environment to another. (Nancy Kaplan, Knowing Practice)
Content is our "show & tell," or perhaps more accurately, the "listen & tell" portion of the web-based essay. Here the interested reader can download six different soundscapes, different aural environments, created in conversation with and response to the print-based and online versions of the essay. Our analyzing, theorizing, and historicizing of sound would be incomplete without an accompanying foray into the creation of sound. We present the artifacts of our experimentation, offering those few snippets that, although not quite demonstrating any musical talent, at least showcase the potential of new software environments that make sound sculpting possible. As technorhetoricians, we offer these files in hope of offering some modest inspiration for others to cross the border from sound consumption to production, to become prosumers, to become participants in the creation of new soundscapes and to experiment with worlding.
In the podcast section, we offer two readings of the print-based essay. The first layers our home-brewed sound underneath recorded readings of the final print-based essay. The second offers these same voice files interspersed with relevant sound referenced in the text.
We celebrate the do-it-yourself aesthetic and invite our readers not to stop with listening to these few imperfect files, but to take these samples as proof-of-concept for further sound experimentation. Production, participation, and action become ethical imperatives: to do, to make, to create becomes the goal. Will pedagogy follow?
Daniel Anderson offers a powerful argument for teaching production of new media alongside analysis. His classroom examples and samples remind us of the power of prosumption, of the importance of teaching and learning how to create new media as much as teaching that these new media forms exist. Nancy Kaplan suggests that the processes of developing strategies for new media literacies need to be difficult enough to carry users to the next highest level of technical process.
Anderson quotes Kaplan, who seems to be supporting Anderson's DIY (do it yourself) aesthetic, but Kaplan is arguing against usability. Her concern seems to be that if it is too easy to learn the lessons of prosumption, then the user might not be able to continue learning ever-more advanced new media literacy practices. Her argument, however, seems to come from the idea that anything worthwhile is (and should be) difficult, like learning grammar before one gets to write. We don't see a need to make new media unnecessarily difficult; there is no need to mystify (re-mystify) the means of production. As Anderson says, he was surprised by how quickly his students caught on to the basic processes of producing new media, and how quickly they grasped the challenges of prosumption. An unnecessarily difficult interface, however, does not seem to be an important part of new media production.
Karl Stolley makes the opposite point--that users (or in this case, bakers) did not feel enough agency and so wanted more to do when mixing up their cake batter. We are all for giving users a responsive interface and an active enough role to keep them engaged. Kaplan seems more concerned that we tax users' cognitive load in order to keep their brains from turning to mush, as if too much user-centered design would leave us passive consumers, staring at something like television, instead of prosumers, actively engaged, remixing and interacting.
As these files show, we might lack musical talent, but joining the ranks of prosumers requires little more than the right software and some time to dedicate to learning new interfaces, as well as a little hutzpah to transfer lessons learned from textual composition to musical composition. And who knows what could happen if we were to seriously to pursue this sound-work, and avail ourselves of all the networks for distributing electronic media . . .
FunkyFly1, AirportEncounter3, drums, danceteria, and withslide were created using Garageband, version 2.0, in a Mac, which exports sound as AIFF files. These files were transfered to PCs and converted to MP3 format by importing the files into Audacity and exporting them using the LAME plug-in. The mash-up misticschmerzen was created in Audacity and exported using the LAME plug-in. top
These two files are the result of our first musical experiments, and announces our auspicious (or at least suspicious) beginning. "FunkyFly1" represents the first success we enjoyed as we collaboratively constructed sounds that pleased us. Our first, early goal was pleasure: could we use a limited library of sound loops and create something that pleased us, and to bring these elements together such that Garageband could maintain stability. And you do have to listen to these over and over as you make minor adjunstments, editing at thousandths of a second to get the sounds lined up just so. Following the aesthetic of mashups by mixing disimilar styles, both start with funky baselines and layer sounds reminiscent of 90s alternative and grunge. As the title of the second file indicates, "AirportEncounter3" experiments with ambience and, under the influence of Eno's Music for Airports, the mix plays with chance and layering. top
"Drums" is a longer sound file the authors created using Garageband. While laying down a drum beat, we thought that an all-drum (or mostly drum) track might work to help us create a sonic landscape. Here we offer our first attempt at sonic worlding, of evoking a landscape, a place, with only sound. All the loops used to compose this file are standard elements of Garageband 2.0. Volume and layering were key to composing this file: we thought about how each sound mixes and melds with previous sounds and foregrounds forthcoming loops, and tried to layer softer tones beneath louder, more dominant lines in an attempt to create reference and inter-sonic resonance akin to intertextuality. At the core of this track was the attempt to build a sonic story line with rising and falling sounds, reminiscent of rising and falling action, themes woven in and out in the passage of time of the track, and to capture motion through a space as time passed. We return to a stable state, represented by the baseline, returning to this theme of motion, like a harmonica evoking motion with the clickity-clackity chug-chugging of a freight train in a blues song. Whether we've succeeded in taking the listener for a ride or not is for you to decide. top
Sony offered free open-source loops, sounds, and beats with a 2006 calendar called "Loop Euphoria." Moving beyond the standard loops offered by GarageBand, danceteria.mp3 consists of loops and samples from Sony's CD demonstrating the flexibility of the source of the sound. GarageBand is flexible enough to take a variety of input sources and make them available for use in original aural composition, or incorporation into multimodal texts. The heavy baseline evokes danceclub and rave culture, but jazz solos interrupt the DJs' beat and, with eerie reference to ambient sound, we leave the dancefloor and head out into a more etherial soundscape.
While we haven't yet decided what it looks like there, it sounds like daybreak, like dawn, perhaps replicating the sounds databits might encounter (had they ears) as they transition from bit to pixel, traversing the infosphere, a sonic representation of traveling the infobahn. The distorted baseline may represent each router the information packet encountners, the jazzy interuptions translation to a screen/display or other human-computer interface, the chant at the end representing successful completion of the packet's transformation from digit to pixel, from bytes to image. . . or it might be something else entirely. top
The slideshow was originally conceived as a companion to reading the print-based essay. The powerpoint consists of slides roughly chronologically arranged in the history of blues, jazz, rock, progressive and alternative music through the 20th and into the 21st century. The uncompressed Slide_Ambience.aif file is the sound accompaniment to the PowerPoint file, ShipIt.ppt. Although widely available, PowerPoint presents a problem for transfering this data, the images, and the sound as a cohesive unit. The sound file in uncompressed AIFF format is over 30 megabytes. AIFF is one of few which PowerPoint can integrate. It makes for an unwieldy file transfer at best. So we'll probably be revising this to another format for easier web transfer. Any advice for a presentation program that will either integrate the MP3 file, or compress the entire presentation to a few megabytes without losing too much quality? Keynote for Mac is a contender, but we do not have access to it at this moment. Some plans never do get realized.top
Before his death, Johnny Cash surprised a number of fans by recording a version of the industrial band Nine Inch Nails' song "Hurt." Although cover versions and band references have long been a part of pop music, Cash's re-recording of Trent Reznor's song becomes noteworthy. Not only are country and industrial an unlikely pairing, but Cash seems to be acknowledging the value and craftmanship of music his fans might not regard as legitimate.
The file we offer here is a mash-up of The Flaming Lips' newly released "The Wizard Turns On..." with a BBC recording of Wagner's opera "Schmerzen." The connection? Schmerzen in German means, literally, "hurt," the kind of ache associated with a more existential kind of pain than a headache. It's the kind of pain Reznor captured in his original recording of Hurt, which Cash re-presents as a reflection of his own life in which he let his loved ones down.
Wikipedia defines mashup as a sub-category of bastard pop and describes it as a song made entirely of elements of other songs, crediting Frank Zappa as one of its early precursors. Recently, The Gray Album created an opportunity for discussion of mash-up and open culture when d.j. dangermouse mixed The Beatles White Album with Jay-Z's The Black Album.top
Here be dragons.
Two podcast versions of the essay "The Distributed Gesamptkunstwerk: Sound, Worlding, and New Media Culture" are available here: one consisting only of the text read aloud and another with accompanying soundtrack.
version of the entire essay
The voice-only version is available in a lower-fidelity version, an MP3 file compiled at 24kps. It is one hour and five minutes long.
Prologue (Title, authors' note, keywords, and abstract)
2: Feedbacking Hendrix, or what’s all this have to do with composition?
3: Going for the one: Yes as postmodern Gesamptkunstwerk
4: Brian Eno and ambience: the inner experience goes out
5: The Flaming Lips: quadraphonic ambience
6: Redefining authorship, redefining expertise: GarageBand
The voice-only version is also available in a series of eight higher-resolution 96kps MP3 files linked above.
Prologue Plus: The Prologue mixed with the slide accompanyment
1: Introduction mixed with MysticSchmerzen
2: Funky Feedbacking Hendrix
3: Going for Drums
4: Eno at the Airport
5: Flaming Lipsateria
6: Ambient GarageBand
7: Conclusion Mashup
We also present a version mixed with our original soundtracks, also in a series of eight higher-resolution 96kps MP3 files. Although larger, the higher fidelity makes quadraphonic and multiple-track effects possible.