Acoustic Ethnography (cancelled)

Overview: This course is an introduction to acoustic ethnography, acoustic communication, and soundscape studies. Using lectures, lab exercises, and field explorations, we will sonically explore and document the unique coastal environments that surround BMSC in the traditional territory of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. We will develop perception of the soundscape to understand sound and its behaviour in the interpersonal, social, environmental, anthropological, and artistic realms

Topics covered will include: introduction to active listening, the nature of acoustic community, soundscape methods in qualitative research, the soundwalk as a method for exploring and documenting the acoustic environment, the geographic identification of sound sources and soundmarks in the acoustic environment, and compositional, storytelling, and audio-editing techniques.

In the latter part of the course, students will have the opportunity to collect their own audio field recordings, and develop individually tailored projects. Project topics can range from science communication to electro-acoustic composition to place-based storytelling. We will have access to Ocean Networks Canada’s bank of hydrophone sounds as well as historical recordings from the Bamfield Historical Society. Final audio pieces will be presented to the BMSC and exhibited at a public venue (TBA) as well as online.

Research, technological, and practical skills: Soundscape methods include: sound mapping, soundwalks, and acoustic listening exercises. Technological skills include: experience with storyboarding techniques (pre-production), audio recording equipment and field recording techniques (production), and introductory skills in audio editing and mixing software (post-production).

Boat Use: There will be no opportunity for students to drive boats during Acoustic Ethnography. Boat driving is not recommended for this course. Students who wish to drive boats at BMSC must hold a PCOC and valid first aid certificate and will participate in an introductory boat check-out on the first day of orientation. 

Prerequisites: For undergraduate credit, (1) Third year standing, and (2) One anthropology introductory course or permission of the instructor. For graduate credit, acceptance in an MA, MFA, or PhD program in social sciences or by application. Experience with sound editing software would be helpful.

Required equipment materials: No required textbook. The course will make use of provided readings from a variety of sources. The students will require an audio recorder (may be available on loan through home institution libraries or from the course instructors).

Physical requirements: Students must be comfortable on open boats, and walking rugged shorelines in all types of weather. An overnight tenting trip is scheduled, weather permitting.  


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Check out the recordings by students here:

Acoustic Ethnography 2016 on Sound Cloud

“SOUNDWORK: The Natural Complexities of Environmental Listening: One Soundwalk – Multiple Responses” by Hildegard Westerkamp was published in the latest issue of BC Studies Journal. The article engages with the Acoustic Ethnography field school and highlights BMSC.

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