The excerpts from Sound Play discuss the connection between video games and music. In the introduction of Sound Play, the author states “innovations in video games and game music over recent decades have furnished new ways to think through matters of sound and play.” (Cheng, pg. 5). This quote represents how video games interact with audio and vice versa, and the importance of this interaction.
In Sound Play, Cheng examines sonic engagement in video games, and how “game creators, composers, and player employ music, noise, voice, and silence in ways that purposefully or inadvertently challenge social rules, cultural conventions, technical limitations, aesthetic norms, and ethical codes” (pg. 5). Thus, video games employ sound in a way that not only lends itself to the game, but also challenge social, cultural, and ethical values. In this way, sound itself is a cultural force. This concept relates to chapter 5 of The Auditory Culture Reader.
Additionally, in the section “Great Divides” of Sound Play, Cheng discusses the binary between what is considered “virtual” and what is considered “real”. He claims that virtual and real extend past their traditional definition when considering them in the context of gaming. Video games in themselves could be considered virtual simply because they are removed from real-world experience. However, Cheng argues that the “virtual” nature of games can have real-world consequences. He defines virtual as “almost real”, claiming that, “media theorists have long insisted on virtual environments as lively social settings that are not peripheral or subservient to the real world” (pg. 11). Thus, Cheng argues that virtual environments are not necessarily lesser than or subordinate to real-world environments. Based on this quote, we can infer that the concept of virtual environments is subjective, and depends on the individual’s personal conceptualization of what is considered virtual and what is considered real.
This relates to chapter 5 of The Auditory Culture Reader entitled “Sounding Out the City: An Auditory Epistemology of Urban Experience”, in which the author references Theodor Adorno, stating, “the subjective desire to transcend the everyday through music becomes a focal point of his analysis, as is the desire to remain ‘connected’ to specific cultural products” (Bull & Black, pg. 79). This quote reflects sounds ability to dissociate us or connect us to real-world culture. Music has the ability to transcend to the listener from reality. In regards to Sound Play, music can actually have the opposite effect. Cheng discusses various sounds in video games and how they take the user away from the virtual world, and connects them back to the real-world. He uses the example of real-world music on video game soundtracks. This inclusion of music from cultural familiarity ties the user back to the reality outside of gaming. For instance, Cheng claims that, “some players might experience cognitive dissonance when listening to familiar real-world tunes while journeying through virtual gameworlds…. Muddle noises in horror games may occasionally trick players into thinking that this virtual cacophony is coming from their own physical surroundings. Player-simulated musical performances in online games have the potential to enhances as well as impede listeners’ immersion in the virtual world” (pg. 13). This quote reflects the all-encompassing presence of sound in video games. It also shows the connection sound can create or impede between the virtual world and the real world.
- How does the binary of virtual vs. real constitute itself in sound?
- How can sound encompass virtual spaces as well as physical, real-world settings?
- How does sound affect our perception of reality?
In Chapter 1 of Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay 1930-1950, Christine Ehrick focuses on the influence of Silvia Guerrico in Argentinian radio, and how her radio persona exemplified and created the concept of the “Modern Girl”. Ehrick states that, “Guerrico’s story is illustrative of the contested place of the female radio voice as it staked a claim to the airways and within the public soundscape” (33). This quote relates to the influence of sound and sonic persona’s in creating cultural identities, as the concept of the Modern Girl extended far past Guerrico’s career.
Ehrick defines the Modern Girl as “most often presented as a visual spectacle and as an advertising icon with a sometimes complicated relationship to real women, the Modern Girl image spread around the world via cinema and advertising agencies, where she in turn adapted to local conditions” (34). In other words, the concept of the Modern Girl, while having national reach, adapts to the local identities of women. For Guerrico, the concept of the Modern Girl was exemplified through her persona in Argentinian radio. However, she transformed the concept of the Modern Girl to the New “lustful” Woman, through the socially taboo subjects she broadcast on air. This relates to the introduction of Radio and the Gendered Soundscape. The section “Voices and Bodies and the Gendered Soundscape” discusses vocal gender and its role in constructing identity, specifically for women. Women in particular were subject to generalizations of their voices and vocal qualities based on their appearance.
Radio, however, was the first instance of the separation of the voice from the body. This separation thus disembodied the voice from the body, creating consequences that Ehrick deems harmful to women. The term “disembodied” in particular, takes away from the voice as “a sonic expression of the body and a crucial way in which bodily identity is performed and perceived” (12). This disembodiment reduces women to only their voice, and takes away from defining aspects of their gender identity. Ehrick claims that “to refer to radio voices as acousmatic, rather than disembodied, is preferable in that it simply describes the situation (a voice whose source is unseen), without implying any relationship between the voice and the body” (13). Guerrico’s ability to create and expand the concept of the New Woman contradicts this. Guerrico was able to create an identity for women through her voice, regardless of the negative association of disembodiment in radio.
The social construction of gender through sound relates to that of race. In Chapter 7 of The Auditory Culture Reader, Making Sense of Race, the authors describe the relationship between race and sound. They claim that we “tend to treat race as an exclusively visual phenomenon… but the preference for “seeing” race is as much a social construction as “race” itself” (Bull and Back, 100). They discuss the historical relationship between sound and race, particularly in sonic traits that whites associated with “blackness”. These inaccurate assumptions created a sense of “sensory inferiority” between white individuals and black individuals. The authors state how, “exceptions only proved the rule, and the sensorial dimensions of blackness were prerogatives to be applied and suspended as whites saw fit” (104). In other words, racial discrimination through sound was determined by the “dominant” persons or culture. This relates back to vocal gender. Males decided what vocal and sonic attributes created a “feminine” voice. Therefore, if a woman strays from what is considered feminine, she does not align with the social norm of vocal gender.
Finally, in Chapter 3 of The Sonic Color Line Jennifer Lynn Stoever reiterates the connection between a physical body, and the sound expected from that body. She discusses Lead Belly, a blues singer from the 1930’s. Through the example of Lead Belly, Stoever brings up a more important concept: how “the sonic color line enabled segregation and gendered forms of white supremacist violence against the black male body…” (184). In other words, Stoever argues that the sonic traits that divided individuals from different races ultimately increased the discriminated and racism that initially separated them. This relates to that of vocal gender as well; by emphasizing the differences between the male and female voice, the differences and stereotypes that define “female” under the male gaze are increased.
- Have you experienced assumptions of race or gender based on your voice?
- How has the concept of vocal gender changed with our modern conceptions of gender? (consider trans or non-binary people)
- Is the concept of the New Woman still relevant today? If so, how?
We explored and compared the different sounds in public places.
To many people nature can seem like just a lot of ambient noises in the back of your head. It is one of the sounds that gets muted out in daily life, since it not something that most people go out of there way to listen for. However, you take a few minutes out of your day and listen, (sound). You can begin to hear new noises that you never even knew were there the whole time, everything from the animal calls to the winds blowing against the leaves. Nothing overtakes anything else, and the sounds seem to equal each other out. (sound volume up cut to construction)
Construction work fits under the same category that nature does in sound but with less appeal. It’s much louder and in your face than nature is but tends to be muted out just like its counterpart. The sound in construction is much more muddles and disorganized, the bigger machines take the priority sound-wise most of the time, and nothing seems to fit together making it sound very unpleasant.
Airport & train/metro:
Thousands of people visit airports a day. Throughout the airport, the well known voices help to tell people when their flights are leaving and some of the rules and regulations dealing with flights (sound). Behind all of the hustle and bustle many airports have music playing. Many do not even notice this as it is faint and they are focused on their travels (sound).
The DC metro is also a place thousands of people visit, but in comparison to the airport, the sounds are variably different. The sounds on the platform are people talking and the trains approaching and leaving (sound). Once on the train people can also be heard, but the voices saying to be careful with the doors, and what stop is next, are the main sound people pay attention to. These voices are similar to the voices on may here in an airport (sound).
The strumming of a single acoustic guitar contains more sounds than one would expect. Overall, the ear focuses on the notes and chords being played on the instrument. (sound) However, if you listen closely, you can hear a variety of noises: the buzz from the steel strings, or the reverb in the room where the instrument is played. Additionally, the singularity of the guitar sounds allows the listener to hear aspects of background noise, such as sounds from the interior of a house. (sound)
A music concert, however, makes these sounds seem quiet in comparison. At a rock concert, you hear the blaring of guitars, the thudding bass, the rhythmic beat of the drums (sound), all combined with the sounds of the crowd (sound of crowd fades in). You hear the buzzing of amplifiers, the sounds of the musicians as they tune their instruments and speak to the crowd (sound).
Starbucks is a busy place that constantly has orders coming in and out. It is also a hang out spot for many students and workers. The sounds one would hear at Starbucks would be the order of drinks and food, machines beeping, and names and drinks called out when ready (sound). There is also the subtle sound of cafe music in the background (sound).
The nation’s most populated Outback: Steakhouse happens to be right outside my house, so after a quick jaunt, I approached the door expecting to hear a cacophony of noise from all directions. Conversations seemed to never end and was constantly buzzing in my ears. The sounds of the clinking of utensils against clay plates and the waitstaff subdued the sounds of the televisions playing some sport near the bar area. It’s hard to focus on one sounds because all of it seems like white noise.
The library is a place for studying and working. Students flood the library looking for books, researching, and typing. The 3rd and 4th floors of the A.O.K. Library at UMBC are quiet floors. That means you can talk but only in a whisper. Here I am walking around the library and you cannot hear anything other than my steps (sound). Other sounds that could be heard would be typing and pages of books turning (sound).
Barnes and Noble is a bookstore that has a coffee shop inside of it, so most of the noise came from the coffee shop making orders and yelling at the patrons to grab their coffee. The children’s section has occasional screams of kids waiting on their parents, but for the most part it is quiet except for the soft song in the background.
- Sound’s tangible quality of touch can allow you to understand a soundscape without hearing anything. For example, if you were at a rock concert, you would know there was music playing because of the vibrations of the bass, etc. In this sense, if you were hard-of hearing, you would still be aware of the sound through the vibrations. Additionally, if you were far away from loud noises (like a concert), oftentimes you can feel/hear the vibrations of the bass from far away. For instance, I live about 20 minutes from Merriweather Post Pavillon. If there is a concert with heavy bass, I can feel the vibrations in my windows, or hear the low thud of bass from far away. The bass tone would not be nearly as loud if it was not made from vibrations, as its proximity and connection to the ground expands these vibrations.
- I experienced a heightened moment when riding an airplane. There were multiple instances of heavy turbulence, where the plane would vibrate and move abruptly. There were also sounds associated with this turbulence. However, my sense of touch was heightened for the rest of the flight. Every time I felt the plane shake or move sharply, I expected another wave of turbulence. This was not necessarily the case, as an airplane creates a fair amount of noise and vibrations in its normal flight pattern.