Conclusion / Reflection
Sonic rhetoric in composition studies is a broad and vast topic. The more I researched it, the more doors would open onto new avenues of exploration. In working on this project, I feel that I merely began to touch the surface of some of the current discourses. Creating this website is also a beginning for me--a way to start playing with new design concepts and to experience the affordances of composing in a digital, multimodal realm. All of this has had the heuristic effect of whetting my appetite to continue to explore with great enthusiasm.
I want to delve more deeply into many of the ideas I came across, and I am particularly interested in the work of Thomas Rickert and his theory of "ambient rhetoric." Rickert challenges the tenets of traditional rhetoric that assume the dichotomy between subject and object, and he uses the idea of ambience to describe the immersive way in which the environment has rhetorical agency. Technology, media, and external information sources have dispersed human agency to the extent that the human will is no longer the center of the discursive act. Sound, as an encompassing temporal and spatial material phenomenon has a non-discursive, ambient rhetorical capacity with which we resonate and respond. This concept is very new and exciting to me.
I came into the field of literacy and composition following a career as a musician and sound engineer and having performed and designed music and sound for theater, dance, and performance artists. I know a lot about sound and how to edit it, manipulate it, mix it, and master it. I used sound to rhetorical effect by combining technical skill with aesthetic intuition. I have taught college level sound design courses to film and animation students for many years, but it wasn't until I began studying language and literacy and composition that I became more conscious of the rhetorical affordances of sound. It never occurred to me that these studies would lead me through a kind of spiral learning to multimodal composition, remixing, and the integration of sound studies into composition and rhetoric.
My experiences as a writing tutor and composition instructor have directly impacted my work and teaching as a sound designer. In sound classes I taught this semester, I incorporated new ideas and practices that I had learned and transferred from composition pedagogies. Rather than emphasizing technical skills and concepts, I tried to balance these with aesthetic and rhetorical awareness. Students performed listening exercises and wrote analyses, responses, and reflections in addition to working with sound and music as compositional materials. As an instructor, I came to value process and engagement as much as, if not more than, product, and to evaluate students' work accordingly. Taking more of a student-centered approach, I was able to identify and respect different learner types and to take into account how cultural differences influence and shape students’ perspectives. I encouraged and demanded more initiation from the students, and paid greater attention them as individuals.
All this is to say that there is a two-way connection between sound and composition practices and studies, and they impact each other theoretically, practically, and pedagogically. This speaks to the interdisciplinary nature of their relationship, which I find to be a deep and fascinating correlation.