A Pedagogy of Listening

Composing with/in Media Texts

Milena Droumeva & David Murphy

6. Audio–Media Assignments

Interview: The Grain of the Voice

With a partner, conduct and record a short (no more than 3 minute) interview using a field recorder. You should prepare your questions prior to the interview and follow interview guidelines. Recording quality and proper level settings are imperative to this assignment. Import your interview into audio editing software and edit it down to a piece that is between 1 and 2 minutes long and features interesting inner qualities about your interviewee's voice and/or the subject matter discussed. The edited work will be evaluated based on narrative flow as well as the proficiency of your recording and editing. You must submit both the initial interview and your final edit for evaluation.

Audio Portrait: Field Recording and Mixing

This assignment aims at improving your recording skills in the "field." Pick a sound event or occasion, or a significant place with an interesting soundscape, and create an audio portrait of it. Record important sounds and observe and represent how they interact with each other and with the spaces and ambiences in which they are heard. You may include a vocal track in which you describe the sounds, what they mean to you, and how and why they create (or do not create) significance within the soundscape. The vocal commentary may be spoken on location while you record the sounds, or it may be mixed in later (or a combination of the two). In this assignment you'll be using Adobe Audition and learning how to mix sounds in multiple tracks and create more layered sound projects. Once again, you'll be evaluated on the quality of recording and narrative flow and composition. The goal of this assignment is to demonstrate your ability to balance vocal levels with ambience and other competing sonic elements. Extra credit goes to creativity. Project length is between 3 and 5 minutes.

PSA: Public Service Announcement

Create a radio PSA for an organization (real or imagined) that is exactly 60 seconds long. Conduct some background research into your organization to be sure that your ad is in keeping with the mission statement of the association. The announcement should be clear and focused. The contact information of the association (e.g., phone number, website, or location) should be featured within the ad, as per industry standards. Your PSA must include at least one vocal track, one ambient and one musical track, and one recorded effect. Special effects may be used at your discretion. This project will be evaluated based on your technical proficiency as well as your adherence to media industry standards.


Using Logic Pro, create a musical sequence that develops in a way consistent with the affordances of the software (regular rhythm, tonality, etc.). Halfway through this piece, create an "illogical" version of the same musical sequence that works against the way the software wants you to work or create. Assignment length is 1–2 minutes. Students are required to reflect on what is "normal" music and how that is embedded into the software. Questions about the "neutrality" of technology should arise as a result of your work.

The Moving Image: Soundtrack Replacement

Using one of the short video clips provided to you, examine the original soundtrack for its intentions, effects, and sound design conventions, and create an alternative soundtrack, one that subverts and critiques the original intentions of the track/clip. Include the following elements: dialog, diegetic sound, ambience, sound effects, and music. Students are required to reflect on their choices and the meanings created in their constructions. Be creative and provocative!