This Week in Sound: Chaucer’s Ear, Mouthing Words, Hearing Voices

A lightly annotated clipping service

  • CHAUCER’S EAR: There’s a new book about 14th-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), which is something of a feat since we at this point know very well how little we known about him. The book is The Poet’s Tale: Chaucer and the Year that Made the Canterbury Tales, written by Paul Strohm. In a (characteristically unsigned) review in The Economist, we’re told what Strohm does in his history: “What he does instead is create a soundscape.” This is very promising, indeed. I am not accustomed to writing about books I have not yet read, but in this case I’m expressing enthusiasm and getting the word out. (Thanks for the tip, Scott Fletcher.)

  • MOUTHING WORDS: At Boing Boing, Kortny Rolston reports on technology that allows one to use one’s tongue to hear. This would potentially remove the need for cochlear implants. It is fascinating to understand that both the production and reception of speech might be accomplished with the same muscle. One thing that gets glossed over sometimes in writing about sound is how senses themselves overlap, that hearing is a form of tactile experience — a form of touch — and this tongue-listening development further blurs our received conception of what it means to be human.

  • HEARING VOICES: What did the development radio mean to voices that had previously not necessarily expressed authority? Christine Ehrick has uploaded to an essay titled “Vocal Gender and the Gendered Soundscape: At the Intersection of Gender Studies and Sound Studies” that serves as an advance notice on her book Radio and the Gendered Soundscape in Latin America: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950, which will be published by Cambridge this fall. Ehrick is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Louisville, and she writes in detail not just about the way radio informed conceptions of gender, but also about the way the increase in sound studies is changing gender studies. In the class I teach we spend time on related topics by studying the work of Nina Power, specifically public address systems and how they relate to the notions of the feminine and the robotic. I guess, again, I am writing about a book I haven’t yet read — in this case one that has not yet even been published. The essay originated in the sound studies blog Sounding Out! this month as part of a forum on “Gendered Voices.”

This first appeared in the February 10, 2015, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter:

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