Ear Training for Writers

HNR 340 - Ear Training for Writers

MySlice Info:

Term: Fall 2019
Class #: 12315
Section: M007
Credits: 3

Berlin, Eric

Counts toward:
HNR Hum, Interdisciplinary

Course Time(s):
TuTh 09:30am-10:50am


Course Description:

A sentence is comprised of words that readers decode for meaning, but the sounds of those words – their rhythms and intonation, their dynamics and phrasing – can shape that significance. A rising tone, in English, is enough to signal a question, for example; but can meaning be made from an aspect of language that seems to mean nothing? In other words, when is tone – or rhythm, for that matter – more than merely musical?

Through listening exercises, this class explores genres of language between speech and song, attending to how cadence has been used and regulated by various subcultures around the globe. Audio at the heart of our discussions will reveal rhythmic language at its most soothing (lullabies), rousing (protest chants), manipulative (ads, propaganda, hypnotherapy), fluid (radio DJs, horse race announcers, auctioneers), subversive (stand-up), galvanizing (oratory), associative (glossolalia, jazz scat), elaborate (Welsh cynghanedd, hip hop), physically embodied (tongue twisters, playground rhymes, military marches), insulting (the dozens), frivolous (limerick), grand (epic) and transcendent (prayer). Together, we will closely examine the role of musicality in the making of meaning. Whenever possible, we will also try to pinpoint which principles regulate a text’s music from the outside and which animate it from within.

Discussions will be informed by theoretical readings and findings from peer-reviewed journals in fields as wide-ranging as folkloristics, comedy studies, body sciences, poetics, linguistic anthropology, biology, sound studies, musicology, and neurolinguistics. In weekly reflections and periodic papers, students will pursue individualized research questions on the role of sound in creation of self and community. Feedback on creative work will aim to help writers tune into the particular music immanent in each draft and offer various ways of teasing those threads out.

Since before civilization, poets have developed some of the most powerful tools for examining the musicality of language. This course borrows those tools to examine how meaning is made from the human voice.