Functional Sounds

Holger Schulze
Functional Sounds

Every Tuesday


Ringtones and alarm signals live in our homes. But until recently they never were an object of serious research for cultural history or for musicology. These so-called functional sounds punctuate and they perforate our each and every day; they create an auditory environment out of signals in which we act, behave, perform, react and live. Now there comes this station identification, this sound logo, the sound of the Metro or the S-tog is humming, he hear the signal of a mobile phone in the audience.

In this course we explore together (a) various sorts of mostly non-musical and non-verbal, functional signal sounds of everyday life – and we apply (b) various theoretical approaches to inerprete how functional sounds effect our indidividual listening and acting as listeners and how they are to be situated in a broader cultural history.

In each session we start with listening and trying to understand one specific, tiny functional sound – in all its historical and culturally specific character: starting with a single, incredible tiny ringtone, over various computer sounds, the sound of kitchen appliances, opening and closing signals of various doors, car navigation systems, up to the many alarm signals in traffic.

Basic references

Cobussen, Marcel, Krause, Julia & Schulze, Holger (2014 eds.), Functional Sounds in Sound Art and Popular Culture. Proceedings of the First International ESSA Conference 2013, Part I – Journal of Sonic Studies 4 (2014) Vol. 7
Gopinath, Sumanth (2013), The Ringtone Dialectic. Economy and Cultural Form. Cambridge & London: MIT-Press.
Hermann, Thomas, Hunt, Andy & Neuhoff, John G. (2011 eds.), The Sonification Handbook. Berlin: Logos Publishing House.
Maier, Carla, Schneider, Max & Schulze, Holger (2015), Situative Signals in Sonic Conflicts, in: Bull, Michael & Les Back (2015), The Auditory Culture Reader. 2nd edition (in press)
Maier, Carla & Schulze, Holger (2015 eds.), Functional Sounds in History and the Public Sphere. Proceedings of the First International ESSA Conference 2013, Part II – SoundEffects – An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience Vol. 5 (2015), H.2 (in preparation)
Spehr, Georg (2009 ed.), Funktionale Klänge. Hörbare Daten, klingende Geräte und gestaltete Hörerfahrungen. (Sound Studies Buchreihe Vol. 2) Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.


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