Glenn Gould and the Rhetorics of Sound
Given the increased attention to working with sound in multimodal and multimedia compositions, this essay summarizes current pedagogical research and scholarly conversations and then argues for more attention to the work of Canadian pianist and recording artist Glenn Gould, who was amongst the foremost artists of his time in critically thinking about and productively expanding the possibilities of sound recording and manipulation. Gould's own voice is a key feature of many of his recordings, and his brilliant radio documentaries serve as challenging models for what contemporary compositionists might do with sound and voice in the teaching of multimodal composing. Indeed, Gould anticipated so much contemporary media production, particularly a “do-it-yourself” aesthetic, from which we can still learn. Moreover, as Gould was primarily a musician and sound artist, his insights into and practice with working with sound and voice treat both sound and voice as their own material media; they are not, for Gould, metaphors and stand-ins for textual meaning making and, as such, his work might inform a multimodal compositional pedagogy that takes seriously the particular affordances of sound and voice. Attention to such work might help us consider what can be done with sound and voice in the production of multimedia “texts” where sound and voice act beyond the textual—not just as metaphors for textual meaning making, but as materialities with their own particular rhetorical and affective affordances and dimensions.
- Sound recording;
- Sound and Materiality;
- Glenn Gould;
- Radio documentary;
- Sound essay
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Jonathan Alexander is Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, where he has served as Campus Writing Coordinator, director of the Center for Excellence in Writing & Communication, and chair of the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies.