Courses I've developed and taught.


Course description: What are we doing when we are listening? Is there a difference between listening and hearing? How does listening shape our interactions with our environment, or with other people? What power dynamics does listening enact? In this class we will explore a variety of modes of listening, ranging from the biological to the environmental to the social to the political. Readings, class discussion, a listening journal, and performance activities will aid us in our quest to find answers to these questions.

Course content: This course synthesizes work from several fields in the humanities, notably music theory, sound studies, linguistics, and disability studies. We will listen to music, to each other, and to our environment in order to understand the complex role that listening plays in our daily lives. In addition to the readings, there will be almost daily listening activities, ranging from a sound walk through campus, music listening, mindful listening, and performances of compositions by artists like Pauline Oliveros and John Cage that challenge our notions of what it means “to listen.” By the end of the course, students should be able to articulate ways in which listening mediates our encounters with each other and our environment, to describe the emergence of ubiquitous listening, to engage in mindful listening, and to discuss the ways in which listening articulates power.

Music and crisis

Course description: In the aftermath of crisis situations, when humans are deprived of some of their basic needs, many people find solace in the composition, performance, and/or consumption of music. What does this say about the importance of music in our daily lives? This course begins with an examination of basic human needs and how these needs can be impacted by a crisis. Building on current research in the cognitive science and anthropology of music, the second part of the course examines how music might attempt to meet these needs. The remainder of the course takes several public crises--9/11, the AIDS crisis, Hurricane Katrina--as case studies, examining musical activity in the aftermath of these crises.

The Sound of Seattle

Course description: What is the sound of Seattle? How do artists as diverse as Macklemore, Nirvana, and the Seattle Symphony embody that sound? Does the city's history, culture, and geography shape the sound? Can music shape our perception of the city? In this course we will use music as a vehicle to explore questions like this through reading, discussion, listening, and concert-going.

Course content: This course will present an historical overview of music in Seattle from roughly 1900 until the present. We will explore a range of genres, focusing on classical music, jazz, grunge, and hip hop. Each of these genres contributes to a “Seattle sound,” a concept that has shifted over time. By the end of the course, students should be able to articulate ways in which music reflects changing social conditions through the city's history. A secondary outcome is to expose students to the diversity of cultural offerings available in the city, including musical events at the University of Washington.