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Sonic Persuasion

Sonic Persuasion: Reading Sound in the Recorded Age

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Sonic Persuasion
    Book Description:

    Sonic Persuasion: Reading Sound in the Recorded Age critically analyzes a range of sounds on vocal and musical recordings, on the radio, in film, and in cartoons to show how sounds are used to persuade in subtle ways. Greg Goodale explains how and to what effect sounds can be "read" like an aural text, demonstrating this method by examining important audio cues such as dialect, pausing, and accent in presidential recordings at the turn of the twentieth century. Goodale also shows how clocks, locomotives, and machinery are utilized in film and literature to represent frustration and anxiety about modernity, and how race and other forms of identity came to be represented by sound during the interwar period. In highlighting common sounds of industry and war in popular media, Sonic Persuasion also demonstrates how programming producers and governmental agencies employed sound to evoke a sense of fear in listeners. Goodale provides important links to other senses, especially the visual, to give fuller meaning to interpretations of identity, culture, and history in sound.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09320-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Language & Literature, Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. 1 Reading Sound
    (pp. 1-15)

    Undergraduate students often encounter Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address during their academic adventures. Political scientists, American historians, and rhetorical critics, in particular, like to use this speech. The oration is certainly historic, not to mention interesting and easy to read. The address also features a line, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” that has been woven into the fabric of public memory. Unfortunately, the line is no longer as powerful as it once was. Inevitably, when the speech and that sentence are discussed in undergraduate classes, they are discussed aswords on a page. Indeed,...

  7. 2 Fitting Sounds
    (pp. 16-46)

    During the 1890s, millions of Americans tried out a surprising invention produced in Thomas A. Edison’s Menlo Park factories. Eleven years after its invention in 1877, Edison had finally made the new device marketable. The automatic phonograph, a “nickel-slot” machine (essentially, a jukebox with one recording) that salesmen introduced to saloons, train stations, and other crowded locations, played back prerecorded cylinders for five cents. Most of these cylinders carried the sounds of storytellers repeating jokes, minstrels engaged in slapstick comedy, and popular and classical music. A few of these recordings were political speeches, and a few others were pornographic.¹ Plunking...

  8. 3 Machine Mouth
    (pp. 47-75)

    At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, many found the sounds of modernity disturbing. But humans are remarkably adaptable, and so over time and sometimes with training, most grew familiar with the sound of the ticking clock, the clickity-clack of the locomotive, and the ceaseless humming of countless machines. Did this shift occur without remark? Or did people write about being disturbed by the sounds of modernity? As it turns out, much has been written about the sounds of modernity, both before and after people adjusted to the new noises. Three inventions in particular were...

  9. 4 The Race of Sound
    (pp. 76-105)

    Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music, recorded a few blues tunes at the Victor Corporation’s Hollywood studio during a visit to California in July 1930. One of the songs he recorded required more than he could provide through his weak voice and simple guitar picking. So a pianist and a trumpet player were drafted to accompany the country crooner in the studio. Neither of these artists’ names were included on the records produced by Victor. When the single “Blue Yodel #9” was marketed, it went out under Rodgers’s name alone. Those who listened to the recording from its release...

  10. 5 Sounds of War
    (pp. 106-131)

    The ancient Greeks told tales of the sirens whose voices so enchanted seamen that the mariners lost their minds and crashed their ships onto the shores. The sirens’ calls were irresistible. Even Odysseus, after plugging his mariners’ ears, had to be tied to the mast to prevent himself from losing his mind, his ship, and his life. In history, it is one of the most powerful of sounds, though mythological, and demonstrates once again sonic persuasion. Some sounds can make people commit suicide.

    In 1937, the American poet Langston Hughes employed this motif during a visit to Spain, a country...

  11. 6 On Sound Criticism
    (pp. 132-154)

    Thomas A. Edison invented the phonograph in December 1877 and promptly put further development of the invention aside as he perfected another innovation, electricity. Edison only made the phonograph practical in 1888. Though Edison made few recording devices that first decade, stories abound about the things that Edison recorded. The most famous of these tales is that Edison sang “Mary had a little lamb” into his first machine in 1877, though this is likely apocryphal. Primary texts indicate that Edison or, likely, one of his assistants shouted “Mad dog” into the horn and then played the message backwards, projecting a...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-182)
  13. Index
    (pp. 183-190)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-192)