My teaching is deeply influenced by my own liberal arts education, where I was taught to investigate the assumptions that underlie arguments. Now, as my students learn about the work sound does, I show them how to approach audio technologies critically and creatively. Drawing on my own practice, I teach students to act reflectivity, encouraging them to follow their creative impulses while being careful to examine their motivations.
Students develop facility with sound by working with it—by executing creative projects. The bulk of student time in my courses is spent doing. Outside of class, this means engaged material exploration and multi-week, progressive assignments manipulating sound. Inside the classroom it means practicing critique in a variety of styles: small peer groups and large group discussion, written and verbal. The combination yields ample opportunity for feedback with time to develop their ideas.
In course meetings, the stated goal of critique is to support one another in improving each piece. Encouraging critique from an empathetic perspective ensures that the responding students do so in the best interests of the creator while allowing the creator to receive difficult advice more comfortably. Creating a community of practitioners, I encourage the students to be invested in the successes and failures of one another. If one student does something well, it provides us a model for how we may all improve our work; if they do something poorly, they have contributed by making a mistake we can all learn from to avoid in the future. Throughout class, I compare in-progress student examples with classic works, putting new work into historical perspective and ensuring that students learn core of foundational media arts pieces. As we work, we collaboratively generate a glossary of descriptive terminology to aid students in developing robust sonic vocabularies ensuring my students cultivate the ability to be richly expressive about sound.
I teach so that, by creating, my students do as I do: learn about the world and about themselves through the process of making art. Contemporary recording and sound editing technologies afford an opportunity for anyone, regardless of prior musical training, to manipulate audio. I leverage such tools to put students in material interaction with sound—our object of study. By manipulating it, students have direct experiences with sound that transform their understanding of it in ways unavailable through analysis alone. We develop reflective creative practices to realize benefits that extend well beyond the generation of individual works and lead to broader questions: How can we use time-based media in coming to know about the world? How does our experience of media influence our understanding of the world? My students manipulate media to observe the world in new ways, revealing new things about it. As they do so, they reveal new things about themselves by remaining attentive to the ways that they observe the world.