Say It Through Music

Mary Caton Lingold, a doctoral student in Duke’s English Department, was fascinated by the craft of radio production and podcasts. Combined with her interest in the scholarship in the fields of digital humanities and sound studies, Lingold developed the course “Studies in Music Genre.” The instructor knew in the planning of the Fall 2013 course that a typical written project would never capture the spirit of the students’ experiences. Instead, the writing project was transformed into an oral narrative mixed with the important music tracks of their lives.

In the assignment, she aimed for students to explore writing in sound while also learning new technical skills. In keeping with the goals of the Thompson Writing Center’s academic writing curriculum for Duke undergraduates, students produced a draft of their audio-essay, workshopped it in small groups, and made substantial revisions. The final results showcased some of the most compelling work students produced in the class all semester. Their stories are moving, funny, entertaining, and unique. The form of the assignment really emphasized “voice,” an important element in any kind of writing.

soundcloudStudents used two technologies to create the projects. Audacity, an open source software for recording and editing sound, allowed students to record their voices and mix in snippets of their favorite songs. Along with editing capabilities, Audacity allows users to upload and convert different audio file types.

The next step for the students was to share their projects with their colleagues to get feedback and comment on others’ work. Lingold turned to SoundCloud to host the students’ audio. SoundCloud is a social platform for sharing recordings and songs. Users may create groups based on interests to share files. Recordings can be privately or publicly shared, plus users can insert their audio into outside blogs or social media. Written comments can be inserted at any point in the audio file to provide directed feedback.

Want to hear the students’ final products? Visit their SoundCloud page here.

Think Audacity or SoundCloud might be right for your classroom? Check out these guides for recording and hosting sound files.

This blog post was written with the instructor, Mary Caton Lingold.

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