Alexander explains that sound is a way of communication that must be studied on its own and differently than other text media alone. Sound is an important component in making meaning, yet composition studies have long seemed to favor visual communication over sound. The way that students are instructed to interpret sound – generally through writing – suggest that even written communication may be preferred over sound in the realm of communications/composition studies. Alexander argues that there are ways that “sound and voice might exceed the textual or perform rhetorical work that the textual does not—or cannot,” (78) and that students should be allowed to use every form of persuasion available to them. He talks about one artist, Glenn Gould, who delved deep into sound research. For Gould, a recording was not a documentation of sound, but instead a recreation of it. Gould believed that sound could be interpreted in as many ways as any other text and he saw the potential for listeners creating their own soundscapes from one piece – an early prediction of the remix culture that exists today. For Alexander, sound allows us to have many stories woven into one piece with all the cues and information that we can gain from sounds and voices.
Ceraso emphasizes that sound is something that is experienced by multiple parts of the body. For example, at a concert, sound may physically be felt in the stomach and body while strong emotional reactions may occur as well from the experience. In this way, she argues that listening is a multimodal experience in and of itself that can include sound, touch, and even sight. Ceraso also explains that our past listening experiences shape and determine our future listening experiences because whether we are conscious of it or not, we do learn to listen a certain way. Unlearning and relearning to listen are important parts of education on multimodal listening instruction. This multimodal listening is useful in multimodal composition, which helps people to maximize all the tools available to them in communicating effectively.
What are the differences between their arguments?
Alexander talks about the ways that sound, on its own, is a different and complex experience that provides new meaning that other modes cannot provide themselves. Ceraso, however, emphasizes multimodal experiences throughout her whole article, which leaves little room for any interpretation that sound is something that can be experienced on its own.
What is similar?
Alexander stresses that sound must be taught in a way that is different and separate from other texts in order to fully understand its potential in communicating. Similarly, but still distinctly different, Ceraso emphasizes the importance of learning to communicate with sound because it will contribute to effective multimodal communication.
Ceraso writes her article with the purpose of attempting “to reimagine the ways that we teach listening to account for the multiple sensory modes through which sound is experienced in and with the body,” (103). Alexander also speaks to the way that sound allows us to experience things differently and learn differently than ever before.