Steph Ceraso


Sounding Composition

White hand with "Listen" written in black ink on the palm.

White hand with "Listen" written in black ink on the palm.



My in-progress book project, Sounding Composition: Multimodal Pedagogies for Embodied Listening, proposes an expansive approach to teaching with sound in rhetoric and composition via the practice of multimodal listening—attending to the bodily, material, and contextual aspects of sonic interactions. I argue that cultivating multimodal listening practices enables students to become savvy consumers and producers of sound in the composition classroom and in their everyday lives.   

In order to devise a capacious, explicitly embodied approach to the teaching of listening, it is necessary to examine a broad range of extra-disciplinary practices. Thus, the framework for multimodal listening pedagogy is based on listening and composing techniques from an eclectic mix of sound professionals, including deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie; acoustic designers, who design sound for buildings or outdoor spaces; and automotive acoustic engineers, who design sound for cars. 

Throughout the book, I discuss how practices adopted from music, architecture, and design can inform the teaching of listening in rhetoric and composition. I also demonstrate how rhetoric and composition can contribute to a critical listening education that is relevant to a variety of professions, activities, and experiences. The book’s three core chapters provide different possibilities for teaching with sound in multimodal composition. Specifically, I explore listening and composing practices in relation to the body in Chapter 2, the environment in Chapter 3, and material objects in Chapter 4.

Each of these chapters is followed by a related assignment and pedagogical discussion, or what I call a “Reverberation.” Reverberation is an acoustic design term for the persistence of sound in a space after the original source of the sound has ceased. It is a phenomenon that occurs when reflections from the original sound blend together and linger in a space. Similarly, the assignments I suggest—projects that focus on bodily experiences with sound, soundscapes, and the strategic use of sound in designed objects—represent the persistence and blending together of ideas from the chapters that precede them. On a larger scale, I hope that these assignments will reverberate in classrooms as they are adopted and modified by teachers long after they read this book.


TABLE OF CONTENTS [subject to change]

Introduction: Toward Expansive Listening and Sonic Composing Practices

1. Sounding Out Rhet/Comp and Sound Studies: Resonances, Perturbations, Provocations

2. Sounding Bodies, Composing Experience: (Re)Educating the Senses

Reverberation: "My Listening Body"

3. Sounding Space, Designing Experience: The Ecological Practice of Sonic Composition

Reverberation: "Mapping Sound"

4. Sounding Cars, Selling Experience: Sound Design in Consumer Products

Reverberation: "Sonic Objects"

Conclusion: Multimodal Listening Pedagogy and the Future of Sonic Education