Abstract Edit

Compositions with audio require sound engineering. With technology, we can edit audio to create a solid piece. Types of sound that can be used are vocals, music, sound effects and silence which all have their own rhetorical purposes.

Key Concepts Edit

Often times, audio is accompanied by some visual aspect which creates layers of complexity in a piece, but in regards to the audible parts, there are many things to consider and make choices about.

Vocal Delivery Edit

The quality of a voice greatly impacts how it is perceived by listeners. Consider the qualities of voice:

- Tension: how tight or strained the voice is

- Roughness: how raspy or throaty the voice is (rougher voices associated with men)

- Breathiness: how airy or intimate the voice is (airy voices associated with less authority)

- Loudness: how loud or soft the voice is

- Pitch: how high or low the voice is

- Vibrato: how still or wavering the voice is

- Timbre: quality or color of the voice

Technology allows us to manipulate voice, so "strive for clarity and seamlessness" when editing to make sure the voice can be understood. However, there are also other postmodern, disruptive approaches to editing voice.

Music Edit

Music establishes tone and atmosphere in a piece. When listening to music, we notice its qualities on three different planes:

  1. Sensuous

- Medium (what generates this sound?)

- Quality of sound (tone, uniformity)

- Dynamics/intensity

2. Expressive

- Evokes feelings (i.e. a minor key can evoke sadness)

3. Sheerly Musical

- Movement (rhythm, tempo, meter)

- Pitch (order, melody)

- Structure

Layers can be built with sounds, music, and voice. Make sure choices have a clear purpose and are part of your argument.

Sound Effects Edit

Sound effects should be used sparingly, but they can help to provide context or a cue as to where the setting is for example. They can also create mood and act as emotional stimuli.

Silence Edit

Silence can be a very powerful tool in sound. Silence gives people time to take in information, but it can also build suspense and create drama.

Examples Edit

Sonya Borton’s “The Legacy of Music” is a sound essay where the speaker talks about how music is a big part of her family. Through her storytelling various sounds like an older man singing transitions as she mentions that her grandfather was a singer. Sound is also used in way that by switching each voice to a different family member gives the listeners a glimpse of their personality.

Hiller: “NYC: After the Fall” is a multimodal webtext that was about New York after 9/11. It included photographs of people from New York and text of a poem. The sound in this piece is electric cellos that fade and it sharper. This sound gives the piece a jarring effect and leaves the audience uneasy.

Vocal Delivery: In his speech following the bombing of Pearl Harbor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt communicates his message to the American people in a very serious yet pain-filled tone. Someone's vocal delivery lets listeners know whether or not the speaker actually cares about the subject matter . ====

Music: The theme music used in Jaws creates suspense and is meant to foreshadow some sort of tragedy. It tells listeners how to feel and constantly shapes their emotions. Edit

Special Effects: Sounds, such as police sirens in the background of a discussion of police brutality, are an example of a special effect. This effects helps immerse listeners into the world of the audio and gives listeners' imaginations something tangible to work with. If used in the intro of a sound file it can also help foreshadow the subject of a work. Edit

Silence: An example of silence is a speaker taking a break from speaking and giving the audience a few seconds to digest and consider what was just said. Silence is a powerful tool for reflection, and in works that rely only on sound, they give listeners a break and let them think for themselves without the interruption of the speaker. Edit

Further Reading Edit

  1. Why is Sound Important? A reading that explains how sound provides you with information about the world. The two main uses of sound are for signaling and communication. Sound is a very powerful function that interacts and aids us with our daily lives.
  2. Sound in films This piece contains valuable information about the assets of sound effects in film. Visual images may tell the story, however, it is sound that sells it. Without sound effects, viewers are not able to buy into the story line.

Keywords Edit


New Media




Citations Edit

Mckee, Heidi. "Sound Matters: Notes toward the Analysis and Design of Sound in Multimodal Webtexts." Computers and Composition 23.3 (2006): 335-54. Web.

Sonya Borton’s “The Legacy of Music”:

Hiller, Geoffrey, Vandel, Tom, Perkins, Heather, & Sylwester, Peter. (2002). New York City: After the Fall. ,