Composition Forum 30, Fall 2014
Experiencing Ambience Together: A Sonic Review of Thomas Rickert’s Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being
Abstract: This review playfully approaches Rickert’s book through the lens of sonic rhetorical studies, focusing on the parts that seems most useful to scholars in this area. Naturally, then, it is presented as an exercise in practicing sonic rhetoric, with a dynamic, loose conversation between two sound scholars enlivened with a number of musical and sonic clips that exemplify the spoken parts of the review. The review is presented through multiple playback options to make it easier to digest in small chunks, but those sections are fluid, and the experience makes most sense when heard all together.
Audio production by Jonathan Stone;
Transcribed by Kyle D. Stedman
Rickert, Thomas. Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. Print.
[Editor's note: This review can be accessed in three different filesizes and lengths: its complete format via the links below, as divided into five major parts, or as seventeen smaller divisions.]
A Sonic Review of Thomas Rickert, Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being
Part 1: An Everyday Introduction to Ambient Rhetoric: Concert Communities, Definitions, New Approaches
Part 1.1: This is a review, but it’s a personal review, and it’s a review focused on our interests as sound scholars.
Part 1.2: We went to an intense Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field.
Part 1.3: The complexities of that concert’s meanings can help us understand how Rickert is expanding our vision of what rhetoric is and does.
Part 1.4: An ambient rhetoric decenters a rhetor’s control over a message and encourages rhetors to attune themselves to ambient surroundings. Persuasion is “intensified,” not abandoned.
Part 2: Sonic Languages, Sonic Spaces, Sonic Moments
Part 2.1: Rickert’s book is full of musical, sonic language.
Part 2.2: Spaces matter. They speak. They’re ambient.
Part 2.3: And space relates to time. Both work together to disclose meaning to us rhetorically.
Part 2.4: On kairos, fate, serendipity, and R.E.M.
Part 3: Backgrounds, Production, Symbolicity
Part 3.1: Some music producers go for bombastic sounds; Brian Eno composes sounds that ambiently fold into our lives.
Part 3.2: Ambient music asks you to attune yourself not just to the message, but to the living that happens around the message.
Part 3.3: Ambience can even free us from restrictive models of musical rhetoric. And it reminds us that there is more than just the symbolic.
Part 3.4: On Heidegger, the immediate processing of sonic meanings, and Smashing Pumpkins.
Part 4: A Pedagogical Detour, An Ambient Disclosure
Part 4.1: Ambient rhetoric helps us think ecologically so humans can flourish. Plus, Brian Eno talks about gardening.
Part 4.2: What does this have to do about teaching? Well, we can start with care.
Part 4.3: We can also teach students to attend to complex ecologies. And to islands. Lots of islands.
Part 5: Returning to Wrigley and Rhetoric
Part 5.1: On Rickert’s definition of rhetoric, which takes us unavoidably back to Pearl Jam.
Part 5.2: On why Rickert’s ambient rhetoric is good for sound studies.
We’d like to thank Steph Ceraso for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this piece. We’re also grateful to the affordances of the non-human elements that helped us create the piece: Google Drive, Transcribe Lite, Winamp, iTunes, GarageBand, Dropbox, Shure microphones, and everything/everyone we’re forgetting.
Fair Use Statement
Many of the musical tracks and sound samples we used are licensed by Creative Commons; see the list of Works Cited for a complete list of these pieces. We relied on these whenever we wanted background sounds that weren’t explicitly part of our critical conversation. But many of the samples we needed are protected by copyright; however, we believe that each of these uses can be firmly defended as fair. In each case of using a copyrighted work, we discuss the work as part of our critical, scholarly work; our critical points couldn’t be made the same way without them. We also were careful to use only as much as we needed (almost always less than 30 seconds), and we won’t be benefiting financially from the use of these works.
Music and Sound Effects Cited
Bach, J.S. English Suite No. 4 in F Major, BWV 809: Prelude. Perf. Bob Van Asperen. Bach Edition: English Suites BWV 806-808. Brilliant Classics, 2006. MP3 file.
Carey, Mariah. Can’t Let Go. Emotions. Columbia, 1991. MP3 file.
Coldplay. Life in Technicolor. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Parlophone, 2008. MP3 file.
Eno, Brian. 1/1. Ambient 1: Music for Airports. EG, 1978. MP3 file.
---. The Microsoft Sound. Winhistory.de. Winhistory.de, 2012. Web. 1 July 2014. <http://www.winhistory.de/more/winstart/winstart.htm.en>.
everythingsounds. Cave Drips. Freesound. Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 1 July 2014.
Giacchino, Michael. Parting Words. Lost Season 1: Original Television Soundtrack. Varèse Sarabande, 2006. MP3 file.
Led Zeppelin. When the Levee Breaks. Led Zeppelin IV. Atlantic, 1971. MP3 file.
“Lightning” Washington and Group. Good God Almighty. Jail House Bound: John Lomax’s First Southern Prison Recordings, 1933. Global Jukebox, 2012. MP3 file.
Nirvana. Heart-Shaped Box. In Utero. DGC, 1993. MP3 file.
Pearl Jam. Release (Live at Wrigley Field, 7/19/13). We Got Shit . . . A Pearl Jam Bootleg Site. N.p., 21 July 2013. Web. 22 July 2013. <http://wegotshit.blogspot.com/2013/07/wrigley-field-071913-audience-flac.html>.
---. Release. Ten. Epic, 1991. MP3 file.
R.E.M. Time after Time (AnnElise). Reckoning. I.R.S., 1984. MP3 file.
Shazbat70. Bloom HD Playing on the iPad. YouTube. YouTube, 1 June 2010. Web. 1 July 2014.
Smashing Pumpkins. Cherub Rock. Siamese Dream. Virgin, 1993. MP3 file.
---. I Am One. Earphoria. Virgin, 2002. MP3 file.
---. Sinfony. Earphoria. Virgin, 2002. MP3 file.
---. Today. Siamese Dream. Virgin, 1993. MP3 file.
Music Licensed by Creative Commons and Available at Jamendo.com
Fureon Nectarmoon. Z-Geist. To a Nighttime Dreamscape. 2014. MP3 file. <http://www.jamendo.com/en/track/1123983/z-geist>.
Irokez. The Rise. Ambient 104. 2013. MP3 file. <http://www.jamendo.com/en/track/1067670/the-rise>.
Jefferson, David. Raining Guitar. Frozen in Time. 2008. MP3 file. <http://www.jamendo.com/en/track/1132630/raining-guitar>.
La Meche, Tom. Novembre. Personnel. 2005. MP3 file. <http://www.jamendo.com/en/track/5090/novembre>.
Psychadelik Pedestrian. Pacific. Nocturnia. 2013. MP3 file. <http://www.jamendo.com/en/track/1042083/pacific>.
Pytel, Szymon. Night Walk. Night Walk. 2012. MP3 file. <http://www.jamendo.com/en/track/964223/night-walk>.
Written and Spoken Sources
Ahern, Katherine Fargo. Tuning the Sonic Playing Field: Teaching Ways of Knowing Sound in First Year Writing. Computers and Composition 30.2 (2013): 75-86. Print.
Ball, Cheryl E., and Byron Hawk, eds. Sound in/as Composition Space. Spec. issue of Computers and Composition 23.3 (2006): 263-398. Print.
Baraka, Imamu Amiri. Blues People: Negro Music in White America. New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1963. Print.
Bloom (Software). Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 July 2014.
Campbell, Trisha. Digital Experiential (Review) of Thomas Rickert’s Ambient Rhetoric. Enculturation 17 (2014): n.pag. Web. 1 July 2014.
Ceraso, Steph. (Re)Educating the Senses: Multimodal Listening, Bodily Learning, and the Composition of Sonic Experiences. College English 77 (forthcoming). Print.
Davis, Diane, ed. Writing with Sound. Spec. issue of Currents in Electronic Literacy (2011): n. pag. Web. 21 July 2014.
Eno, Brian. Composers as Gardeners. Edge. Edge Foundation, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.
Niimi, J. Murmur. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2005. Print. 33 ⅓ Series, Book 22.
Rickert, Thomas, ed. Writing/Music/Culture. Spec. issue of Enculturation 2.2 (1999): n. pag. Web. 21 July 2014.
Rivers, Nathaniel A. Circumnavigation: An Interview with Thomas Rickert. Kairos 18.2 (2014): n.pag. Web. 1 July 2014.
Stone, Jon, and Steph Ceraso, eds. Sonic Rhetorics. Spec. issue of Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion 9 (2013): n. pag. Web. 21 July 2014.
Sonic Review of Rickert, AMBIENT RHETORIC from Composition Forum 30 (Fall 2014)
Online at: http://compositionforum.com/issue/30/stedman-stone-rickert-review.php
© Copyright 2014 Kyle D. Stedman and Jonathan Stone.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.
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