Mack Hagood explores the world of sound in the arts, music, and culture. Deep but accessible, each episode features the sounds and ideas of a contemporary artist, musician, or sound scholar. Detailed production makes these more than just interviews--they're movies for your mind.
Awfully Viral (Paula Harper on Will Robin’s Sound Expertise)
It’s summer and we are busy working on episodes for our fourth season. We’ve also rebuilt our website–check out the the fabulous new phantompod.org. There’s other great stuff in store for the podcast, so stay tuned!
But today, I want to share one of my favorite podcasts with you: Will Robin’s Sound Expertise. For those of you into musicology or popular music studies, there’s a great chance you’re already a subscribe. That’s because Will’s show is fantastic and I personally know many music scholars who are devoted fans of this show that features conversations with established and up-and-coming music scholars. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dr. Robin, you might remember that I quoted his New York Times obituary of R. Murray Schafer in our first episode on Schafer. He has written about music for the Times for at least a decade. He’s also an assistant professor of Musicology at the University of Maryland and the author of the book Industry: Bang on a Can and New Music. Sound Expertise will be dropping its third season in the fall.
The episode you are about to hear is one that I love as a media scholar. Will Robin interviews Dr. Paula Harper about her work on viral music videos and taste, specifically that terrible Rebecca Black video “Friday” that’s probably still rattling around in some dark recess of your brain. Dr. Harper digs into the awful virality of that video and all of its cover versions, discerning what this case study can tell us about genre, gender, and how and why sound travels on the internet. It’s a great discussion and I hope you enjoy it. And by the way, since this interview happened, Paula Harper has joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as an assistant professor of music. So, who says YouTube rots your brain?
Sound Expertise – Season 2, Episode 7Rebecca Black’s Friday and Viral Music with Paula Harper
TRANSCRIPT prepared by Andrew Dell’Antonio
Paula Harper 00:00One of the reasons that I do the work that I do, which is writing about music and sound on the internet, is in part because I am fascinated and delighted by objects that are frequently obnoxious. So a lot of the things that I’m engaging with are things that occupy this weird, liminal or ambivalent space between something that gives people delight and something that makes people want to throw their computer off of a tall building. So just like right in the middle space between those two emotions, or having those two emotions at the same time, is how I’ve engaged with a lot of stuff on the internet, including, but certainly not limited to, the Rebecca Black Friday video.
Will Robin 01:05Welcome back to Sound Expertise. I’m your host, Will Robin, and I’m a musicologist. And this is a podcast where I talk with my fellow music scholars about their research and why it matters.
You probably remember Rebecca Black’s Friday, and if not, you almost certainly heard it. It was absolutely ubiquitous about a decade ago, a music video by an amateur teen musician, which went viral because it was widely trashed as one of the Worst Songs of All Time. Friday went from YouTube to Tosh.0 to parodies and covers on late night TV, racking up tens of millions of views in the process. It was 2011, it was a more innocent time, when our expectations for what kinds of internet content would go viral we...
Voices Pt. 3: Dork-o-phonics (Jonathan Sterne)
Jonathan Sterne is one of the most influential scholars working on sound and listening. His 2003 book, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, had a formative influence on the then-nascent field of sound studies. His 2012 book, MP3: The Meaning of a Format, was both a fascinating cultural history and a deep meditation on the purpose of compression technology in capitalism. Today, Sterne talks to Phantom Power about his new book, Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment (Duke UP 2022). Specifically, he tells the story of the “Dork-o-phone,” a vocal amplifier he wears to give talks or communicate in loud spaces. Jonathan explains why he wears the Dork-o-phone, what it’s taught him about voice, technology, and disability, and how his experience informs Diminished Faculties’ “phenomenology of impairment.”
This is the third and final part of our series, Voices. Although you don’t need to listen to the other episodes first to enjoy this one, here are the links to part one and part two.
All of this episode’s sound art and music are performed by Jonathan Sterne and/or groups he appears in:
* Cancerscapes: Recordings made during Sterne’s thyroid cancer treatment* Volte: An instrumental post rock band* The Buddha Curtain: solo electronic music
Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology at McGill University. He does research in sound studies; media theory and historiography; science and technology studies; new media; disability studies; music; and cultural studies.
You can read Jonathan Sterne’s cancer diaries at https://www.cancerscapes.ca.
Ethereal Voice: This…is…Phantom Power.
Jonathan Sterne [Spacey Voice]: The interior voice is at least as much imagined as a reflection of external phenomenon.
And if you have a voice and never heard a recording of yourself speaking, you probably know that the auditory perspective between your ears is like nowhere else.
A shifting interior voice is an index to something very different from a stable interior voice.
Mack Hagood: Hey, it’s Phantom Power, a show where artists and scholars tell stories about sound. I’m Mack Hagood, and welcome to part three of our three-part series called Voices, this time we’re featuring sound studies scholar, Jonathan Sterne.
Voices Pt. 2: The Sound of My Voice (Stacey Copeland)
In part two of our three-part series “Voices,” we feature an exciting new voice in the world of sound studies, Stacey Copeland.
In part one last month, we examined the role voices play in professional sports and unpacked some of the understandings of ability and masculinity that inform the sound of the quarterback’s voice in the NFL. Copeland’s audio documentary, “This is the Sound of My Voice,” examines another group of professionals—women broadcasters and podcasters, who struggle with sonic sexism from male colleagues, audiences, and sometimes, even themselves.
The documentary was originally presented on radio in three parts, but Stacey graciously edited a shorter version for this episode of Phantom Power.
Stacey Copeland is a media producer and Joseph-Armand Bombardier (CGS) Ph.D. candidate at Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication in Vancouver, Canada. She received her Master of Arts from the Ryerson York joint Communication and Culture graduate program where she studied with a focus on radio production, sound studies, media culture and gender studies. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson University with a minor in English and a specialization in audio production for radio, music and film. It was during her Master’s work that Copeland co-founded FemRadio, a Toronto, Canada based feminist community radio collective. Currently, she is the supervising producer at Amplify Podcast Network, a collaborative project dedicated to reimagining the sound of scholarship.
Voices Part 1: Hut-hut-hike! (Travis Vogan, Jonathan Sterne)
In this first episode of a three-part series called Voices, we’re listening to the sound of American football—specifically the role of voices in the NFL. We start with a rather quirky story from NFL history that speaks to how the voice intersects with our ideologies around both disability and gender. It’s about a player whose voice stopped working the way it once did, revealing that football isn’t just a competition between teams on the gridiron—it’s a competition of audibility and vocal toughness. And like the rest of our Voices series, it opens up fascinating questions about what a voice actually is, what it does, and what it means, to us and to those around us.
Our guest is Travis Vogan, a prolific sports media scholar at the University of Iowa. Vogan has written books on ABC Sports, ESPN, boxing movies, and those “voice of God” NFL Films. We also hear briefly from sound scholar Jonathan Sterne, who will feature prominently in an upcoming episode of this Voices series.
Some of this episode is based on the article “The 12th Man: Fan Noise in the Contemporary NFL,” published in Popular Communication by Mack Hagood and Travis Vogan in 2016. If you don’t have institutional access, you can also find the PDF here.
Other things heard or mentioned in this episode:
“The Wild Story of the 49ers, Steve DeBerg, and a Shoulder-Pad Speaker System,” by Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, September 29, 2020.
“The UNBELIEVABLE Story of Steve DeBerg’s Loudspeaker Shoulder Pads,” by the Pick Six Podcast.
How Our Sonic Sausage Gets Made (Mack Hagood w/ Dario Llinares & Lori Beckstead)
This episode, we take you behind the scenes of Phantom Power. Producer/host Mack Hagood was invited by Dario Llinares and Lori Beckstead to be a guest on their show, The Podcast Studies Podcast. As you may or may not know, there are a lot of academics out there not only making podcast themselves but also studying podcasts and podcasting as a genre and an industry–and Dario and Lori are in that camp. Their podcast is a tremendous resource for those who want to understand this emerging academic field.
In the interview, Dario prompted Mack to go pretty deep into the production of Phantom Power, exploring the techniques and philosophy behind the show, as well as the potential Mack sees for podcasting as a format for generating scholarly knowledge. And after the interview, Lori had some intriguing comments about what counts as “original scholarship” when we do it in sound. So, as we prepare our 2022 season of Phantom Power, we thought we’d share this discussion of how our sonic sausage gets made. And we’ll be back next month with a new original episode!
Things we talk about in this episode:
Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control by Mack Hagood (Duke, 2019)
“Emotional Rescue” by Mack Hagood (Real Life, December 3, 2020)
“The Scholarly Podcast: Form and Function in Audio Academia” by Mack Hagood in Saving New Sounds: Podcast Preservation and Historiography, Jeremy Wade Morris and Eric Hoyt, Eds (University of Michigan Press, 2021).
Ep. 8: Test Subjects (Mara Mills), Phantom Power
Ep. 29 | R. Murray Schafer (1933-2021) Pt.1, Phantom Power.
Ep. 30 | R. Murray Schafer Pt. 2: Critiques & Contradictions, Phantom Power.
The World According to Sound (Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett)
The World According to Sound is the brainchild of two rogue audionauts who rebelled against the NPR mothership: Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett. It began as a micro podcast that held one unique sound under the microscope for 90 seconds each episode. Then it became something much more ambitious: a live sonic Odyssey in 8-channel surround sound. Starting January, Harnett and Hoff bring their realtime soundtrips direct to your home headphones via the internet in their winter listening series.
We are sure that Phantom Power listeners will love this experience. And right now, you can buy tickets for 25% off with the promo code phantompower25. (As a public university employee, I should probably note that I am not receiving financial compensation through this promo code. –Mack)
In this episode, host Mack Hagood talks to Harnett and Hoff about why they grew frustrated with working in public radio and how they now assemble sonic experiences that don’t impose a fixed narrative on their listeners. We also listen to some fantastic excerpts from their upcoming listening series.
We also briefly discuss a sound art classic, I am sitting in a room by Alvin Lucier. You can hear Lucier perform the piece in this video from an MIT symposium in 2014. Shortly after our interview, Lucier passed away at the age of 90. May he Rest In Peace.
Today’s show was written and edited by Mack Hagood. Music by Graeme Gibson.
Ethereal Voice: This…is…Phantom Power.
[Snippet from The World According to Sound]
Mack Hagood: And welcome to another episode of Phantom Power, your monthly deep dive into all things sound in the arts and humanities. I’m Mack Hagood, and the audio you just heard comes from the long running project called The World According to Sound.
It started off as a podcast then it became a live listening series. Now it’s a virtual distributed experience, that’s available to folks online, streaming.
I mean, it’s a little bit hard to explain actually, but we’ll get into that.
But The World According to Sound is the brainchild of my two guests today.
Chris Hoff: I’m Chris Hoff. I’m actually based in San Francisco and yeah, I’m more of a sound engineer. I come from the public radio world. And I’m the co-creator of The World According to Sound.
Sam Harnett: I’m Sam Harnett, primarily a reporter, but now full-time World According to Sound co-creator.
Mack: Like Chris, Sam comes from the world of public radio, and as you’ll hear, they sort of have a complicated relationship with their old boss.
Sam: Well, we started basically as a reaction to public radio, I mean, Chris and I have both been doing public radio for over a decade–Chris as an engineer and me as a report.
And one day we were just like, “You know, as much as we love public radio, there’s like no sound on radio.”
If you listen to public radio, what you hear is people talking. You hear facts and information and stories and characters, but you hear very, very little sound.
[Snippet from The World According to Sound]
Mack: When I met Chris and Sam, they were in the middle of editing their latest project and you might say they were neck deep in what we could call “ancie...
As a scholar of sound and an experimental musician you would be hard-pressed to find a show more perfectly tailored to my interests. That said, I can’t think of a podcast that both satisfies my desires for aesthetic aural pleasure and serves my intellectual pursuits quite like Phantom Power. A brilliant show.
One of the best podcasts available.
Just listened to episode on Siavash Amini— brilliant!
Thank you for making this.
All hail Moloch!
In Relationship With Sounds
Proof that changing the way you listen can change your life. Gas for my ears. Excellent