Musical Passage: A Voyage to 1688 Jamaica tells the story of the earliest transcription of African music in the Americas. The project was published in sx archipelagos, the digital wing of Small Axe, and was tapped by Slate as one of the best digital history projects of 2016. Musical Passage is a collaboration with historian Laurent Dubois and composer David K. Garner. Read my interview with Duke Today for more on the site’s creation.
When you want to know the meaning of a word, you can simply look it up in a dictionary, but what if you want to know what something sounds like? The Sonic Dictionary is a multi-institutional, student-created project that serves as a reference source for sound and sonic culture. It includes a database of over 1,000 sound recordings and descriptive metadata, as well as exhibits and collections that connect the recordings to key topics in the humanities, from environmental studies to music. I founded the project in 2013 in response to the needs of students in my courses who were struggling to write about sound. The project grew into a multi-institutional collaboration involving courses at Duke University, University of North Texas, Furman University, Emory University, Oberlin College, Eastman Conservatory of Music, Georgia Tech University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Several hundred students contributed to the project before its conclusion in 2020.
The digital turn provides an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the forms through which scholars and artists communicate. In 2015 I co-edited a digital collection showcasing scholarship at the cutting edge of digital sound studies. My collaborators Whitney Trettien, Darren Mueller, and I were awarded a competitive grant from the Franklin Humanities Institute and funding from the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge at Duke to support our project. Our digital project inspired a related print collection, Digital Sound Studies, which was published by Duke University Press in Fall 2018.