Sound Project

My Universities

My audio project tells the story of my college life. I graduated from high school in 2008 and attended in China Agricultural University in Beijing in the fall of that year. I studied biology in China. After three years of study in Beijing, I came to the University of Illinois to study mathematics, computer science and philosophy.


My project mainly consists of two parts. The first part is my college life of China. The second part is my life in Urbana and Champaign. The two lives are very distinctive and I would like to create a contrast between them. There are several differences. The first one is the location. China Agricultural University is located in Beijing, the capital and cultural center of China, while U of I is in Urbana and Champaign, which are sometimes called the side of the corn field. The second difference is the non-academic life. In China, we have the system of class. Each student is assigned to a class based on the major and classmates are likely to study and stay together for the four years. But in the U.S., people are more individualized. The third difference is the academic life. It is obvious that the study of biology is very different from that of math, computer science and philosophy.


The story of my life in U.S. consists of two parts. The first part is disappointing while the second one is satisfying. However, compared to the good part of American life, the disappointing part is insignificant. I highly appreciate my life in U of I. To illustrate this, I intend to make the disappointing part feel relaxed and the satisfying section of story feel serious and important.


The main component of this project is my monologue that tells the story and also serves as clues for the development other parts. Among the four components of the framework provided by McKee, I focus on the music part (339). The project begins with the symphonic song, the East is Red. This song is one of the national anthems and widely known across the country. On one hand, the symphony begins from silence and rises to a crescendo. The sound effect created by the background music gives a sense of the coming of a story. Thus, this episode of symphony is suitable for the beginning of my monologue. On the other hand, it is the background when I talk about Beijing, the political center of China. This song is powerful and emphasizes the importance of the city. It enhances the contrast between Beijing and Champaign. The next music is Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ song, Empire State of Mind. It occurs when I talk about my image of the United States as the land of freedom and fantasy. The content of the song is very similar to my image. This rhythmical song also sounds fantastic, which fits into its content. But later on, as I take the shuttle to the university, I find that the road is surrounded by corn fields. Champaign and Urbana are like rural areas. Empire State of Mind strengthens the difference between the imaginary U.S.A. and the factual Champaign and highlights that Champaign is rural. The next song is John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. This country style music draws exactly the image of my shuttle trip to the U of I. This peaceful country song is contrasted from Empire State of Mind. It is this contrast that gives a sense of gap and indicates my disappointment when I first came to the United States. Then I use Hail to the Orange, the song of the U of I, when I talk about the academic life and good aspects of the university. The string version of the song sounds grand and serves well as the background because my intention is to make the this part of story feel serious.


Apart from my monologue, I also use an actual lecture recording in China. The professor was talking about amino acid metabolism. On the one hand, it makes my life of China more lifelike. People can know my life beyond merely my description. On the other hand, it serves as the transition from the interesting part to the boring part of biology. I mention that I am not interested in biochemistry and cellular biology right after this recording. Besides, there is a dialogue between Kyle Payne and me. Kyle plays as a teaching assistant who called my name in a regular American way. This is also a real story. When I first came to the United States, I did not know how American people call my name. The Chinese pronunciation of my name is very different from American way. So at the beginning of my arrival to the country, when people called me, I did not realize that they were doing so. This story is also part of the disappointing American life because my name is never pronounced correctly by people here. Though it is disappointing, the story is still anecdotal and relaxed.


For other elements of McKee’s framework, I only use one sound effect, a shuttle sound (339). It acts as the context for the story of shuttle trip. As for the silence, I do not intend to create any particular silences. Most of them are a natural separation and transition of different sections of the story. Vocal delivery is also a major element of McKee’s framework (339 – 343). But as a foreign student, it is a little hard to grasp the subtle difference. So mostly my monologue is plain. But when I talk about my image of the United States, I do address my tone and loudness to indicate my image of the country is very beautiful and fantastic.


Though we can spend several pages to describe the difference between the colleges of China and the U.S., this project makes use of the affordances of sound. First of all, the effect produced by music, sound effect and silence is hardly to be achieved in a traditional essay. Moreover, the pronunciation difference of my name between English and Chinese cannot be expressed in an essay without sound. There are no corresponding phonemes of “Zi” in English. Besides, since I put an original recording of my lecture and the dialogue, the senses of the project are beyond merely description and very lifelike.


However, the contrast of the college life between China and America is not my only intention. I would like to indicate that though the two lives are so different, a college is universally functional as the place to learn knowledge and skills, and to improve intelligence and humanity. And most importantly, I want to imply that I love both universities. The music I use here is the Cloud Atlas End Title. The melodious and slow music is good for the ending as it goes into peace.









McKee, Heidi. “Sound Matters: Notes Toward The Analysis And Design Of Sound In Multimodal Webtexts.” Computers & Composition 23.3 (2006): 335-354. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 July 2013.



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