Amy Skjerseth

A. Skjerseth
Cohort Year: 2016
Research Interests: Sound, Music, and Voice Studies; Film and Media History and Theory; Social History of Technology; Multisensory and Embodied Spectatorship; Race, Gender, and Sexuality; Close Listening/Reading; International Avant-Gardes; Animation; Radio and Podcasting
Education: MA, English, McGill University (2016) BA, English, University of Rochester (2013) BM, Applied Music: Oboe Performance, Eastman School of Music (2013)

Biography

Amy Skjerseth is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and Franke Institute of the Humanities Dissertation Completion Residential Fellow at the University of Chicago. Her scholarly interests range from the materiality of voice and the use of pre-existing popular music in film and media to social histories of audiovisual and music technologies. Past publications include "Grains of Sound: Visual and Sonic Textures in Sand or Peter and the Wolf" (animation: an interdisciplinary journal 16.3, 2021), “Multiplying Mise-en-Scène: Found Sounds of The Night of the Hunter in Lewis Klahr’s Daylight Moon and Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinema (Film Criticism 44.1, 2020), an audio essay on Yoko Ono’s Fly in [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies (6.2, 2019), and an article on film sound in It Follows in Spectator. Her work has also appeared in Theatre Research International.

An active member of the sound studies community, Amy co-coordinated the Sound and Society Workshop at UChicago from 2017-19. Since 2019, she has been co-organizer of the Great Lakes Association for Sound Studies. She is also a core producer of Phantom Power: A Podcast on the Sonic Arts and Humanities. For Phantom Power, she recently wrote and produced the episode “The Enduring Voice of Yoko Ono.” Since 2020, she has been the graduate representative for the SCMS Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group. In 2020-21, she received a Mellon-funded UChicagoGRAD Graduate Global Impact Internship to teach and develop career and podcast programming in the Sound Arts and Industries MA Program at Northwestern University. 

Amy's dissertation-in-progress, Music’s Visual Waves: Popular Music Technology and Audiovisual Aestheticsexplores how technological innovations influenced music and visual culture over four decades, from 1960s transistor radios to 1990s Auto-Tune. Portable music technologies in the postwar era inspired American and British filmmakers and pop stars to give pop songs increasingly mobile and visual meanings that change how media portray, and make, history and culture. Magnetic tape, digital samplers, and voice manipulation software, with their ability to fragment and recombine pop music, irrevocably altered how humans could remix and defy forms of representation in visual media with pre-existing pop songs. New waves of visualizing recorded voice, sound, and music in postwar music technology, I argue, reveal shifting depictions of what it means to be human. Each chapter follows a two-part structure to oscillate between sonic and visual culture. First, I show how the historical and economic origins of music recording technologies shape the new sounds that pop artists make to express themselves and their societies. Second, I examine how the visual imagery paired with found pop songs in avant-garde films and contemporary music videos reflects attitudes toward gender, sexuality, race, and more. Across these chapters, I show how music technologies shape trends and countercultures in visual culture, and how experimental and mainstream art impact each other. Ultimately, I reveal an audio-visual feedback loop between music and screen technologies, which mutually influence how people express aspects of identity in certain decades.

Amy's research interests often inform her teaching. She received the Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowship for an undergraduate course of her own design, "Sound and Scandal: How Media Make Believe," taught in Spring 2021. "Sound and Scandal" analyzes lip sync and dubbing as they develop across cultures and media genres, from Hollywood and Bollywood to drag and TikTok. Amy's teaching interests include the history and theory of audio-visual media (from automata to deepfakes) and international cinema (from mainstream and experimental film to animation), as well as the intersection of media, popular culture, and gender, sexuality, and race.

Teaching Experience

  • Sound and Scandal: How Media Make Believe (TAVE Fellowship course, cross-listed with Media Arts and Design, Music, and TAPS), Lecturer - Spring 2021
  • Listening to Movies, CA - Spring 2020
  • Methods and Issues in Cinema and Media Studies, CA - Autumn 2019
  • History of International Cinema II (1927-1960), CA - Winter 2019
  • Academic and Professional Writing ("The Little Red Schoolhouse"), Lector - Spring 2019