Sound: Graduate Overview
One of the few programs in the country to consider sound outside a strictly musical context, SAIC’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Sound program pushes students to extend and explore the medium, considering its experimental, aesthetic, critical, and conceptual dimensions.
The Sound department’s interdisciplinary approach to making sound includes analog and digital studio-based audio craft, computer programming, performance (improvisation and repertoire), sound installation, hardware design, text-based sound work, songwriting, and radio. Students are trained to engage in self critique and pursue technical research at an advanced level. The nature of the work produced is entirely dependent upon the student’s own processes, interests, and obsessions.
A Peerless Program
SAIC’s Sound department offers an uncommonly individualized approach to the history and production of experimental music and audio art. Our world-renowned faculty include audio artists, performance artists, composers, instrument builders, improvisers, authors, and producers who draw upon diverse disciplines to create a distinctive curricular mix of music and sound art, analog and digital technologies, recording studio technique, and live performance. In addition, scholars like Seth Kim-Cohen (Art History) teach classes in sound art history and theory, while studio artists in other disciplines such as Nick Cave (Fashion) incorporate sound into their own practice in unique ways.
Spirit of Invention
As makers in an emergent field, Sound students routinely invent new tools and processes—building hardware and programming software to generate music and sound art and designing and building acoustic and electronic instruments. The small department size creates a cozy, intimate community among students, and much of the curriculum comprises close, one-on-one mentoring with faculty advisors.
Every graduate student in Sound is guaranteed a Sonic Arts Fellowship each semester. These professional training positions range from traditional teaching assistantships to curating the Waveforms series, organizing and hosting the visiting artists series, maintaining the departmental website and blog, and running tutorial help labs for undergraduate courses.
The cornerstone of SAIC’s graduate studio program is its focus on tutorially guided studio practice. Each semester in addition to selecting from graduate advisors in the department, you will select from more than 100 graduate faculty advisors at SAIC, representing myriad disciplines, approaches, and intellectual positions. Ultimately, it is the student's work that drives the choice of advisor, and both disciplinary and interdisciplinary work is supported and advanced. Faculty from the academic programs in Art History, Arts Administration and Policy, Art Education, and Visual and Critical Studies also serve as graduate advisors, providing yet more expertise in support of SAIC Graduate Projects.
Critique Week, one of the principle means of assessment each semester, is a week-long schedule of critiques during which classes are suspended and the entire faculty and invited visiting artists and designers assemble into panels that conduct intensive studio critiques with all studio and writing graduate students.
Fall semester critiques are organized by department, with panels representing the discipline. They provide you an opportunity to have your work evaluated by the department, look at your work from a disciplinary point of view, and reinforce the expectations for your graduate study.
Spring semester critiques are interdisciplinary, with panel members of faculty, visiting artists, and peers from across SAIC departments. Interdisciplinary critiques in the spring semesters allow for a broader range of responses to the work, and are intended to assess the success of your work for a more general, yet highly informed, audience.
Studio critiques are required of every full-time graduate student pursuing an MFA in Studio or Writing degree. Typically, SAIC graduate students have at least four critique panels throughout their studies at SAIC, augmenting biweekly tutorials with their graduate advisors.
Interested in learning more?
Continue to explore the Sound department website to learn more about our curricular offerings, faculty, students, alumni and more or schedule a tour.