Sound Department

The Sound department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the few sound programs in the nation situated within the context of a fine arts school. The department was founded in 1972 as an area of study at SAIC, making it the world’s first department dedicated to the study of sound in an art school, and positioning it as a pioneer in the fields of sound art, experimental music, and sound studies.

In fall 2023, the Department of Sound and the Department of Art and Technology Studies are merging into Art and Technology / Sound Practices (AT/SP). New applicants can use this pathway to explore Sound work, Art and Technology Studies work, or both. This new synergy creates a place to explore, critique, and imagine the potentials of artistic production through focused study and interdisciplinary experimentation. Visit Art and Technology Studies to learn more about their ethos and courses.

Upcoming Admissions Events

Saturday, December 02 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. CST

Graduate SAIC Days offer prospective students the opportunity to get portfolio feedback from faculty from individual departments during one-on-one meetings, plus learn more about all SAIC's graduate degree offerings, tour campus, and learn more about financial aid. 

From its inception, the department established a unique place where one could investigate sound in its material detail as well as its relationship to other disciplines such as video, performance, and installation. During its evolution, the department has continued to diversify and deepen the scope of influences, ideas, histories, and technologies that inform its thorough approach to sonic experimentation and critical interrogation. In 2001, the Sound department initiated a master of fine arts (MFA) in Sound, the first degree of its kind offered in the US. The MFA in Sound offers a rigorous environment of study guided by a faculty of internationally recognized artists representing a broad range of approaches to the sonic arts, amplified by a robust visiting artist and scholar program, direct connections to Chicago’s thriving sound art and experimental music scenes, and a range of interdepartmental initiatives within SAIC.

The Sound department’s integration within an interdisciplinary art school gives you the freedom to explore hybrid practices such as hardware hacking, software development, installation, performance, and instrument building in addition to conceptual projects that consider sound outside of a musical context. The program's studio offerings are complemented by courses in the history and theory of sonic arts, physics, acoustics, electronics, and global music practices. And the department’s interdisciplinary focus invites you to study in other departments such as Film, Video, New Media, and Animation and Art and Technology Studies.

Within the Sound department, you will have access to the following:

  • Studios containing a rich array of well-maintained modern and vintage technology, including rare analog synthesizers and multi-channel sound playback systems.

  • Purpose-built facilities for fabrication projects and hardware design.
  • Faculty with diverse backgrounds and international reputations in their field.
  • The cutting-edge facilities and resources throughout the school.
  • An extensive visiting artist and scholar program.
An image of a person with pink and blue lights.

Photo by Seed Lynn

Remixing New Possibilities

A small group of people standing in the Cobb Gate at the University of Chicago.

Sound Installation at Cobb Gate at the University of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Jean Lachat / HANDOUT

Lou Mallozzi's Work Featured in the Chicago Sound Show

Katie Wood standing on a bank of sand holding a mic to a pool of frozen water.

Katie Wood (MFA 2019) sourcing sound at Indiana Dunes National Park. Courtesy of "Hyperallergic."

Alum Katie Wood Sounds Climate Change in Antarctica

Contact Us

MacLean Center

112 S. Michigan Ave., suite 512


Phone: 312.345.3579

Department Chair

Lou Mallozzi