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, sound installation, hardware design, text-based sound work, and transmission. Students take a self-directed and self-critical approach to their production and research, guided and challenged by the faculty to follow their interests, processes, and obsessions.

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.

A Peerless Program

SAIC’s Sound department offers an uncommonly individualized approach to the history and production of experimental music and sound art. Our faculty includes world-renowned 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, sound is a significant component of practice and study in other areas of the school, including Art History Theory and Criticism; Art and Technology Studies; Film, Video, New Media, and Animation; and Writing. Sound department faculty directly engage these other departments, extending the department's influence in the School's overall graduate curriculum and foregrounding the importance of sound across disciplines.

Spirit of Invention

As makers in a dynamic 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 employed as a teaching assistant or graduate assistant in the department. 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 social media, and running tutorial help labs for undergraduate courses.

The Alba Sonic Arts Residency

The Alba Sonic Arts Residency is a three-month residency at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) in which all of the organization’s resources and platforms are made available to a graduating MFA student from the Sound department SAIC. It is the only post-graduate sonic arts residency of its kind in the US. The goal of the residency is to create an immediate outlet for the skills and ideas the student has developed at SAIC, helping to launch them into the next phase of their artistic career. The selected graduate will receive a $1,000 cash stipend and access to services and resources that include the ESS recording studios, sonic arts archives, gallery, garden, and off-site performance and exhibition sites, as well as professional development assistance with grant-writing, project planning, and sustainability. The Alba Sonic Arts Residency is named after ESS co-founder Dawn (Alba) Mallozzi (1949–99) and builds upon her longtime vision of ESS as a creative and developmental space for younger and emerging artists. The residency is purposefully open and flexible, allowing artists to work with ESS staff on an approach that best serves their artistic goals.

Graduate Projects

The cornerstone of SAIC's graduate studio program is its focus on a tutorial approach to 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 every department in the school serve as graduate advisors, and students are encouraged to work with faculty from outside of their home department in order to expand the critical discourse surrounding their work.

Critique Week

Critique Week, one of the principal 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.

Near the end of the fall and spring semesters, each graduate student meets with a panel of four to five faculty from across the school to review their work. The panel includes faculty from the student's home department as well as those from other departments and disciplines. This creates a rigorous dialogue that ensures both discipline-specific expertise and familiarity with the student as well as inviting deeply informed yet unfamiliar voices, enriching the critique experience and challenging the student to position their work in a broad context of cultural experimentation and interrogation.

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 bi-weekly tutorials with their graduate advisors.

Upcoming Admissions Events


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. 

Saturday, December 02 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. CST at MacLean Ballroom 112 S. Michigan Chicago, IL 60603

Take the Next Step

Graduate Priority Application Deadline: 12/1

SAIC's Graduate Programs offer a priority deadline and reduced application fee before December 1. APPLY

MFA in Studio Admissions Information
Curriculum & Courses

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 312.629.6100, 800.232.7242 or

An image of the Sound Department facilities.

MFA Sound Program Brochure