Established in 2011, The Sound and Society Workshop (formerly the Music History and Theory Workshop) began as a place to forge conversations between scholars about the histories, structures, and cultures of various musical practices in the West. Since then, the scope of music studies has increased exponentially, not only reaching to understand the new venues, politics, and economies of music in the 21st century but reimagining the very definitions of music and redefining its relationships to “sound,” “noise,” and “silence.”
This workshop acknowledges that the production, distribution, and consumption of music (and sound more generally) is uniquely intertwined with the social lives of people. Sound can be a vehicle for pleasure (like an orchestra performing a Beethoven symphony), but it can also signify resistance (like the collective chant of protest), violence (like the oppressive propaganda transmitted over the radios of Nazi Germany), or sanctuary (like the noise‐blocking aspirations of headphone culture). Either way, sound denotes power, and as a workshop, we seek to shed light on the manifold ways that music and sound are deeply intertwined with history, people, and society.
As interest in sound studies rapidly expands throughout divergent fields across the humanities, we aim to create an interdisciplinary hub for scholars to collaborate in sound‐based inquiries, Speaking across disciplines, we strive to introduce both student and faculty participants to the most innovative scholarship studying the power of sonic relationships. Sound scholars recognize that everyone “sounds”—we each have the capacity to produce sound, whether by speaking, noise‐making, musicking, or listening silently. By interrogating these relationships, we can engage more dynamically with the world and its sounds.
The Sound and Society Workshop is generously supported by the University of Chicago Center for Advanced Study