Sounding the Spectral

A Symposium

May 12-13, 2023

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Penthouse 901: 915 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry: 926 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Franke Institute for the Humanities: 1100 E. 57th Street, JRL S-102, Chicago, IL 60637


Seth Brodsky, Martha Feldman

“Spectral”: a borderline concept, fusing absence and presence, lost and found, but also delay and reckoning, the simultaneous demand and reluctance to contend with past gaps that trouble the present. As such, the spectral is also always a contemporary concept, a struggle to deal with the contemporary and its lags. How might music and sound meet the spectral now? How might they help engage spectrality’s peculiar presence today, making us more hospitable to rethinking dilemmas that still haunt, while also conjuring new futures? 

The spectral invokes a vital pre-millennial theoretical moment when Derrida’s Specters of Marx (1993) unleashed an avalanche of spectrality studies conceiving the remains of history as a constant cause of mourning, a compulsion to repeat what had been wrongly presumed overcome. But that moment—which turned around language and vision, not hearing and sound—is no longer our own. How does spectrality operate now, in an age of hypercirculation, crisis ordinary, and ecological devastation? Contemporary experience requires us to rethink the spectral in colonial, global, and planetary terms while taking stock of new spatial and temporal displacements and new forms of repression, secrecy, surveillance, and disavowal. Sound and music emerge as singularly amenable to the task, their own centrifugal nature sympathizing with the spectral at its most manifold and elusive.

Image by Elissa Osterland

Image by Elissa Osterland

Teaching Fellow: Visual Arts, UChicago

You can find the artist’s work here.