News and Events

2018 Spring Symposium: Study in Sound

Over June 14 and 15, 2018 the Sound Arts and Industries Class of 2018 presented their final Studies in Sound, culminating an academic year of scholarly progress and insight. The projects included sound art installations and performances, research presentations, business plans, podcasts, music compositions, sound-based video games, and sound designs (among other things!), demonstrating the fantastic range and interests from this talented cohort of students.

Speaker Series: Alex Patsavas

Founder of Chop Shop Music Supervision Alex Patsavas visited the Sound Arts and Industries program on May 17, 2018 and gave a talk moderated by Northwestern lecturer Gregg Latterman. In her talk, Patsavas discussed selecting music for some of the world’s most popular television shows and films as well as being a champion of independent artists, before then taking questions from the audience.

Music Therapy Conference

On May 11, 2018 world leaders in music therapy converged on Northwestern’s campus for the Music Therapy Conference. The goal of the sold-out event was to generate awareness and excitement around the fast-growing use of music therapy in human health intervention. The conference was co-sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries and featured in one of our blog posts published in May.

Masterclass: “Where Should We Begin…and will I ever get this right?” with Jesse Baker

On April 27, 2018 Jesse Baker, Vice President of Original Content Development at Audible, led a masterclass for Sound Arts and Industries students that explored the art of the crucial opening few seconds of a podcast. Baker also discussed common pitfalls that new producers make in their work and answered questions about her career in radio, podcasting, and Audible.

Visiting Speaker: Tom Myers

Tom Myers, Northwestern alum and Supervising Sound Editor, Sound Designer, and Re-Recording Mixer at Skywalker Sound, returned to his alma mater as a guest speaker for the Sound for Animation class on April 10, 2018. Myers discussed film sound design in animation and fielded questions from Sound Arts and Industries students about the industry. He has been nominated for 3 Academy Awards, as well as receiving multiple BAFTA, CAS and MPSE honors.

Performance: Jana Winderen

Sound artist Jana Winderen visited campus April 5, 2018 and gave a live performance of her piece “Glimmer” in an event open to the public sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries. Winderen is an artist educated in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London with a background in mathematics, chemistry and fish ecology from the University of Oslo.

Visiting Speaker: David Lowery

David Lowery discussed the contemporary music industry and artists’ rights in the digital age as a special guest in Professor Jacob Smith’s course “History of the Recording Industry” on March 1, 2018. Lowery is a musician, producer, entrepreneur, and artists’ rights advocate. He founded the critically acclaimed bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, helping to jump-start the Indie Rock movement and producing top-ten radio tracks and three platinum albums. He teaches about the economics and finance of the music business at the University of Georgia.

Career Trek: Chicago Public Media

MA in Sound Arts and Industries students visited Chicago Public Media on February 23, 2018. They toured the workspaces and studios of WBEZ 91.5FM, followed by a discussion on working in public radio, building podcasts, and finding work in audio.

Career Trek: 2112 and Fort Knox Studios

On February 16, 2018 MA in Sound Arts and Industries students toured incubator 2112 and Fort Knox Studios before attending a panel discussion covering careers in audio. 2112 is Chicago’s first incubator focused on the development of business and entrepreneurs in music, film/video and creative technology. Fort Knox Studios is the premier facility in the Midwest for music rehearsal, recording, and production as well as independent film, video, and photography and space for aligned creative industry businesses. 

Speaker Series: Harmonix Music Systems

Steve Pardo, Senior Sound Designer and Lead Composer at Harmonix Music Systems, returned to Northwestern February 12, 2018 to discuss sound design and music systems for digital games and virtual reality. Harmonix Music Systems is one of the world’s leading independent game development studios, best known for creating blockbuster franchises like Rock Band and Dance Central.

Career Trek: Shure, Inc.

MA in Sound Arts and Industries students visited and toured Shure, Inc. in Niles, IL on February 2, 2018. During the visit, students learned about the company’s history, their new location opening in Chicago, and internship opportunities.

WildClaw Theatre Performance

On January 29, 2018 Foley artists and a cast from WildClaw Theatre, Chicago’s premier horror theatre, visited Northwestern and performed live-radio horror plays from three of their favorites from the last ten years of their annual and infamous horror competition: Deathscribe. The event was sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries.

Visiting Speaker: Jennifer Stoever

On January 25, 2018 Jennifer Stoever gave a talk centered on the fifth chapter of her book The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening. The talk focused on the culmination of the sonic color line’s rise to significance as a central force of racialization in American life and the increasing entanglement of the listening ear with sound reproduction technologies. Stoever explained how the sonic color line connected U.S. radio’s so-called golden age to legal segregation, arguing that this relationship enabled the construction of liberal color blindness as a citizenship ideal following World War II. Post-1945, the white listening ear increasingly demanded conformity to white middle-class sonic norms as the price of citizenship, a dire problem reverberating in our contemporary moment. Stoever is Associate Professor of English at Binghamton University and Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog.

Masterclass: Voiceover with Donna Jay Fulks

On January 19, 2018 voiceover artist Donna Jay Fulks led a masterclass in the Northwestern Soundstage. In the first part of the masterclass, Fulks lectured on voiceover types, techniques, and equipment, as well as the audition process, promotion, and finding work in the field. In the second part, students had the opportunity to perform their own voiceovers with Fulks’ guidance.

Virtual Chat: Josh Moshier

Josh Moshier led a virtual discussion on January 18, 2018 with MA in Sound Arts and Industries students. After going over his background, he covered industry trends before diving into skills and opportunities for composing and working in the music industry. Moshier is a composer for Google’s Earth VR as well as series and features on FX, Netflix and IFC.

NEH Grant

In December 2017 Sound Arts and Industries associate director Neil Verma was awarded a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, along with Marit MacArthur of University of California, Davis and Mara Mills of New York University. The grant is to develop a set of digital tools for studying archival recordings of speech, including poetry readings, talking books and radio plays. These tools are designed to track pitch, speaking rate, dynamics and a variety of other measurable elements.

Artist Talk: Gregory Whitehead

Sound artist Gregory Whitehead visited the core “Introduction to Sound Studies” class on November 17, 2017. Whitehead discussed his career working in sound media since the 1980s, and focused on a recent trilogy of works about radio and the war on terror, including a brand-new radio composition “Nothing Like Us Ever Was,” based on the work of Carl Sandburg, which he debuted just that week. Students learned aspects of his process and the philosophy of radiophonic sound that he brings to sound production. Whitehead fielded questions about the future of radio, podcasting and other forms of creative audio, and met one-on-one with students to help them develop their creative process.

“The World According to Sound” Live Tour

Radio producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett visited Northwestern on October 17, 2017 as part of “The World According to Sound Live Tour.” During the one-hour event hosted by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries, Hoff and Harnett set up a ring of speakers, passed out eye masks, turned out the lights, and surrounded the audience with sound. Hoff and Harnett are co-creators of the 90-second podcast The World According to Sound, an audio show that airs on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Masterclass: Sonic Branding with Steve Milton

Steve Milton led a collaborative experiential workshop on sonic branding on October 13, 2017, reuniting the MA in Sound Arts and Industries and the MS in Engineering Design Innovation. After a lecture on sonic branding from Milton, students from both programs broke into small groups to create and present their own sonic brands for Northwestern University.

Third Annual Cookout

On September 28, 2017 the MA in Sound Arts and Industries held its third annual Noise-Water-Meat Cookout at the patio outside the Northwestern SoundTank. Students and faculty interacted in a social setting while taking in the beautiful weather and delightful food.

Art Installation Trilogy

Stephan Moore developed live and recorded scores as well as the software programming and interactive design for CAST/STAGE/AUTHOR, an interconnectedtrilogy of installation pieces that premiered in September 2017 at The Chocolate Factory Theater, Abrons Art Center, and The Invisible Dog Art Center in New York City. The pieces were presented by the collective “A Canary Torsi” and directed by Yanira Castro.

Speaker Series: Gary Rydstrom

The MA in Sound Arts and Industries was thrilled to welcome back seven-time Academy Award-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom on September 19, 2017. Rydstrom gave a guest lecture as part of the course “Sound and Vision: Narrative” exploring his own and historical methods for telling stories through the sound design of a film. Rydstrom was previously featured in our podcast episode released on January 29, 2016.

Speaker Series: Harmonix Music Systems

Steve Pardo, Senior Sound Designer and Lead Composer at Harmonix Music Systems, discussed sound design and music systems for digital games and shared insights about the future of the industry as part of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries Speaker Series on May 18, 2017 in the Northwestern Soundstage. Students later had the opportunity to try out virtual reality games after the presentation.

Artist Talk: Annea Lockwood

Annea Lockwood gave the artist talk “Wild Energies” sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries on May 11, 2017 at the Northwestern Soundstage to discuss her site-dependent installations A Sound Map of the Danube and a recent collaboration with Bob Bielecki, Wild Energy. Lockwood is a world-renowned sound artist and composer, as well as a sound-art pioneer known for her explorations of the rich world of natural acoustic sounds and environments.

Career Trek: Shure, Inc.

MA in Sound Arts and Industries students visited Shure, Inc. in Niles, IL on May 5, 2017 for the final career trek of the 2016-17 academic year to learn about the company’s history and opportunities in the industry. Shure is a leading manufacturer of microphones and audio electronics.

Voiceover Masterclass and Mock Recording Session

Tish Hicks, accomplished voiceover artist and School of Communication alumna, led a voiceover masterclass followed by a mock recording session on April 28, 2017 in the Northwestern Soundstage. The event was sponsored by The Office of External Programs, Internships, & Career Services (EPICS) and treated School of Communication students to a hands-on voiceover experience right on campus.

Visiting Speaker: Juan Bello

Juan Bello, Associate Professor of Music Technology, and Electrical & Computer Engineering at New York University, visited campus April 20, 2017 to discuss environmental sound analysis, including the monitoring of urban noise and bird migrations. Bello’s efforts aim at finding technological solutions to noise pollution as part of the SONYC project.

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival

Brad Robin’s (Class of ’18) fifteen-minute piece, Steam, was accepted for a summer performance at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF) at the Abrons Art Center on June 19-25, 2017, and at National Sawdust on July 14-16, 2017. Steam is derived from many of the sound samples curated during Robin’s first quarter at Northwestern while simultaneously working with professors Calum Walter and Stephan Moore. It is the result of research on acousmatic music, incorporating topics on sound walks, reduced listening, and the effects of repetition. 

Workshop: Experimental Sound Studio

MA in Sound Arts and Industries students attended an experiential workshop on circuit bending at Experimental Sound Studio on March 3, 2017. The students transformed sound-making toys into musical instruments while exploring eclectic performance and installation concepts. The workshop was also featured in our January 26, 2017 blog post.

 Scientific American Article

Nina Kraus authored a guest article for the Scientific American on February 23, 2017. The article detailed the work of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and how sound is critical to human brain development in both positive and negative ways.  

Speaker Series: Johanna Zorn

The MA in Sound Arts and Industries welcomed Third Coast International Audio Festival Executive Director and Co-Founder Johanna Zorn as part of the program Speaker Series on February 16, 2017. Zorn curated audio samples while discussing radio documentary in the podcasting era.

Sound Processing and Brain Trauma

Nina Kraus and her researchers at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory may have discovered the first objective measurement for concussion by examining sound processing in the brain. Their work was featured in a December 22, 2016 article in the Washington Post as well as NPR's The Pulse on February 16, 2017.   

Artist Talk: Jeff Kolar

Jeff Kolar gave an artist talk sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries on February 3, 2017 at the Northwestern Soundstage. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of Radius, an experimental radio broadcast platform established in 2010. His solo and collaborative projects, installations, and public performances often investigate the mundane sonic nuances of everyday electronic devices.

Highway Noise Research Project

Stephan Moore has been named Lead Sound Designer on a research project based at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, led by sound artists Dr. Jordan Lacey and Dr. Lawrence Harvey. The project is working with the highway management company TransUrban to experiment with transformational, interactive sound design technology to mitigate and process the noise produced by highways in cities that pass through residential neighborhoods. Their first round of experiments was completed in September, with field tests scheduled in Sydney and Melbourne in February and March.

“Sound and Vision: Experimental” Installation Piece

Sound Arts and Industries students enrolled in the Winter 2017 course “Sound and Vision: Experimental” were asked to create sound installations for one of their group projects. The project pictured below incorporated historic space on Northwestern’s campus. The installation linked the location’s unique reverberation and isolating acoustics with the individual experiences of their classmates physically exploring the space.

NewMusicUSA Grant

Stephan Moore’s collaborative group with choreographer Yanira Castro, A Canari Torsi, was awarded a grant from NewMusicUSA for their triple-commission piece CAST/STAGE/AUTHOR. The project featured fifteen audio and video recordings engaging fifteen NYC performers responding to conversations about the act of performing and casting. More information can be found on New Music USA

Nina Kraus MindShift Interview

On November 28, 2016 Nina Kraus was featured in an article by KQED’s MindShift that focused on her practical suggestions for creating the best sound environments and activities for promoting learning in children. Her suggestions come from her years of researching how sound affects the brain at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.

Workshop: Sonic Branding

Steve Milton, founding partner of Listen (, led a collaborative experiential workshop on sonic branding on October 27, 2016 for students of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries and the course Designing Product Interactions. The students explored a creative brief before breaking into groups to produce their own sonic brands for Northwestern University, which they then presented at the end of the exciting day. The workshop was co-presented with the MS in Engineering Design Innovation program.

U.S. Department of Education Presentation

Nina Kraus presented at the U.S. Department of Education at the end of September 2016 to share her research on the effect of studying music on the brain. Her findings show that students learning for two years how to make music were associated with improved brain responses to speech and stronger reading skills. Kraus is the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and teaches the core course Introduction to Sound Science for the MA in Sound Arts and Industries.

Great Lakes Association for Sound Studies (GLASS)

The Great Lakes Association for Sound Studies (GLASS) held its inaugural meeting on October 21, 2016 in the Northwestern Soundstage. The meeting featured an address by James Lastra of the University of Chicago followed by thoughtful discussion. GLASS is designed to foster relationships and discussions between sound scholars in the Great Lakes region of North America.

Speaker Series: Storytelling with Sound in Movies

Seven-time Academy Award winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom returned to Northwestern on October 13, 2016 as part of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries Speaker Series to explore how movies have used sound to create emotion and tell stories throughout movie history. Rydstrom was previously featured in our podcast episode released on January 29, 2016 and was the keynote speaker of the 2014 Sonic Boom Conference.

Speaker Series: The Future of Podcasts and Digital Media

Adam Sachs, the former CEO of Midroll Media, visited Northwestern on October 6, 2016 as part of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries Speaker Series, co-presented with the MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises. He discussed the business and future of podcasting, as well as how his experience in sound entrepreneurship helped him to lead the podcast industry’s first premium subscription service.

Second Annual Cookout

The MA in Sound Arts and Industries held its second annual “Noise-Water-Meat” Cookout at the patio outside the Northwestern SoundTank on September 29, 2016. Though the weather kept most attendees indoors, it was a fun gathering as the first social event of the year bringing together sound-interested students and faculty across Northwestern and introducing the first cohort of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries.

Nina Kraus on NPR

Nina Kraus was featured on National Public Radio in a July 22, 2016 segment weaving together two areas of her lab’s work: a new literacy test for children that can be taken before they have the ability to read and the discovery that learning how to play a musical instrument can improve the brain’s ability to process sound and language. Kraus was previously featured on NPR last July. She is the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab.

“Foley Sound Effects Workshop” and Podcast Episode

Foley artist Sandra Fox, engineer Jack Heeren, and assistant Andrea Cyr of the world-renowned Footsteps Post-Production Sound gave a presentation, Q&A, and hands-on workshop as the first event in the brand-new recording studio space at John J. Louis Hall on April 15, 2016. The audience was treated to clips of past work, demonstrations on creating visceral sound effects, and the recording of participant-created Foley for a fight scene from the series Vikings. The event was sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries and co-sponsored by the Radio-TV-Film Department and School of Communication. Hear clips from the workshop as well as an interview with Fox in our May 11, 2016 podcast episode.

“Listening In: Sonic Interventions in the Middle East and North Africa”

The Department of Performance Studies presented “Listening In: Sonic Interventions in the Middle East and North Africa,” an interdisciplinary conference tackling the intersections of culture, politics, and society from the unique perspective of performance and sound studies. The conference was co-sponsored by the MA in Sound Arts and Industries and was held May 12-13, 2016 at TGS Commons, 2122 N Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL.

Ali Aftab Saeed and Saad Sultan Concert

Pakistan pop artists Ali Aftab Saeed and Saad Sultan performed a free concert at Northwestern’s Lutkin Memorial Hall on April 19, 2016. The event was sponsored by the Buffett Institute’s Global Humanities Initiative and co-sponsored by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces

At the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces, Stephan Moore showed Performance Portrait: Live as well as a new work Chorus for Untrained Operator, which he made in collaboration with artist Peter Bussigel. The conference was March 4 and 5, 2016 at Brown University.

Performance Portrait: Live

Stephan Moore created the interaction design for Performance Portrait: Live, which features video recordings of performers who react based on the tracked movements of spectators. The installation runs February 25, 26, and 27, 2016 at Connecticut College.

Gary Rydstrom Podcast Episode

Seven-time Academy Award winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom sat down with Sound Arts and Industries director Jacob Smith in our podcast episode released on January 29, 2016. Rydstrom is famous the world over for his work on Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, and Titanic. Rydstrom discussed his career, his recent work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Strange Magic, and his enthusiasm for the Master’s program in sound at Northwestern.

Oscar Nomination

Congratulations to sound designer Gary Rydstrom for his Academy Award nomination for Sound Mixing on Bridge of Spies. This is his 18th Oscar nomination! Rydstrom was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Northwestern Sonic Boom conference, and you can hear him featured in our podcast episode released on January 29, 2016.

2015 Falling Walls Conference

Nina Kraus was a speaker at the prestigious Falling Walls Conference in Berlin on November 9, 2015. Her presentation covered how learning to play a musical instrument or to speak another language can improve the brain’s ability to make sense of sound, and how that information can be used to offset learning difficulties suffered by children living in poverty.

Only Human Interview

Nina Kraus and the Auditory Neuroscience Lab were featured in the December 1, 2015 episode of WNYC Radio’s Only Human. Kraus discussed neural synchrony and the importance of how each person’s brain processes sound in noisy environments.

Artifacts Audioplay Tour

Graduates of Northwestern’s MFA in Writing for Screen + Stage, inspired by the sound curriculum and last year’s Sonic Boom conference, produced a site-inspired, audio tour/live-scene theater experience at Salvage One. It ran November 7, 8, 14, and 15, 2015 at 3pm. More information is available at

The Sound of Design

Sound designer Audrey Arbeeny of Audiobrain was the guest speaker at “Audrey Arbeeny: The Sound of Design” for the Segal Design Institute to discuss sonic branding. The seminar was held October 29, 2015 from 1-2:30pm [pdf] at the Ford Engineering Design Center, room 1.230.

Sounds of South Asia

The Center for Global Culture and Communication presented the “Sounds of South Asia,” a yearlong series of visiting speakers whose work exists at the intersection of Sound Studies and South Asian Studies. The series brought together scholars and students interested in expanding the global scope of Sound Studies and listening to South Asian cultures with fresh ears. It was collaboratively presented by the School of Communication, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, Asian Studies Graduate Cluster, Asian Studies Program, Screen Cultures Program, Department of Radio-TV-Film, and Department of Communication Studies. The full schedule can be viewed here.

Sexing Sound Festival

Sexing Sound: Gender Sound Music was held October 22-24, 2015. The events were presented through a partnership between the Goethe-Institut Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Experimental Sound Studio, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern’s Institute for New Music. It was organized and curated by Irmi Maunu-Kocian and Lou Mallozzi of the Goethe-Institut Chicago, with the collaboration of Ryan Dohoney from Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music.

First Annual Cookout

On October 8, 2015, the MA in Sound Arts and Industries held its First Annual “Noise-Water-Meat” Cookout at the patio outside the Northwestern SoundTank. The event brought together sonically inclined faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students, kicking off what will be an exciting year for sound at Northwestern.

Fall SSLG Session

Stephan Moore led the Fall 2015 session of the Sound Studies Listening Group (SSLG) on October 15, 2015 from 8 – 10pm at the Elder Faculty in Residence Apartment, 2400 Sheridan Road. He shared and discussed experimental compositions that influenced his work.

Radiolab Interview

Jacob Smith, Director of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries, was featured in the October 6, 2015 episode of the podcast Radiolab, talking about Allen Funt’s pioneering “reality” shows: Candid Microphone and Candid Camera.

Keynote Address

Stephan Moore delivered a keynote address at the Exhibiting Sound symposium, which took place in Edmonton, AB from October 30 – November 1, 2015.

Rainforest Score Recreation

Stephan Moore recreated David Tudor’s score to the 1968 Merce Cunningham dance RainForest, in collaboration with electronic music pioneer John Driscoll. The performance was included as part of Stephen Petronio’s project Bloodlines, which ran October 1, 2, and 3, 2015 at Columbia College, Chicago.

New Play

David Tolchinsky’s new play Clear was featured in the September 8th issue of Proscenium Journal, along with an interview in which Tolchinsky discusses his work.

Jeff Award Nominations

Josh Horvath has received two Equity Jeff Award nominations for Sound Design, recognizing his work in “The Hammer Trinity, Part 3: The Excelsior King” at The House Theatre of Chicago and in “Native Son” at Court Theatre and American Blues Theater. Horvath has eleven previous nominations and four wins. The nominations were announced on August 21st.

New Book

A new book by Sound Arts and Industries Director Jacob Smith was recently published by the University of California Press. The book, entitled, Eco-Sonic Media, examines the history of sound media technologies through an ecological lens.

New Virtual Sound Room

A state-of-the-art virtual sound room opened at the Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning at Northwestern University. The “Audio Environment Simulation Room” is designed to test and modify hearing devices by representing any number of sound environments. The room uses studio simulations to mimic real-world scenarios, from a quiet conversation to an enormous music hall. The Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning is part of the School of Communication.

Nina Kraus on NPR

In July, Nina Kraus was the focus of an interview on National Public Radio concerning her work on developing a new literacy test for children. This breakthrough 30-minute test can predict a child’s literacy skill long before they’re old enough to begin reading. Kraus is Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology & Physiology at Northwestern, and is also the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab.

Backstory Interview

In July, Sound Arts and Industries Director Jacob Smith participated in an interview for the podcast BackStory. The segment, produced by Bruce Wallace, takes a look at the fascinating popularity of “laughing records” during the early years of the phonograph industry, in particular the “The OKeh Laughing Record.”

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