The objective of the Great Lakes Association for Sound Studies (GLASS) is to establish a set of regular meetings to gather faculty and graduate students working in sound studies (broadly construed to encompass any scholarship for which sound is a method or object of study) at institutions of higher learning in the Great Lakes region.
A Regional Approach
In recent years, sound studies has been growing impressively, with scholars winning awards and grants across the social sciences and humanities (including MacArthur Genius awards), while special journal issues, archive projects, readers, and periodicals have emerged. Meetings and research initiatives have proliferated in the US and Canada — Harvard’s “Hearing Modernity” Sawyer Seminar, Stanford’s “Sound, Space and Human Consciousness” Workshop, and McGill’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music, Media and Technology, to name a few. Meanwhile, the importance of sound in the lives of students, from traditional media to gaming and podcasting, has raised the profile of sound art and media on many campuses, something increasingly reflected in curriculum.
Building on the historic strength of our region in media studies, music and other fields, several institutions in the Great Lakes have responded by establishing groups and workshops (Madison, Ohio State), interdisciplinary initiatives (The Voice Project at UChicago) and programs (the MA in Sound Arts and Industries at Northwestern). However, there is as yet no organization to bring conversations begun in these and other intramural contexts to a wider group of thinkers and practitioners. Instead, sound studies as an inter-institutional project is scattered across large professional conferences (SCMS, AMS, ASA, MLA, IASPM) and one-time meetings, or is limited to contexts with a more specific ambit, such as the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. In short, as it is currently institutionalized, sound studies is often too local, too national, or too brief.
We believe that a regional approach can mitigate these problems. In GLASS, materials, methods and questions generated in local workshops at one college or university can be brought to the attention of groups motivated to learn about them. In GLASS, discourse can take place at a fairly high level, as no one will be a token sound studies person on a panel devoted to other matters inside a cumbersome national organization. Moreover, a regional approach will make it possible for us to meet face-to-face (or perhaps ear-to-ear) regularly, attending the same events and allowing new ideas and cooperative projects to be generated in a sustained manner, something that has hitherto been difficult to accomplish in existing local or national contexts.
Although our emphasis will be on sponsoring events in our region, anyone working in the field can join our list and will be welcome at GLASS gatherings. Our recruiting focus is faculty and graduate students thinking about sound studies, from whatever discipline or field.
GLASS will change over time. However, we wish to start with a set of specific short-term ambitions.
- To allow participating scholars to get to know one another’s programs and resources.
- To help students professionalize in sound studies and its related disciplines, with established scholars mentoring newcomers, and graduate students supporting one another.
- To debut new work, enable collaboration, and create affiliations to foster multi-year initiatives, including books and grant-based digital humanities projects.
- To help innovate how we teach — we envision meetings in which, for example, participants from different disciplines might attend to a particular sonic object or performance, learning from one another’s techniques, and bringing these ideas back to the classroom.
On the longer term, GLASS aims to move sound studies forward. Now is a particularly auspicious moment for doing so, as four prominent divides in the field have each begun to close. A mutual isolation between sound media scholarship and music departments has begun to end, opening space for new ways to collaborate. Sound aesthetics is being rethought through cultural approaches, informed by urgent concerns about social, racial, and other forms of difference. The techniques of those who study media-based sound (film, radio, television) and those who study unmediated materials (soundscapes, language, performances) have begun to dialog, with the scholarship from each field informing the other. Those who create soundwork are rethinking its history, while those who study its history are beginning to do so by creating soundwork.
The institutions of the Great Lakes region have leading faculty working on these negotiations. We therefore feel that GLASS can be a place to take on “big problems” in sound studies, considering issues that are changing the field, confronting exclusions and omissions, and opening new territory. More than a venue for hosting sound studies, then, GLASS will be a place where methodological innovations, disputes, and techniques shape the agenda of sound studies.
GLASS has two in-person meetings per academic year, hosted by volunteering institutions. We will aim for one meeting in the Fall in the Chicago area, hosted by one of the Chicago schools, then a second Spring event on the campus of another school willing to host.
This two-meeting structure is designed to allow for thematic versatility and experimentation. For instance, the Fall meeting might involve a performance, a listening event and a roundtable, while the Spring event might incorporate a panel or featured speaker directly responding to the work from the Fall. Each year, a working group will devise a theme and plan, and work to implement it.
Around this two meeting architecture, members have proposed other innovative ways to keep in touch by virtual meetings. Appropriately for a sound studies group, we also hope to launch a podcast of the proceedings of these meetings, something that could be disseminated beyond the region and kept as a record of the Association.
Membership, Financing and Structure
A list of founding members is below. On the short term we will seek members for this association primarily among faculty as well as advanced graduate students in the Great Lakes region – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. There is a possibility to expand to western Pennsylvania and New York, as well as to Manitoba, in the future.
Members will ask their departments and institutions to contribute funding or space on their behalf. Governance will remain volunteer-based. One priority will be to find a budget for a graduate student organizer, who will help run the Association while gaining valuable experience in the field.