Past Events

2021-2022 Lecture Series

YouTube playlist:

2020-2021 Lecture Series

Sound Studies Institute celebrates the Folkways Records collection on Moses Asch’s birthday

with Julia Byl and Scott Smallwood

In 1985, Moses and Frances Asch gifted the University of Alberta a complete collection of Folkways Records. The Asch Collection includes over 2100 records encompassing folk, roots, blues, bluegrass, jazz, spoken-word, and global musics, and sound recordings of things like cityscapes and weather events. Moses Asch, founder and curator of the label, insisted that, for him, Folkways included “anything that is sound, from Indonesian folks music to James Joyce reading his own poetry.” This philosophy, of course, is right in line with the Sound Studies Institute’s mandate to celebrate creative and scholarly research on anything sonic. To celebrate the 115th anniversary of Asch’s birth, Sound Studies Director Scott Smallwood, and Centre for Ethnomusicology Interim Director Julia Byl will share some of their favourite recordings from the collection, and discuss how they reflect Folkways Records’ diverse catalog and contribute to its important legacy.

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020

How Linguistic Prosody Shapes Meaning

with Dr. Anja Arnhold, Assistant Professor, Linguistics

Every sentence that we speak or hear comes with prosodic characteristics—variations in pitch, duration, loudness and voice quality that are a part of the utterance as much as the words in it. And prosody has an immense influence on how we understand spoken language. This is true of all known human languages, but languages differ drastically in the prosodic patterns they have at their disposal and the ways they use prosody to transmit meaning.

This talk will look at some of the many functions of prosody, which include distinguishing questions from statements, highlighting important information, signalling speaker attitudes and allowing us to predict a speaker’s next word. It will show that the way this works differs between languages and that mappings between prosodic patterns and meanings are not natural or random, but part of the grammar of individual languages, with examples from languages like English, Mandarin, Finnish and Inuktitut.

If you have always wondered why Mandarin sounds so different from English or why the same words can have a totally different meaning depending on how you say them, this is the talk for you. And if these questions had never occurred to you, this could be your introduction to a fascinating research field that intersects with many others from acoustics to sociology.

Anja Arnhold researches prosody – the melody and rhythm of speech – and its various functions in different languages. She is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Linguistics, University of Alberta, and is also a Sound Studies Institute affiliated researcher. Dr. Arnhold earned her Master’s degree at the University of Potsdam and her PhD at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020

Soundscapes of India

with Alexis Bhagat, Sound Artist

For this event, sound artist and curator Alexis Bhagat will discuss the sound art installation “LISTEN, my heart, to the whispers of the world,”  a collection of audio compositions* reflecting on the soundscape of the Indian subcontinent. The works were presented at the Block Museum in Chicago in a darkened cinema hall as a 5.1 surround soundtrack—a soundtrack with no projected images. Curators Alexis Bhagat and Laurent Rosati describe the experience of LISTEN, my heart … as one in which the “cinema screen is a window for shared dreams. Our soundscape program begins high in the Himalayas, at the sacred shrine of Muktinath, with its one hundred springs of water. From Himalayan peaks, the water of the Yamuna flows to the plains.”  Selections included Michael Northam’s “Mnemonic Debris: Aggregates,” Hildegard Westerkamp’s “Into the Labyrinth,” and Iain Armstrong’s “Annapurna Pastoral: One Hundred Springs.”

Alexis Bhagat is a writer operating in the art-world. Prior to 2007, he was a practicing sound artist, and his works included installations, tape-collages, and radio broadcasts. In 2007, An Atlas of Radical Cartography, a book project conceived and co-edited with artist Lize Mogel, spun off into an art exhibition that travelled to over 20 cities, where Bhagat organized intergenerational dialogues on the past and future of maps and the meaning of pictures of the earth in the digital age. Alongside the itinerary of An Atlas, he created pop-up sound art exhibitions in empty storefronts, lectured on sound art in Canada, India, Japan, and across the USA, and started an organization – ((audience)) – dedicated to presenting sound art in movie theaters with curator Lauren Rosati. Other projects have included Sound & Language, a bookshop and distributor of magazines and recordings based in Richard Kostelanetz’ “Wordship II” (2011-2013), and XFR STN, a “pop-up moving image archive project” conceived by artist Alan Moore, and produced by the New Museum in New York (2013). Bhagat currently lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he is completing a book called Politics and Other Words, works as the director of the Albany Public Library Foundation, and organizes readings with the St. Rocco’s Poetry Collective

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020

Special Event: Getting “Record Ready”: Music Psychology for Record Makers

with  Dr. Susan Rogers, Berklee College of Music

Record makers manipulate performances and sounds to craft a product most likely to sell. What are they listening for? How do they know what will work? Record production involves a tacit awareness of what listeners respond to but are these assumptions supported by science? We will examine popular record making at the intersection of music psychology, the record maker’s perspective, and the audience’s. We will look at music audiences’ assorted criteria for what constitutes “good” as well as the mechanisms that cause us to feel emotions (or not!) to music. We will consider why record producers and artists should target specific audiences over the arc of their careers. We will include a discussion of the musicianship of listening and how professional listeners complete the transaction that is music.

Susan Rogers holds a doctoral degree in experimental psychology from McGill University (2010). Prior to her science career, Susan was a multiplatinum-earning record producer, engineer, mixer and audio technician. She is best known for her work with Prince during his career peak (1983-1987) but her production/engineering credits also include David Byrne, Barenaked Ladies, Geggy Tah, Nil Lara, Robben Ford, Tricky, Michael Penn, and Jeff Black. She is currently a Professor in the departments of Music Production & Engineering and Liberal Arts at Berklee College of Music, Boston, where she teaches music cognition, psychoacoustics, record production and analog recording techniques. Susan is the director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory for investigating the influence of musical training on auditory processing. She is currently writing a book on music listening for W. W. Norton Publishers.

For those who attended the talk, the here are the titles of the songs that Susan discussed:

  • “King of the Heap” (1991) Odds, Neopolitan
  • Spaceheater” (2001), Geggy Tah, Into the Oh
  • “Over the Valley” (2002; recorded 1990) Hugh Harris, Flowers
  • “If” (1999) Robben Ford, Supernatural
  • “26/23” (1999) Julia Darling, Figure 8
  • “Angels” (1994) David Byrne, David Byrne
  • “Birmingham Road” (1998) Jeff Black, Birmingham Road

Friday, Oct 16, 2020

Radio Libraries and Archives

with Arianne Smith-Piquette, CKUA Radio library technician

The CKUA Music Library is a treasure trove of musical artifacts, ephemera, and old media. It’s also a working library that adds about 8 new albums a day to support our broadcasters. Hear more about the balance of caring for the archival collection while maintaining the active collection, preservation challenges, and how CKUA is working to share the collection beyond the airwaves.

Arianne Smith-Piquette is the Library Technician at the CKUA Radio Network in Edmonton, Alberta. CKUA is a not-for-profit broadcaster established in 1927. After spending nearly a decade working in the CKUA Music Library, Arianne Smith-Piquette has overseen many changes, including accessibility and digitization challenges and physically moving the library.

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020

Listening to the night: eavesdropping on communication in wild bats and mice.

with Martina Kalcounis-Rueppell, Dean of Science

There is an incredible diversity of species that are active and provide ecosystem services at night while we are asleep. Even if we were awake and outside in the middle of the night, we would not be able to see or hear these animals because they are active in the dark and the sounds that they produce to communicate with themselves and one another are at frequencies outside of the human range of hearing. These remarkable animals are bats and mice and they represent the most diverse groups of mammals on earth. Imagine if you could not see or hear birds? That is what we are missing by not having a window or speaker into the wonderful world of animal behaviour at night. Dr. Kalcounis-Rueppell will discuss her field research program that has the overarching goal of characterizing the communication calls made by bats and mice and understanding how physiological and ecological state influence call production and how natural and human-made changes to the soundscape, in turn, influence the calling behaviours of bats and mice. These questions are important to understand because changes to our soundscape can have impacts on individuals that scale up to lost biodiversity and ecosystem services. Moreover, both bats and mice are relevant to human health and wellbeing because they are both biomedical models and zoonotic reservoirs.

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020

The SpokenWeb Project: Archiving Literary Sound

with Michael O’Driscoll, Professor of English & Film Studies, with Nick Beauchesne, Sean Luyk, Chelsea Miya

Description: The SSHRC-funded SpokenWeb Project aims to develop coordinated approaches to literary historical study, digital development, and audio research and pedagogy with diverse collections of literary sound recordings from across Canada. Now in year three of a seven year partnership grant, SpokenWeb’s international network of scholars, archivists, and creative artists are tackling challenging issues around collections management, metadata development, systems integration, archiving, preservation, and public engagement. Come join us to learn more about SpokenWeb’s multi-disciplinary innovations in the study of sound

Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020