Columbia University has been at the helm of sound innovation for over fifty
years with faculty specializing in composition, improvisation, music theory,
musicology, installation, sculpture, instrument building, acoustics, music
cognition, and software development. Faculty from the Computer Music
Center, along with colleagues from Composition, Visual Arts, and
Engineering, head the interdisciplinary program in Sound Art that leads to the
Master of Fine Arts degree awarded by the School of the Arts.
The two-year program is highly selective, offering admission to only three or
four students each year. Prospective students with a deep engagement with
sound as medium and a desire to join a diverse community of artists and
musicians are encouraged to apply.
Sound Art students pursue creative work in a variety of genres and focus on
the integration of sound with other media. The Program is offered in
association with the Visual Arts MFA Program, the Department of Music and
the Computer Music Center, giving students the freedom to explore work in
sculpture, video, and wood as well as computer programming, performance,
and conceptual strategies. First-year students are assigned a small studio,
and second-year students receive a large studio.
The Program is the only graduate sound art program in New York City. The
rich New York gallery scene, including long-established art institutions such as
MoMA, the Guggenheim, and others, as well as independent and outdoor
public sites, are in close proximity to Columbia. Discussions of these
exhibitions are folded into the discussions of the contemporary practice of
sound art. Individual studio visits with the Director and other faculty, visiting
artists, sound theorists, and curators facilitate dialogue and reveal multiple
readings of students’ work. Students develop their practice in a multi-
perspectival, interactive, and supportive environment and learn to conceive
and discuss their own work, articulate their artistic ideas and develop a self-
awareness of how their work is situated within the context of various histories,
disciplines, and practices.
During Artist-Mentor Week, students have the opportunity to explore the City
with an artist of another generation or at another stage in their career.
Students go to the mentor’s studio, visit meaningful places, meet the mentor’s
colleagues and community, and foster a deeper and more personal
engagement with the artist-mentor than what the classroom can offer.
Critical Issues is a core-curriculum class through which sound theory, the
history of sound art, and current sound practices are studied and discussed,
and students’ own practices are considered in this context.
A Thesis Project begins in the student’s second year. Works that are site-
specific, performative, distributed, ephemeral, or in any other form may be
potential thesis projects.
The program is augmented by electives that are both practical and theoretical
courses, in both Music and Visual Arts, that expose students to a variety of
forms and perspectives. Students are invited to attend the Visiting Artists
Lecture Series that exposes them to an array of artists from around the world
on a weekly basis.
Students may take full advantage of the intellectual and scholarly resources
available throughout Columbia. Students also have access to the extensive
sound archives of the Center for Ethnomusicology; books, scores, sound
recordings, and videos from the Gabe M. Wiener Music; Arts Library; and
other musical resources available through the Music Department.
About Columbia University School of the Arts
Columbia University School of the Arts awards the MFA degree in Film, Theatre, Visual
Arts, and Writing and the Master of Arts degree in Film & Media Studies; it also offers
an interdisciplinary program in Sound Art. The School is a thriving, diverse community
of talented, visionary, and committed artists from around the world, and a faculty
comprised of acclaimed and internationally renowned artists, film and theatre directors,
writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, playwrights, producers, critics, and scholars. In
2015, the School marked the 50th Anniversary of its founding. In 2017, the School
opened the Lenfest Center for the Arts, a multi-arts venue designed as a hub for the
presentation and creation of art across disciplines on the University’s new
Manhattanville campus. The Lenfest hosts exhibitions, performances, screenings,
symposia, readings, and lectures that present new, global voices and perspectives, as
well as an exciting, publicly accessible home for Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach
The School is an innovative graduate professional school with a tradition of risk-taking,
grounded in a deeply intellectual Ivy League university and energized by its location in
New York City—one of the great cultural capitals of the world. The study and practice of
art-making at the School is an immersive, constantly evolving process. Aspiring,
emerging or established, our filmmakers, writers, theatre practitioners, and visual artists
grow individually through intensive engagement with their craft and lively, often
profound exchanges of ideas and work.
From the Sundance Film Festival to the Venice Biennale, from the cover of the New
York Times Book Review to Broadway, from America’s most established regional
theaters to Europe and Asia’s renowned film and theatre festivals, the success of the
School’s faculty and alumni has never before been as prominent and celebrated.
Members of the faculty have received the highest recognition in their fields, including
Academy Awards, Tony Awards, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, Guggenheim
Fellowships, Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Alumni also claim a record of astonishing success, measured not simply by awards and
prizes, contracts and contacts, but by the quality and cultural significance of their artistic
Today, the School serves nearly 800 Master of Fine Arts students from 57 countries in
the Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing programs, and 40 Master of Arts students in
Film & Media Studies. The School’s faculty also teaches more than 1,627
undergraduate students in 120 courses offered each year.