Category Archives: Events

4th annual Sound Art in the Library event! Friday, 10/19, 6-8pm, Music & Arts Library


MFA Sound Art in the Library
Friday, Oct. 19th, 6-8pm
Music & Arts Library,
701 Dodge

The students of the MFA Sound Art program, and the Music & Arts Library present a night of engaging site-specific installations, performances and more, situated in the spaces of the Library.

Drop in to check out the work!

Light refreshments will be served. The event is open to Columbia and Barnard students, staff and faculty.

Questions? Contact

Sound Art in the Library! Fri 10/27, 6-8pm

You are invited to attend the 3rd annual MFA Sound Arts event in the Music & Arts Library, on Friday, 10/27, from 6-8pm. Light refreshments will be served.

Six current students from the MFA Sound Arts program will present installations and performances of their work, exploring different possibilities of the Music & Arts Library space. As in previous years, we expect to see a wide variety of stimulating and entertaining work.

This event is free and open to Columbia students, faculty, and staff. Contact with any questions.

Hope to see you there!

“A Not So Quiet Space”: Sound Art in the Music & Arts Library, Fri 10/21, 6-8pm

The Music & Arts Library and the Sound Arts MFA Program cordially invite you to “A Not So Quiet Space”, featuring work by the current students in the program, utilizing the space of the Music & Arts Library for temporary installations and performances.
Come join us for some interesting sounds and experiences!
Friday, 10/21, from 6-8pm, in the Music & Arts Library, 701 Dodge.
(CUID required or contact to RSVP).

Click this link for the full poster (PDF): soundartsevent2016-finalposter


New and upcoming, for the Fall 2016 semester

  • Music faculty Ellie Hisama and Elaine Sisman will participate at the IRWGS “Feminist to the Core” series event “Sexual Violence Onstage: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni“, on Monday, Oct.24, from 4:10-6pm, in 203 Butler Library. Don Giovanni will also be a featured opera for Music Humanities sections this fall. DVDs of several different productions are on Reserve in the Music & Arts Library to support these classes.feminist-to-the-core-opera
  • Undergraduate student Kira Daglio Fine, saxophonist and leader of the Columbia University Big Band, is working with Duke Ellington materials from his Such Sweet Thunder, from the Mark Tucker Collection, in order to prepare an arrangement for performance in Spring 2017. She’s re-working her arrangement into digital music notation. She’s offered to guest-post in the future to our blog about the experience of working with these materials, as her work progresses. We’re excited! ellingtonsuchsweetthunder-tuckercollection

“Women, Music, Power: A Celebration of Suzanne G. Cusick’s Work”

WomenMusicPower-FullPoster This Spring, the Music & Arts Library has been pleased to host an exhibition curated by graduate students Jane Forner and Velia Ivanova, designed around the very successful Dec. 2015 symposium “Women, Music, Power: A Celebration of Suzanne G. Cusick’s Work” (, organized by Music Dept. professor Ellie Hisama, and co-sponsored by several diverse departments, and the Libraries.

The exhibition features writings and ephemera, which echo and supplement the themes of the symposium and highlight aspects of Cusick’s work and achievements.  In addition to the library exhibition, the symposium website details the program and the concert held as part of the event.

A description of Cusick’s work is excerpted here, from the symposium website:

Suzanne G. Cusick is an influential figure in modern musicology. Her early work proved foundational to the fields of feminist and queer musicology, and her full body of scholarship remains among the most sophisticated, engaging, and provocative work in music studies. Her recent writings on the use of music in the so-called “War on Terror” have helped to launch a new generation of scholarship on music and violence and have re-configured the ways in which politics and music are understood as mutually constitutive. Whether focused on new styles of music making in early modern Italian courts, or on the soundscape of CIA blacksites, Cusick’s work is concerned with questions of how music functions as a material practice, with palpable consequences for both listeners and performers. Her work repeatedly pushes beyond the resting places of traditional scholarship, redefining the ways in which we can think about music, about gender, and about music scholarship. Women Music Power, seeks to highlight the central themes of Cusick’s work and to explore their continued relevance to musical scholarship writ large.

The exhibition will remain on view in the Music & Arts Library, through Monday, February 29th, 2016.



New Sound Arts MFA students exhibit their work


Carla Cisno, with the generative part of her installation


Nolan Lem, in front of his work








The first two students in the newly-established Sound Arts MFA program, Carla Cisno and Nolan Lem, presented their work in the First Year Show, at Prentis Hall, from May 4-12, 2014. The works presented were What is all (2014) by Cisno, and Dice Roll (2014) by Lem.


Cisno, “What is all” – still image from projection

Video clip at this link (please note that the audio is ambient room sound, and not part of the piece).

Cisno’s piece What is all was presented in two spaces: in a smaller room, an aluminum tray of water was activated by a low-frequency analog oscillator, connected to the tray via tactile transducers. The low-frequency oscillator, nominally set to a steady state at 50 Hz (but as the artist pointed out, being vintage analog equipment, drifting somewhat around that frequency) transmitted vibrations into the pan of water, causing wave-like ripples throughout the liquid. A cool-colored beam of light was positioned above the tray, illuminating both tray and liquid (the image above shows the artist near this installation). Video of the tray and water were captured, and projected in two places: on the wall of the small dark room containing the tray, and, transmitted live via HDMI, to a larger separate room, in a floor-to-ceiling display. One interesting feature of her piece was that the sound is not heard directly (but can be felt when touching the table holding the tray), but rather, is seen in its effect on the liquid and light.


Lem, “Dice Roll”

Video clip of Dice Roll at this link.

Lem’s Dice Roll was installed in a single rectangular room, with the piece lit from below, casting shadows on the walls of the semi-darkened space (see artist in front of work in image at top of page). Lem’s piece featured 3 large rectangular frames, with rows of mounted motors,  activating thin lines supporting dice. The dice, when at rest, sat on a bed of pieces of wood, of varying lengths, arranged for their sonic properties. When activated, the dice rolled and bounced against the pieces of wood, producing a variety of organic-sounding effects. Different textures were in evidence over time, without forming any large discernible structural patterns.


Panel discussion; Cisno, Lem, Cullen, Repetto (L to R)

The artists both spoke in a panel at the closing reception, discussing their work with Douglas Repetto, Director of the Sound Arts program, and Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of the Wallach Art Gallery. There was a lively discussion, which touched on issues including ideas about the definition of sound art, ideas about form, approaches to the sense of time in their work, the creative process, and documentation and preservation issues for sound art pieces.

The Music & Arts Library actively supports the work of the Sound Arts program, by acquisitions of books, journals, and recordings, as well as the resources of the Digital Music Lab. We eagerly look forward to seeing the next exhibition of work by this group and the new incoming cohort (an additional 4 artists) in Fall 2014!




India Music Week exhibition


In conjunction with India Music Week, the Music & Arts Library has mounted an exhibition of materials from our collections representing the music of India, including books and recordings in several formats, and covering musical styles from the ancient art music traditions through Bollywood film music.  As is the case in several other areas of the world, audio cassettes were (and may remain) an important format for distribution, and our collections include over 800 audio cassettes of Indian music in many styles. The exhibition will remain up for several weeks; stop by and have a look, and perhaps enjoy listening to some of the many selections which are available in our collections for check-out. And, if you’re in the mood to enjoy some music of India remotely, check out the streaming audio content available on the Contemporary World Music and Smithsonian Global databases. Enjoy!


EVENT: NY Philharmonic Digital Archives, Mon 10/28/13, 1-2:30pm

The New York Philharmonic Digital Archives: Fair Use online and New Sources for Digital Humanities
Monday, October 28, 1-2:30pm
203 Butler Library, Columbia University

(example: 1st violin part from Mahler’s Symphony no. 4; score marked up by Leonard Bernstein)

Since 1842, the New York Philharmonic has preserved nearly every document or scrap of paper relevant to its concert
and business activities creating one of the world’s largest collections of a single, continuously operating
performing arts institution. The material includes conductor and artist correspondence, marked scores and parts,
meeting minutes, contracts, subscriber lists, musician attendance sheets, press clippings, personnel and donor
records, printed programs, etc. In 2009, with a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, the Archives began
digitizing all paper (1.3 million pages) between 1943 and 1970 making it freely available on the internet.

Two goals of the digitization were that new connections would be made within the collections and new forms of
research would result.  Legal obligations and ways to meet these requirements which had not been relevant to a
reading-room research had to be worked out. Subscriber records, a record type that had never been used by scholars,
became the focus for a new study on New York elites.

Barbara Haws is the Philharmonic’s Archivist and Historian leading the digital project.  Jane Ginsburg, the Morton
L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law at the Columbia Law School advises the Philharmonic
Digital Archives on intellectual property issues including fair use. Shamus Khan, Associate Professor of Sociology
at Columbia leads a team of sociologists in a digital humanities project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
to study New York elites using the New York Philharmonic’s subscriber and concert hall seating records.

Directions to Butler Library are here:

Resounding Images: Medieval Intersections of Art, Music, and Sound – May 3, 9am-6pm

The Dept. of Music co-sponsors this interesting interdisciplinary event, on Friday, May 3, from 9am-6pm, as part of the University Seminar on Medieval Studies. Prof. Susan Boynton, from the Music Dept. faculty, will present opening remarks.

From the event page:

“Although sound is probably the most difficult component of the past to reconstruct, it was also the most pervasive, whether planned or unplanned, instrumental or vocal, occasional or ambient. This conference brings together specialists in several fields to explore the now-missing intersection of visual and aural in the experience of medieval environments and objects.”

Distinguished speakers from several institutions will present a fascinating and varied program. Full details are available at this link (note that registration is required for the conference, although it is free).

There will be an associated concert by members of Columbia’s Collegium Musicum, and others, of Byzantine and Latin chant, performed in the Burke Library, on Saturday, May 4, at 3pm. Details on the concert can be found here.

Both the conference and the concert are free and open to the public.

Wed 4/10: Mark Everist: ´Cantum pulcriorem invenire´: Medieval Latin Poetry and Music

On Wednesday, April 10, from 5:30-7pm, Professor Mark Everist, University of Southampton, presents a talk titled “´Cantum pulcriorem invenire´: Medieval Latin Poetry and Music“, at Columbia’s Faculty House. From the event description:

    “The long thirteenth century (c1170 to c1320) saw the emergence of three coherent repertories of polyphonic music: settings of liturgical chant called organum, motets that were originally derived from parts of organum and the conductus. Organum and the motet have been the subject of impressive levels of musicological study in the last 150 years whereas the conductus-despite its status as the first consistent repertory of newly-composed polyphony-has remained somewhat in the shadows. Although the repertory has been catalogued, little work, admittedly very distinguished, has been built on these bibliographical foundations. The conductus therefore stands at the centre of this project, merging Latin poetry and music in a single genre.”

The  event is free and open to the public. There will be a post-talk dinner, but note that this requires an RSVP and a fee of $25. Full details of the program are available at this link.