Sound Arts FAQ

Interdepartmental Program Offered in Association with
The Visual Arts MFA Program, the Department of Music
Experimental speaker-building workshop.
What is sound art? What kinds of artists should apply to the program?

"Sound art" is purposefully general and is not meant to specify any particular genre or type of practice. Sound art is simply art that includes sound in some materially, conceptually, or thematically important way. Sound artists might work with linguistics and language cognition, design electronic musical instruments, write data sonification software, or build kinetic sound sculpture. We are interested in diversity of people and ideas.

What is the relationship between the Sound Arts program and the Music Composition and Visual Arts programs?

The Sound Arts program is very small, with only three or four students admitted each year. Sound Arts shares some faculty with the Music Composition program, and Music Department classes are open to interested students. However, the MFA program is not a composition program, and there are no composition lessons or music theory/literature/history classes required.

With the permission of their advisor, Sound Arts students may fulfill their electives by registering for courses offered by the Visual Arts program (1000-4000 level). Select Visual Arts activities and resources, like the Visiting Artist Lecture Series and the Wood and Metal shops, are open to Sound Arts students. In addition, some graduate level classes in the School of the Arts are open to Sound Arts students with permission of the instructor (this is true of nearly all Columbia graduate classes).

Do I need to read music/play an instrument/have a music background to apply to the program? Will I be required to take music theory or other music classes as part of the program?

No musical background is assumed and no music classes are required.

Do Sound Arts MFA students take composition lessons? Can I study with composition faculty while at Columbia?

Sound Arts students can take undergraduate composition classes and participate in the Graduate Composition Seminar where they can present their music and interact with DMA composition students and faculty. Private composition lessons are not available. Students who are primarily interested in studying music composition should apply to the Music Department graduate program in composition here.

Do Sound Art MFA students get studios?

Sound Art students do not have individual studios, but rather share lab, workshop, and presentation spaces. 2nd year students are assigned small private offices.

What classes are required?

The Sound Arts MFA curriculum is here.

In addition to the required courses, we help each student create their own curriculum from classes across the university. The focus is upon individually-centered course choices.

What kinds of physical resources are available?

Sound Arts MFA students have access to resources of the Computer Music Center (recording studio, rehearsal rooms, sound-reinforcement and recording gear, electronics lab, etc.) and the School of the Arts fabrication shops (wood, metal, ceramics, etc) and equipment cage. Other university resources are available on an ad hoc basis.

What kinds of work should I send in with my application?

Please see the “General Admissions Requirements” page for required application materials.

What kinds of financial aid are available? Can I be a TA or a lab monitor? Are there teaching positions available for MFA students?

Columbia University School of the Arts and Columbia University and Student Financial Services work carefully with students to arrange the financing of their degrees. Loan packages, fellowships, scholarships and other options are available for eligible students. It is  recommended that any applicant wishing to be considered for financial aid complete all necessary financial aid applications by February 15, 2017. Please see the Financing Your Degree page for information.

Typically, all Sound Arts students receive fellowships ranging from $20,000 to $25,000 for both years of the program. Sound Arts students are eligible for a TA position in their 2nd year. 

How well do Sound students fare in the post-graduate market? What kinds of opportunities exist for work?

Although we can't answer this question directly (yet) because the program is so new, the track record of students working primarily at the Computer Music Center and focusing upon 'sound arts'-type work has been excellent.  Over the past 20 years, 100% of students who have held a graduate teaching-assistantship at the CMC have been placed in good jobs (one measure of "good" jobs: six of the eight computer/electronic music facilities in the Ivy League were founded and/or are currently directed by CMC graduates). Most of these have been in academia, but a number of students have also moved into commercial work.  Quite a few CMC graduates are now well-known artists engaged in contemporary 'sound arts' activities.

Regarding the kinds of opportunities that might be available, our best response is the cliched "the sky's the limit!"  The individually-centered, DIY approach that we adopt in the Sound Arts program will provide graduates with a broad range of skills necessary to open entirely new areas for development.  As with our previous CMC graduates, we fully expect that MFA graduates will play a fundamental role in shaping future sound art creativity.












Sound Arts
632 West 125th Street
318 Prentis Hall
New York, NY 10027

© 2017 Columbia University School of the Arts | 305 Dodge Hall, Mail Code 1808 | 2960 Broadway | New York, NY 10027 | (212) 854-2875 | EMAIL
Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.