Art History and Sound

Workshop series: The Listening Art Historian

Seeing Listening (workshop 1)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

10.00 - 12.00 , Research Forum South Room

Aby WarburgIllustration based on: Anon. Aby Warburg, 1912

David Hodge (University of Essex, UK)
: 'Art By Telephone': Sound, Communication, Conceptual Art and the Social

Samuel Adams (University of Southern California, USA): Seeing Opera, Hearing Art: Set Design in West Germany, 1972-1982

Veronica Carter (Queen's University Kingston, Canada): Hearing the Fan in Impressionist Painting

Alison Criddle (University of Manchester, UK): Sonorous Vision: Listening in to the Pool of Caravaggio’s Narcissus

Ticket/entry details: NOW FULLY BOOKED. Please note there is no waiting list for this event, however, should you wish to keep in touch and join the Art History & Sound mailing list please contact In the event of seats becoming available for this workshop we will let you know by email.

Organised by: Irene Noy and Michaela Zöschg with Prof Katie Scott (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Art historians constantly encounter traces of sound. These can take the form of notes in an illuminated manuscript, a textual echo of past noise and lost voices, or depictions of instruments, singers and dancers, captured on panel, canvas, paper, film or in wood, marble and bronze or spaces that have been specifically designed and built to embrace and amplify sound: pulpits, choir stalls, opera houses, the floor of the stock exchange. The aural is continuously intertwined with visual arts as content or context. In the 20th and 21st centuries especially artists have variously incorporated sounds, live and recorded, in their performances, happenings and multi-media installations putting into question the silence and fixity of visual art.

As a result of the collapse in the Enlightenment of the Renaissance notion of the unity of the arts and the substitution of a modern division of temporal from spatial art forms, art historians have generally limited their research and interpretation exclusively to the visual aspects of art and have disregarded the existence, never mind the significance, of the aural. Despite the recent broadening of art history’s disciplinary boundaries to include ‘non-traditional’ media as well as related fields, art historians are primarily trained to analyse and explain the non-ephemeral dimensions of art. When the visual approaches the transient qualities of the aural it raises problems of methodology and terminology.

This workshop series aims to explore both historical and contemporary instances of sound in art history, as well as some of the theoretical and methodological questions arising from this preoccupation. It is designed to provide an open platform for all art historians concerned with collecting, analysing, interpreting and describing sound(s) to meet and discuss ways of hearing visual art. It will be hosted at the The Courtauld Institute of Art on three different occasions throughout the academic year 2012/13. Each workshop will consist of four papers that will function as catalysts for a subsequent round table discussion, and each workshop will address the dynamics existing between aurality and art historical material, tools and methods from a different angle.

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Programme of the forthcoming workshops (spring and summer term):

Thursday 14 March – Reproducing Sound - Reinventing Image

Can Brett Brehm (Northwestern University, USA): Listening to the Nineteenth-century City

Lauren Applebaum (University of Illinois, USA): Visualising Radio: Teague’s Nocturne (1934) and the Façade of Futurity

Andrew Cappetta (City University of New York, USA): Attitude not Aptitude: Behavioralist Art Pedagogy and Underground Music in Britain

Adeena Mey (University of Lausanne and ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne, CH): Listening and Looking beside. On the ‘Parasonic’ and the ‘Paracinematic’.

(Booking will open early January 2013)

Thursday 30 May – Speaking Silence

Nina Ergin (Koç University, Turkey): '...praiseworthy in that great multitude was the silence': Sound/Silence in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

John Harvey (Aberystwyth University, UK): Quiet Bell: Seeing Silence in Millet’s The Angelus

Asma Neem (University of Maryland, USA): Dewing’s A Reading and Gendered Listening in the Gilded Age

Jennifer Walden (University of Portsmouth, UK): A ‘Philosophy’ of Listening and Art History

(Booking will open early April 2013)

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