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The Material Imagination Workshop

On select Fridays in the Humanities Center Board Room. Light fare will be served. Open to the public.


From the medieval to the contemporary, the Material Imagination workshop explores sound as a complex, multifaceted experience. Invited speakers from across the nation and world, as well as Stanford faculty and graduate students, present their current research and lead discussions centered on pre-circulated material and their presentations. 

Sound assumes an immaterial quality that allows it to permeate space. It appears just as soon as it disappears, weaving through barriers in both unpredictable and controllable ways. What does sound signify in disparate times and places? In what ways do the world's cultures imagine, interpret, and use sound? How do the humanities and the sciences connect to produce new technologies and understandings of sound? How do the meanings of orality, aurality, vocality, music, noise, and ambient sound shift and intersect?


Speakers present for the first half of the workshop and then open the floor for discussion. Our discussions center on short pre-circulated material posted to this website before each session. This material will explore the connection between sound and the people and circumstances that modify it and inflect it with culturally specific meaning and experience. Last year's topics included sound in poetry; the acoustics of Hagia Sophia; chronicle songs in late-medieval Italy; voices in Homeric epic; radio and race in H.G. Wells; acoustic encounters in the late ancient desert; artificial reverberation; noise management in Taiwan; and Chinese cinema's transition to sound. 


For more information, please contact Justin Tackett: