Sonic Worlds

The Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities presents “Sonic Worlds,” a year of programming exploring diverse sound, musical, and listening practices as they figure in our everyday lives and in various fields of study, including anthropology, disability studies, music, literary studies, Indigenous studies, computer science, and more.

Among the questions the series will ask:

What roles does sound play in building our environments, our sense of ourselves and our communities? Do we all hear and listen to the world the same way? How do our histories, identities, cultures, subcultures, and relationship to (dis)ability affect the role sound plays in our worlds? Which sounds get counted as music, which as noise, and why? How have various composers, musicians, and sound artists challenged this distinction? What role can active listening play in aiding our negotiation of an increasingly technologically-dependent culture? What constitutes “good listening” as a musical, ethical, and everyday practice? What role does listening play in democratic processes of justice, particularly restorative justice? If we pay better attention to sound and music, can we pay better attention to other people?

Ongoing Programs


Entering its third year, VCAMbient is an opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to fill the cavernous space of VCAM with their favorite sounds–at a volume that permits the ongoing business of teaching, learning, and working in the building.

  VCAM Lounge

Make a playlist, or better yet, bring an instrument, start playing/streaming, and see what happens. Previous sessions have focused on femininity and introspection in Rap, the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, R&B from the 70s to the present, and sci-fi film soundtracks, among many other genres, and generated contemplation and conversation in the VCAM Lounge.

Timing is flexible based on your schedule. Contact HCAH & VCAM Associate Director jweissin [at] (James Weissinger) to sign up for your VCAMbient set!

Sonic Worlds Listening & Reading Group

Organized by Gustavus Stadler and Shana Cohen-Mungan '24

Do you sometimes find yourself getting enveloped in, and transfixed by, sound–whether music, street noise, babbling brooks, or what have you? Do you love to hear, listen to, and think about sound? Are you interested in joining a communal reading and listening group, in which we discuss brief texts about sound while (or before/after) listening to recordings curated by fellow members? Then we have just the group for you! The Sonic Worlds Listening & Reading Group is a group of students, staff, and faculty that will meet approximately once a month this year to explore the issues discussed in the Sonic Worlds series, and whatever other concerns attendees are hearing in their worlds. Let’s listen together!

Contact HCAH Director Gustavus Stadler (gstadler [at] to get involved.


Deconstructing Bad Bunny

Where does today’s reggaetón come from?

Organized by Lyali Pereda Figueroa ’26. Mentored by Hasta ‘Bajo Project

  Artist Talk
  Friday, September 15
  1:30 p.m.
  VCAM Exhibition Wall

  VCAMbient with Lyali
  Wednesday, September 27
  12:00 p.m.
  VCAM Lounge

  “PERREO” dance class hosted by Haveritmo
  Thursday, September 28
  4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
  VCAM Lounge


Lyali Pereda Figueroa ’26 spent the summer working with Hasta ‘Bajo Project, a non-profit organization based in Puerto Rico dedicated to creating a historical archive of reggaetón. As part of the fellowship, she now presents the VCAM exhibition Deconstructing Bad Bunny, exploring the origins of the genre through laser-cut images of iconic reggaetón artists, as well as a special VCAMbient DJ set and dance class hosted by Haveritmo. Supported by the Hurford Center’s new Summer Creative Fellowship, SONIC WORLDS, and VCAM’s Malcolm Baldwin 1962 Fund.

Lyali Pereda Figueroa '26 is a prospective Comparative Literature/Spanish double major with a minor in Education and the Latinx concentration. She was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which has inspired her work in her first exhibition: Deconstructing Bad Bunny. She loves every kind of art and always tries to intermingle them in her projects.

Fire Museum Presents: Erik Ruin’s Ominous Cloud Ensemble & Bill Hsu/Christopher Burns/Noa Even/Thomas Kraines

Erik Ruin’s Ominous Cloud Ensemble is an ever-evolving, collectively-improvising large ensemble for projections and music, led by visual artist Erik Ruin, recently lauded by the New York Times for his “spell-binding cut-paper animations.” Members of the ensemble include a rotating cast of Philly’s finest musicians, who have collaborated with everyone from Anthony Braxton to the Sun Ra Arkestra to Bardo Pond.

  Friday, September 22, 2023
  7:30 p.m.
  Studio 34
  4522 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia

Bill Hsu (San Francisco) and Christopher Burns (Philadelphia) have been making electronic audiovisual performances together for more than a decade. For this evening’s performance, they are joined onstage by Philly improvisers Noa Even (saxophones) and Thomas Kraines (cello). Expect restless exploration of sounds and textures from the outer reaches of electronic and instrumental technique, woven by the quartet into an organic conversation.

Organized by Matt O’Hare, Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Studies and Digital Media Fellow. Supported by the Haverford College Philadelphia Engagement Grant.

Learn more about Fire Museum Presents: Erik Ruin’s Ominous Cloud Ensemble & Bill Hsu/Christopher Burns/Noa Even/Thomas Kraines

Sonic Worlds Student Meet-Up

An open session for students and student organizations interested in sound, music, and listening within and beyond the curriculum to meet, chat, and dream about all things sound-related over pizza.

  Wednesday, September 27, 2023
  7:00 p.m.
 VCAM Presentation Lounge

Image by Caitlin Denis.

  Dinner and snacks provided!

Majors, club heads, bedroom producers–we wanna hear what you’re up to! Learn about different campus resources geared toward sound and share your ideas for the coming year.

Co-sponsored by FUCS and WHRC Radio.

Subotnick: Portrait of an Electronic Music Pioneer

Screening & Conversation

Subotnick: Portrait of an Electronic Music Pioneer: 2022, 88 min, directed by Robert Fantinatto. Zoom conversation to follow screening with filmmaker Robert Fantinatto and faculty Matt O’Hare.

  Tuesday, October 10, 2023
 7:00 p.m.
  VCAM Screening Room

Subotnick explores the life of electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick. At 90 years of age, he has become a cult figure for a broad spectrum of composers and producers spanning the avant-garde to techno. Featuring live performances captured in surround sound and augmented with innovative liquid-light psychedelic effects, Subotnick is a multimedia experience that highlights and celebrates one of the world’s most influential living composers.

Directed by Robert Fantinatto
2022, 88min

Organized by Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Studies and Digital Media Fellow Matt O’Hare. Sponsored by the VCAM Media & Makers Initiative.

Learn more about Subotnick: Portrait of an Electronic Music Pioneer

Resounding Disappointments

Talk by Sara Marcus

  Thursday, October 26, 2023
  4:30 - 6:00 p.m.
  VCAM 102

The history of the 20th century in the United States is a history of political disappointment—that is, of desires for a better political life that outlast the time when they might have been fulfilled. This lecture traces disappointment's persistent manifestations through five sonic scenes, including Reconstruction-era transcriptions of songs composed in slavery (and W.E.B. Du Bois's inclusion of them in The Souls of Black Folk), the cough-ridden singing of an elderly utopian in a midcentury novella by Tillie Olsen, and a tape-recorded duet between Tracy Chapman and the queer visual artist David Wojnarowicz. From each of these sounds, the lecture will elucidate how artists, writers, and activists throughout the last century employed concerted listening and transcription practices to help them make meaning out of America's ongoing disappointments.

How to Listen to History

Sonic Worlds Listening and Reading Group Workshop with Sara Marcus

  Thursday, October 26, 2023
 7:30 p.m.
  VCAM 102

This participatory listening workshop takes its cues from the Black feminist singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock, from the queer artist David Wojnarowicz's 1989 tape-recorded collaboration with Tracy Chapman, and from these artists' invitations to listen for one's ancestors. Attending closely to these examples and others, we will explore how expansively attentive listening practices might reframe difficult histories of political disappointment. Participants are encouraged to bring a way of playing—whether live or on recording—a song that has particular meaning for them.

Sara Marcus is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, where she is affiliated with the gender studies program and the Initiative on Race and Resilience. Marcus is the author of Political Disappointment: A Cultural History from Reconstruction to the AIDS Crisis (2023, Belknap/Harvard University Press) and the punk-feminist history Girls to the Front (2010). Marcus’s writing has appeared in American Literary History, American Literature, Artforum, Bookforum, Dissent, the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, Public Books, and elsewhere.

Supported by the Distinguished Visitors Program.

Seeing Sound: Opening Reception

On View: October 27 - December 16, 2023

  Friday, October 27, 2023
  4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery
  WCC, Second Floor

Seeing Sound is an expansive exhibition that explores the current trajectory of sound as a dynamic branch of contemporary art practice, curated by Barbara London. The exhibition features nine artists based around the world—Seth Cluett, Juan Cortés, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, Auriea Harvey, Bani Haykal, Yuko Mohri, Marina Rosenfeld, Aura Satz, and Samson Young. For Seeing Sound, the artworks take shape as kinetic sculpture, audio-video installation, and visitor-responsive technologies. With headphones notably absent, the exhibition consists of complex environmental sonic experiences, where each artwork simultaneously allows for multiple modes of communal listening.

Photo by Jeff Warrin.

Aura Satz, Dial Tone Drone (2014), Seeing Sound at KADIST San Francisco, June 9 to July 24,2021.

Seeing Sound is a traveling exhibition curated by Barbara London, with the support ofResearch Assistant Kristen Clevenson and produced by Independent Curators International(ICI). This exhibition and tour are supported, in part, by Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) program and with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum. Crozier Fine Arts is the Preferred Art Logistics Partner.

For more information, visit ICI’s website.

Is There God after Prince? Dispatches from an Age of Last Things

Talk by Peter Coviello

  Monday, October 30, 2023
  4:30 p.m.
  VCAM 102

Is There God After Prince? is a book about loving things (books, songs, people) in the shadow of a felt, looming disaster – in the grain of what author Peter Coviello calls an endstrickenness that every twenty-first-century day has made harder and harder to ignore. In essays that survey pieces of culture across a clamoring and expansive range – from novels and poems to shows like The Sopranos, movies like The Shining, and songs from the much-mourned saint of Minneapolis – Coviello asks what it can mean to love such trifling and beautiful things, even now, in the midst of worlds so glutted with planet-sized calamity Moving, mordant, sparking with caustic intelligence and an unsurrendered joyousness, Is There God After Prince? shows us what criticism can do – how it yet might speak to us – in a time of ruin and collapse, an age of Last Things.

Peter Coviello is Department Head and Professor of English, University of Illinois Chicago.

Supported by the Haverford Department of English Weaver Fund.

Fire Museum Presents: Neti-Neti + The Early

  Thursday, November 16, 2023
  8:00 p.m.
  Maas Building
  1325 N Randolph St, Philadelphia

Neti-Neti is the lo-fi ritual music duo of Matt Evans (drums/electronics) and Amirtha Kidambi (vocals/electronics) that formed amidst their mutual experiences surrounding grief after the death of loved ones. The duo shapes a vessel for processing this loss using hazy rhythmic interplay, dredging piles of noise, and serene moments of ethereal melodic counterpoint. Neti-Neti, translated as “It is not this, it is not that” from Sanskrit, is a contemplation on the nature of reality, life, death, birth and rebirth extracted from the Hindu text of rituals The Upanishads.

Formed in North Jersey in 2004, The Early spans two decades, two coastlines, and an evolving lineup of multi- instrumentalists, metabolizing the textural grandeur of post-rock, the communicational intimacy of jazz improvisation, and the patient grooves of minimalism.

Learn more about Fire Museum Presents: Neti-Neti + The Early

Fire Museum Presents: A Page of Madness (Kinugasa Teinosuke, 1926) with Totally Automatic & Matt O’Hare

  Friday, December 8, 2023
 8:00 p.m.
  2223 Fish
  2223 E Dauphin St, Philadelphia

With its rapid, non-linear cuts and terrifying imagery, A Page of Madness is widely regarded as a kinetic masterwork of early 20th century Japanese cinema. Accompanied by Totally Automatic, composer Matt O'Hare sonically leverages the beautiful and chaotic expressionism of Madness by utilizing visual analysis of the film to drive audible changes in a modular synthesizer, promising a raw and visceral take on a seminal horror classic.

Learn more about Fire Museum Presents: A Page of Madness

Strange Truth: The Tuba Thieves

  Wednesday, March 27, 2023
  7:00 p.m.
  Bryn Mawr Film Institute

From 2011 to 2013, tubas were stolen from Los Angeles high schools. This is not a story about thieves or missing tubas. Instead, it asks what it means to listen.

Image: Cinematography by Derek Howard, Meena Singh, Judy Phu.

Written and directed by Alison O’Daniel
2023, 91min
American Sign Language, English, & Spanish

Followed by a conversation with filmmaker Alison O’Daniel.

Image by Caitlin Denis.

Alison O'Daniel is a filmmaker and visual artist. She has screened and exhibited in galleries and museums internationally, including Kunsthalle Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; Centro Centro, Madrid, Spain; Renaissance Society, Chicago; Art in General, New York; Centre d’art Contemporain Passerelle, Brest, France; Tallinn Art Hall, Estonia. O’Daniel is a United States Artist 2022 Disability Futures Fellow and a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow and has received grants from Ford Foundation; Sundance; Creative Capital; Field of Vision; ITVS; Chicken & Egg; SFFILM; Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation; Rema Hort Mann Foundation; Center for Cultural Innovation. She has attended residencies at the Wexner Center Film/Video Studio Program; Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown; and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She was included in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and writing on O’Daniel’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; Artforum; Los Angeles Times; BOMB; ArtReview. She is represented by Commonwealth and Council in Los Angeles and is an Assistant Professor of Film at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.