Research Master Seminar Sound Heritage


Course Objective

Sound Heritage aims to identify, assess and answer the questions that
arise when sounds and sound concepts approved in the past are considered
to be preserved.

Course Content

Sound Heritage explores what sounds and sound concepts have been
approved in the past; under what conditions these might be considered
heritage today; and what saving such concepts for future generations
actually means. In order to keep this huge and new research field
manageable, Sound Heritage focuses on music-related sounds and sound
concepts. Two historic 'sound carriers' will be used as research topics:
pipe organs and high-end sound systems, as they both document what
sounds once were considered convincing.
A major complication is that sound is volatile: it exists only in the
now, and only in one's own ears. This means that Sound Heritage
researchers need to question listening cultures and skills developed in
the past, as well as to question and develop own ones. Put differently:
artistic activity (listening to sound in music) will necessarily be a
major element in this seminar, to be integrated in otherwise 'normal'
epistemic research strategies. This confronts us with quite a few basic
philosophical/aesthetical issues. What is it to listen, and what to
negotiate sound? How does sound come into existence, and does it ever
cease to exist? To complicate matters even more, sound recording and
reproducing technology, an indispensable tool for Sound Heritage
researchers, is problematic by definition.
During the seminar, these issues will be addressed in a series of
lectures and interactive workshops. Additionally, in order to make Sound
Heritage as practice-based as possible, the seminar includes a fair
amount of field work as well. In the 2019-edition of the seminar, Sound
Heritage students will be assigned, as a group, to map the network
resulting from and producing the preparations of the restoration of the
famous Schnitger Organ at Harkstede, built in 1696, by identifying and
assessing relevant
sources (including interviewing significant 'actors'). Eventually, the
students are asked to advise and/or assist the people involved in the
decision-making process. Next to that, students will have to do 'solo
research' as well, by critically
assessing the sound systems used by themselves in their everyday life.

Teaching Methods

Lectures, guest lectures by leading professionals in related research
fields, workshops, field work. The focus is on active participation.
Attendance mandatory.

Method of Assessment

Presentation of and report on the field work assignment (to be produced
as a group; 40%); presentation annex essay on the student's own sound
systems (30%); participation in the discussions during class (30%).

Entry Requirements

Admission to the Humanities Research Master. Attitude is essential:
students need to be open to (develop)
new ways of thinking, new ways of researching (connecting and
interrelating artistic and epistemic strategies), and be highly
interested in music, sound, history, technology, and philosophy.


Students may start reading the contributions by Sterne, Ihde, and Murray
Schafer to the Sounds Studies Reader; explore the online Journal of
Sonic Studies. A good introduction to the issues to be addressed is the
e-book Music as Installation Art by Hans Fidom (downloadable for free on

Target Audience

Sound Heritage is developed for students that are interested to work for
heritage agencies, and/or to become professional researchers in the
field of (immaterial) heritage preservation, restoration,
reconstruction, etc.

Additional Information

The biennial seminar Sound Heritage is an initiative of the
chair Organ Studies at VU University. It is multidisciplinary by nature,
critically exploring and connecting the fields of Heritage Studies,
Sound Studies, Music and Art Studies, Philosophy, Technology, and their
respective histories. Language: English. Two groups of students
cooperate in this seminar: research master students and 'normal' master

Recommended background knowledge

Students that attended the honors course Music: Listening & Philosophy
are well-prepared. The biennial seminar Sound Heritage alternates with
this honors course.

General Information

Course Code L_KBMPHUA001
Credits 9 EC
Period P2
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator prof. dr. J. Fidom
Examiner prof. dr. J. Fidom
Teaching Staff prof. dr. J. Fidom
prof. dr. J. Fidom

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Seminar