Ian Condry’s Sound, Learning & Democracy

2019 Fay Chandler Creativity Grant

Ian Condry conducts a demonstration in the Spacial Sound Lab. Photo: Harry Bachrach/MIT.
Dissolve Music at MIT. Photo: Caroline Alden.

New musical and sonic works created specifically for a 360-degree environment

About the Project

“Sound, Learning, and Democracy” is a collaborative project aimed at developing works and performances for the MIT Spatial Sound Lab, an initiative led by Ian Condry, a cultural anthropologist and professor in Global Studies and Languages with joint appointments in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and Anthropology at MIT. Working with the d&b soundscape, a new technology that enables high-resolution, precise localization of sound objects in 360-degree space, the Spatial Sound Lab is housed in the START Studio (W20-429).

“Sound, Learning, and Democracy” cultivates a community of artists, scholars, and listeners interested in spatial sound. Through a series of workshops and listening sessions, the project gives rise to new musical and sonic works created specifically for a 360-degree environment. More broadly, Condry’s initiative contributes to new approaches to performance and teaching that move away from unidirectional modes of communication—the podium, the page, the screen—toward experiences and works that embrace multiperspectivity, multidirectionality, and immersion.


Past Events

After Live: Reworking the Archive through Spatial Sound with Andy Graydon
November 14, 2019 / 6:00-7:30pm
ACT Cube, Lower Level, MIT Building E15
20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA

Free and open to the public.

Equal parts listening party and opportunity for exploration, participate in the reimagining of archival sounds through spatialized listening. Join Andy Graydon and the MIT Spatial Sound Lab as we listen to archival recordings including reissues from the GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales) and Maryanne Amacher, with discussion to follow including Ian Condry (CMS/W) and special guests.
The Spatial Sound Lab launched in Fall 2019 as an experimental community studio for surround sound productions in music, archival reimaginings, sound art, sensory ethnography, data sonification, modules for teaching, and more.
Special thanks for generous support from CAST Fay Chandler Creativity Grant, ACT, CMS/W, and Dissolve Music.

Sound, Learning, and Democracy
MIT START Studio, Building W20


Kyle Keane, Research Scientist, MIT

Nicole L’Huillier and Juan Necochea, musicians (Breaking Forms)

Andy Graydon, video and sound artist

Russell Pasetes ’20

Susanna Bolle, co-organizer of Non-Event, a Boston-area experimental music and sound collective

Alban Bassuet, acoustician


Ian Condry is a cultural anthropologist interested in globalization from below: cultural movements that go global without the push of major corporations or governments. His current research explores music and inequality, examining how new social and economic approaches to music offer insights into varieties of capitalism and their differing contributions to inequality.

Condry teaches courses that emphasize ethnographic approaches to media and culture, including Japanese popular culture, anime, and cinema. He also holds a graduate-level seminar in media theory and methods.

The MIT/Harvard Cool Japan research project was founded and organized by Condry. Since 2006, the project has presented seminars, conferences, and artistic performances aimed at examining the cultural connections, dangerous distortions, and critical potential of popular culture. Condry also co-directs the Creative Communities Initiative with MIT Professor T.L. Taylor, using ethnography to advance new solutions to old problems.

Condry received a BA in government from Harvard in 1987 and a PhD in anthropology from Yale in 1999. He has been teaching at MIT since 2002, and has written books on hip-hop as it developed in Japan (Hip-Hop Japan, 2006) and on Japanese animation as a global force (The Soul of Anime, 2013).

More at the MIT Global Studies and Languages section’s website: Ian Condry

In the Media

“Sound is by nature a democratic medium… sound lets us listen around the margins and to follow multiple voices coming from multiple directions.”

— Ian Condry, MIT News

The New York Times: Mouse on Mars at M.I.T.: A Symposium Becomes a Dance Party

Ian Condry on About Japan: From Sukiyaki to Hip-Hop: A Guide to Teaching Japanese Popular Music

NPR’s All Things Considered: Bittersweet At No. 1: How A Japanese Song Topped The Charts In 1963