• KovaM
 18.01.2022 | 14:30 | | Lisbon | CAN | Auditorium 224

Master Alcina Cortez's defense of the doctoral thesis in Music Sciences, a specialty in Ethnomusicology, will take place in person at CAN and by videoconference, through the Zoom platform:

ID: 814 7670 1254
Password: 798810


  • Jennifer Walklate, Lecturer and Curatorial Fellow in Museum Studies, Department of Anthropology, School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen
  • Alice Semedo, Assistant Professor, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade do Porto
  • Jorge Freitas Branco, Full University Professor, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Departamento de Antropologia
  • João Soeiro de Carvalho, Full University Professor, Departamento de Ciências Musicais, NOVA-FCSH
  • Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, Professor Emeritus, Departamento de Ciências Musicais, NOVA-FCSH



The twentieth century was the stage for several phenomena which have paved the way for museums to start exhibiting sound and to nurture a vivid and increasing interest in its potentialities. The burgeoning of sound recording technologies stands as a milestone in this respect. These have allowed sound to become a physical object and, hence, new understandings and conceptualizations to emerge. In the wake of these developments, the ways in which museum curators look at sound has gone into a huge reconfiguration. The fact that both new museology and museum practice have been turning their attention to and focus on the visitor has similarly accelerated the curators' interest in sound as a means to build museum exhibitions. One of the latest and most striking instances in this process has been the role of ethnomusicology and sound studies in demonstrating the cultural, social, political, economic and ethical significance of sound thereby stimulating museum's interest in dealing with sound as a mode to build both individual subjectivities and communities in museum settings. The development of audio technologies and digital and multisensorial technologies (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality) also plays a part in this process. These have the merit to provide ways to deal with the elusiveness of sound when exhibited in museum galleries and to facilitate interactions underpinned by rationales such as experience, embodiment, and emplacement.

During at least the last ten years, there has been a boost in the development of sound-based multimodal museum practices. These practices, nonetheless, have yet to be mapped, and their representational and experiential (emotional and sensorial) opportunities to be closely analysed. My thesis strives to start closing this gap by taking two analytical steps. Based on the analysis of 69 sound-based multimodal museum exhibitions staged in Europe and in the United States of America, I provide a five-use framework categorizing sound-based multimodal museum practices into sound as a "lecturing" mode, sound as an artefact, sound as "ambiance"/soundtrack, sound as art, and sound as a mode for crowd-curation. The case-study of sound art The Visitors, it unravels the communicative potential of sound for museums. In detail, the analysis stresses how sound and space comingle to articulate individual subjectivities and a sense of "togetherness."

The scope of the thesis is clearly multidisciplinary, encompassing ethnomusicology, sound studies, museum studies, and social semiotics. Overall, I seek to contribute towards the development of the study of sound in museums to develop and establish as a cohesive research field. I moreover seek to foster a sensory formation shift from a visual epistemology to one that merges the visual and the auditory.


Advisor: Salwa Castelo-Branco




Alcina Cortez: A curator and producer of exhibitions since 1996, she was Visitor Director of the Pavilion of the Future at Expo'98 (1998) and Executive Producer of Exhibitions at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Science Service (2001-2011) where she coordinated the production of the exhibitions In the Light of Einstein 1905-2005 and Darwin's Evolution, among others. She studied piano, cello and composition at the Instituto Gregoriano de Lisboa, Portugal. She graduated in Musicology (1992) and took postgraduate courses in Popular Music Studies (2011) and Acoustic and Sound Studies (2019).

Alcina has specialised in the study of the communicative potential of sound as an integral element of museum exhibitions, obtaining in 2014 a master's degree in Ethnomusicology/Museology. She is currently completing her PhD Communicating Through Sound in Museums Exhibitions: Unravelling a Field of Practice under the guidance of Professor Salwa Castelo-Branco. 
Her research has resulted in the publication of several articles for journals such as Curator, Popular Music, and Sound Studies. She is the author of the blog objectsofsound.com selected to integrate the MuseumsETC's publication The Blog Book.