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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Now Hear This: Exhibit

Audio in the RISD Archives and Special Collections

Fleet Library at RISD, 1st Floor + Balcony                October 2, 2023 - February 2, 2024

Listening Party - Thursday, November 2, 2023 at 5pm Fleet Library 2nd Floor, Rm 201

Select images from the exhibit


Profile Photo
Andrew Martinez
RISD Archives
Subjects: RISD Archives


Profile Photo
Claudia Covert
2nd floor, 203

This exhibit is a selection of documentation and recordings from the RISD Archives and Special Collections including memorabilia from RISD performances and student musicians.  From the Artistics to the Velvet Underground at Mem Hall, from Dada for Now to A Pause is Not a Break.  Explore recordings as artifacts some created by RISD students, faculty, alumni while others listened to by members of the RISD community. What are you listening to, what is influencing you?


The RISD Archives holds scattered evidence of student musical groups, performances and productions (balls, cabarets, pageants, masquerades, variety shows, etc.) throughout RISD’s history. The advent of Blockprint, a regularly published student-run newspaper in the 1950s, allows us to track the rise of popular music in the consciousness and lives of RISD students, with notices and reviews of an eclectic lot of on-campus and local concerts by acclaimed and little known performers, as well as critiques of recent record releases. 

Special Collections has a selection of music and sound recordings from the 1950s forward ranging from the sound performances of Janet Cardiff to Kevin Beasley’s A View of the Landscape.  With musical selections from Memories aux Bruxelles : The official music of the Brussels World's Fair to the animal noises of Goat Music.  Many of the recordings are donations from RISD faculty and alumni.

Exhibit Cases

A Compilation of RISD Musicians Vol. 01 bi-polar records
produced by Tim Laursen and Gardner Allen 2001

Cold Hands
Black Dice 2001


Beaches & Canyons
Black Dice 2002


Miles of Smiles
Black Dice
Fat Cat Records 2004

Black Dice formed in spring 1997 after Bjorn Copeland 98 SC, Hisham Bharoocha 98 PH, and Sebastian Blanck 98 PT met when they were students at the RISD.  They are an experimental noise band.


All Young And Beautiful
Casey Holford FAV 01 2005

Gift of the RISD Museum on behalf of Claire Bigbie ID 01

In fact, the November 20, 1967 issue of Blockprint features five entire pages of reviews and interviews with Charles Lloyd (jazz), Brown student Alan Sondheim (avant garde/experimental), Pete Seeger (folk), Mike Bloomfield (electric blues), and John Foxon (organist).

In 1957, Duke Ellington played at the Celebrity Club in Providence (Blockprint published an interview and review). Other groups whose tours brought them through town include: Count Basie and Stan Kenton (1960); The Rolling Stones (1964 and 1965); The Animals (1966); Ahmad Jamal, Lou Donaldson, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Donovan and Janis Ian (1967); and the Jefferson Airplane (1968). 

Brown University booked many impressive acts throughout the 1960s, including: Bob Dylan (1964); The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966); the Yardbirds (no show) and Mitch Rider (1967); Dionne Warwick, James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie on three consecutive nights (April 26-28, 1968); Linda Ronstadt with the Stone Ponies and Jimi Hendrix (1968).


RISD Performing Groups

There is documentation from the 1960s that RISD students formed their own musical groups and/or sound collectives:

The Vibratos: Dave Chapman, Bob DiVito, Bruce Manwaring, Allan Peterson and Patty Sroka;

The Chosen Few,  (they eventually renamed themselves as Black River Circus) with future RISD administrator Bruce Helander at the time just learning how to play drums;  

The Sound Workshop: “Sound Workshop is a discovery. A discovery in sound. An exploration of sound. Electronic, visual, and vocal. Sound Workshop works with and on environment. We stage incidental happenings. Sound Workshop originates and engineers happenings. Stopped; see, and hear. Don’t be put off by the institutional name. Sound workshop is spontaneous. is electric and vocal. is a discovery in great music. is an electronic environment. is underwater. needs singers. is a use. is a musical thing on May 7th. sounds good. Happens.”

Although Blockprint’s music editors repeatedly complained about the lackluster quality of RISD’s concerts when compared to Brown’s, the RISD students, more so than the administration, managed to produce some worthwhile events, especially for the annual Take A Break (TAB) weekend in February. Included among the RISD performances during the 1950s and 1960s were: Dave Brubeck (1957); Gerry Mulligan (1959); Kai Winding (1960); Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross and the New Lost City Ramblers (1961); Duke Ellington (1962); Count Basie (1964); Herbie Mann (1965); Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk (1966); the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (3 times between 1963 and 1967); Charles Lloyd, Yusef Lattef and the Velvet Underground (1967); the Chambers Brothers, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Frank Wakefield and the Greenbriar Boys, and The Bluegrass Gentlemen (1968).

  • Compact disc compilations of music and sound by RISD students. 2004, 2005 and 2012
  • Posters for various music-related offerings at RISD. 1960s - present
  • The Vibratos’ self-produced long-playing record. 1963.

In the fall of 1966, Stig Wegge, a member of the Blockprint staff, started an appeal to persuade the Student Affairs Office to bring Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable to RISD. “Next to RISD it’s probably the most ambitious attempt to change the standards of contemporary art yet devised. It has Nico, a hip Dietrich, blond and soft, who sings with the Velvet Underground. It has leather freaks and barbells, ‘Kiss’, ‘Eat’, ‘Sleep’ and other Warhol anti-Hollywood classics. It has visions of Jack Cassen (hip photographer), strobes, probes and mirrored globes. It all goes off at once, It happens on anything that comes near it. It could and should happen here . . . but there’s a problem. The school will not bring him here unless they’re sure we care.”

The efforts paid off, as Warhol’s multimedia event did come to RISD, taking place in Memorial Hall on Friday March 31 and Saturday April 1, 1967.  Unfortunately, the performance did not live up to students’ expectations. “To those of you who spent incredible amounts of money on the ‘Warhol’ show . . . I can only commiserate with you. I and most of the people I’ve talked to about the show thought the ‘inevitable’ itself was rather anticlimactic to the name. The show was something that everyone here at RISD is or should be quite familiar with, Bands with flashing lights and undulating colours have become perhaps a bit too common . . . It was a poor band, a few lights, a few straight people, a few bombed people, a spectacular name, an exorbitant price, and a rather boring evening to say the least.”

And there was an unnamed experimental group that included Martin Mull, Carl Carson, Dudley Giberson and Jon Stanley, starting out as a “rhythm and blues band doing Indian-like music on the side,” but eventually moving to a more “electronic” sound environment. Two features in Blockprint attempted to describe their sound. A statement of purpose by Brown student Alan Sondheim about his experimental group, All, was also included.

  • Take A Break Weekend 1967. Charles Lloyd (left) and Yusef Lattef (right).
  • Concert videotape of Alice Cooper performing in the RISD Refectory, recorded by John Steve Brosnahan, B.ARCH 1970.
  • Talking Heads RISD Concert Announcement RISD September 23, 1977
  • Reprint of a New York Times review of Talking Heads 77, RISD Press.September 16, 1977
    In September 1977, Talking Heads (formerly and locally known as the Artistics) returned to Providence with their debut record album out and in stores. 3 of the 4 group members, David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, had attended RISD.
  • The Velvet Underground in RISD’s Mem Hall, performing as the soundtrack to Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, spring 1967. (Photo by Bill Carner, BFA Photography 1970)
  • Take A Break Weekend notice, February 1968.