Creative Audio Archive

Now in its 30th year of operation, Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) is a non-profit, artist-run organization and focused on sound in all its exploratory cultural manifestations. Its Edgewater facility is home to a full-service recording, mixing, and mastering studio for hire; Audible Gallery, a small public space for exhibitions, meetings, workshops, performances, and artists' projects; and the Creative Audio Archive—an invaluable collection of recordings, print, and visual ephemera related to avant-garde and exploratory sound and music of the last five decades. ESS presents eclectic performance and installation programming, workshops, and artist talks year round—both in the various spaces around the studio (including its beautiful, landscaped garden) and in various partner venues around Chicago.

creativeaudioarchive_image.JPGThe Creative Audio Archive (CAA) at ESS was formed in response to growing concerns over the general state of historical preservation of non-mainstream audio. The CAA is therefore conceived as a center to safeguard volatile materials, to transfer them to accessible and stable media, to catalogue and cross-reference these materials, and to make them accessible for study and, where feasible, present them to the public at large. The priceless contents of the various collections in the CAA include a treasure trove of audio and ephemera related to Sun Ra and El Saturn Records; the complete recordings of concert recordist Malachi Ritscher; and a number of collections documenting Chicago's experimental and improvised music scene through the past 50 years. Access to our collections is available by appointment; select audio materials from the CAA are available to stream on SoundCloud (