Safety, Soldering, & Contact Microphones

before class
  • Purchase Handmade Electronic Music by Nic Collins. This will be our textbook for the course, supplemented by online and pdf readings. Nic’s introduction has inspired many to dive into the realm of noisy circuits and singing electrons.
  • Read the Introduction to Deep Listening by Pauline Oliveros (skim/reread if you have read it before).
  • Read “Why I Am Not a Maker” by Deb Chachra
  • Comment on the readings and the materials on this page below. Just a short paragraph reflecting on the readings and/or your classmates responses. Your comments don’t need to be comprehensive or cover everything. Choose ideas that resonate with you and inspire further questions.
  • Create your blog page and send me the link {subject: sonic arts blog}
  • Find/salvage/buy a box or case for your portable speaker. Keep in mind:
    • portability (think about reusing something designed for portability like a suitcase or instrument case)
    • rigidity (it’s difficult to mount a speaker into cardboard, but it’s equally difficult to work with a hard metal case).
  • Shop Safety
  • Overview of Tools
  • Electricity Basics
  • Soldering Workshop
  • Contact Microphones


Contact Microphones

contact microphone

A contact mic is a small flat piezo disk/element that translates physical vibrations in objects into voltage. The piezo discs are a thin brass disk with a layer of crystal in the center. When there is a vibration, the disc bends slightly which generates a (small) electrical signal.

Contact Microphone Examples

Additional Resources


  • Aleah Michael

    I enjoyed the “Deep Listening” reading, as I am interested in taking in the sounds around me to find my own sound. Someone I talk to about music production a lot with tells me to listen, and imitate until I create my own sound, so this is almost an intersection of the two assigned articles. I am doing my best to increase awareness of my environment to improve my skills as a potential “maker” I guess. I also really enjoyed the article about “makers” and maker culture. The author definitely made a great point in discussing how and why we value people. I definitely see eye to eye with Chachra on the point of valuing the critic, and the teacher, because they are equally if not more of a necessity to the culture and the minds of “making” and music. I also never really thought about how capitalism and gender played a role in these conversations, as a lot of the time I always want to think the music and tech worlds are immune to bias and corruption and more geared towards innovation and creativity.

  • Susan Grochmal

    There is SO much sound all the time, you have to let yourself be immersed—there’s different kinds of listening—the passive and the active—active listening to compartmentalize the sound, or deep listening to accept each sonic component as an overarching sound. Thinking about listening is kind of like thinking about thinking because background sounds are always there like thoughts, but noticing is empowering and heightens perception/understanding.

    Deb Chachra— on being a maker- this is so real, in a society that values products over process—it’s kind of like, you need something to show for your work, but that really undermines the work of people that do not primarily do product-based work. Important

    The Sonoglyph is cool, I love the sound the combs make against the triangle nails, so nice and I appreciate the design too, metal frequencies are sharp and satisfying

  • lona

    The statement that “sounds carry intelligence” resonated the most with me when reading Oliveros’ writing on deep listening. When I first read that, I thought about how much sound informs us of what is happening… but I also thought about the ways that we react to sound, like how we pay attention to sounds that are changing and or/ moving (i.e. listening is survival). It’s interesting to think about how necessary it was for humans to be good listeners back when it was evolutionarily advantageous to do so because it makes me wonder what it means for humans now that we aren’t necessarily afraid of the bears that will come eat us at night (ha ha). It makes me wonder if we are missing something that is trying to be communicated… It also makes me wonder about the ways we can manipulate/design sound given the human reactions to certain sounds

  • Why I’m Not

    I love this piece, and I love that it’s our 1st given piece to read for a class that’s all about making.
    I do probably particularly love it because the author is writing things I’ve thought (I’m capable of appreciating things I disagree with, but I might have cooked this up as my own dinner).
    They’re not new thoughts; I’m glad she quotes Gloria Steinem; but all this bears saying again in relation to these techy times.

    And Chinese room thought experiments; good gracious.

    deeep listening
    This stuff I dig, do, (not deeeply), believe worth attention and practice; I love Pauline Oliveros’s records and where she goes and her presence whether or not she goes
    but something about this reading removes me
    like reading about music sometimes.
    It’s all true
    but beautiful as language is, I often don’t prefer words. There’s plenty to listen to.

  • I enjoyed reading Pauline Oliveros’s introduction to Deep Listening. I have learned about her in a few of my music classes here, but I have never read this introduction before. After first learning about her and the idea of Deep Listening, I started to think about sounds in everyday life in a more attentive way. I rarely do this, and I agree that living in a more urban area makes it harder to do this. When I am on a hike or something it is much easier to try to listen to everything than while in Charlottesville with all kinds of trucks and people making noise.

    The Why I Am Not A Maker article was also very interesting. Personally, I have an interest in creating things and I love the satisfaction I get from creating something. I would ideally like to continue to be a maker for the rest of my life, but a great point made in this article is that often the education and the process behind the making of something is often overlooked. I am guilty of thinking this way as well, I often do not think about the build up to a final product and how many people went into teaching and helping to create something that did not exist before

  • That soldering clip is great. I’ve only tried it back before Youtube, using the guess and blob method, not so bueno.
    Piezo discs, amazing! I always wondered (I still do).
    I love the guy doing the demos too, talking about recording fish and whatnot.
    Maybe I’ll have less fear of electricity.
    Tomoring, totalinspiring (like the things Peter and Travis do).
    What the heck were those lil things in the box (the mechanical beetles/possessed toothbrush heads)? I like it when things seemingly dispirit meet and make their sense (heard elements of both late Sonic Youth and Steve Reich) plus cool just watching the traffic, chaos, interference and interaction, and design.
    Tom Nunn, he made a GOOD one!

    Back to Deep Listening; besides being true and worthy, it is right to the point of something I’ve been particularly trying to explore for years, which is the place music and movement intersect, having to do with embodiment, and joining of left and right brain. It’s not even about the community of the world or sex exactly, but you know, something to do with that.
    (Are these comments eventually public and we’re maybe reading each other’s like a discussion? If so I won’t go on and on like this in future).

  • Michael Schulte

    “Deep Listening” brings to mind the idea of the thought that goes into the work of crafting a meaningful sound. It is something that should resonate with others. It is something that is made with intention & purpose. The mention of the intelligence associated with sound brings to mind thoughts of Mozart & Gregorian chants. They created sounds with intention & to show an idea. The opposite of pop music which has rehashed themes most of which have sexist over tones, & listening to these songs with intentions leads to feeling empty & robbed of time.
    Chachra’s piece reminds me of the lack of female developers & shows the over praised life of creators who wouldn’t have anything without the approval of consumers. The lack of female developers brings to mind “Hidden Figures” & the contributions women made to the space program. These accomplishments weren’t given proper recognition until a movie was created 50 years later. To fix the lack of female developers, the ones that are around must be given the credit they deserve. Also, non makers must be given credit to developments in the arts community because they are given makers approval.

  • Paige Naylor

    Pauline’s excerpt particularly resonates with me since I am a fellow deep listener. Something new that jumped out at me after reading it again, is the bit about sonic perception — that no one sound pressure will cause any one perception and vice versa. Especially in context of making electronic music, interacting with computers and finding our own sounds, I think it is an important thing to remember. Sounds are often more subjective than objective.

    I enjoyed ‘Why I Am Not A Maker’ in more ways than one. First off, I enjoyed a woman’s perspective of makerism, as it seems males are often the owners of the “maker” title. I enjoyed the perspective that making is more of a surface process, where deeper down, knowledge and teaching are the foundations of makerism — that the act of teaching people to make should be just as celebrated as the making itself.

  • Taylor

    First I gotta say that the Tomoring II and the Sonoglyph were really cool. I really enjoy weird, custom, flexible instruments like that that are capable of all sorts of sounds. For the readings, I get to visit Oliveros again, after a previous class last year and simultaneously with another class this semester. Still, I do enjoy deep listening and taking the time to actually listen to everything going on instead of simply hearing it and filtering it out, only listening to what we want to listen to. As for the maker reading, it is a real issue but I hope it’s resolved more by bringing other people up rather than knocking makers down.

  • Michael Estep

    I really enjoyed the Why Im not A Maker writing, specifically the idea about making for one’s own creative reasons vs. making in a value system. In my thinking on this I have felt that there are often times where I may feel as if I am creating something for my own reasons and desires and yet there is still a part of me somewhere that holds on to thoughts about the possibility of the commercial value of what I am doing. That is something that I would like to further explore and work on throughout this semester and truly test my ability to push beyond those influences and see what I can come up with.

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