Sonic Arts & Crafts (pdf)

MUSI 3559 (New Course in Music/Studio Art)
When: T R, 6:30-8:30
Where: Wilson Hall Maker Space
Instructor: Peter Bussigel |
Office Hours: T, 4-6


Sonic Arts & Crafts is an interdisciplinary studio course in working with sound through experimental and critically engaged projects. Weekly workshops cover acoustics, basic electronics, instrument building, digital fabrication, and audio programming through hands-on exercises, focusing on how different technologies frame how we listen, play, and think in/with sound. Drawing from readings and examples from physics, art, critical sound studies, and current diy production communities, we will actively engage with the material properties of sound and listen to what these vibrations might tell us about our world. Tuesday workshops introduce different approaches and techniques and Thursday sessions are left open – studio time where students can expand on workshop projects, try their own designs, and collaborate with others – a crafting group.


  • hands-on, practical experience working with sound and circuits
  • familiarity with various digital fabrication practices
  • your own set of wonderfully functional (or functionally wonderful) sound objects
  • a critical yet generative lens for thinking about digital fabrication, sound, and materiality
Materials & Costs

Students have access to the Wilson Maker Studio, home to a variety of tools for working with physical materials and electronics. Some general components and materials will be free and available in the space, but specific materials for projects — things like wood, batteries, and specialized electronic components — must be purchased separately.

Each project has associated costs which range from $10 to, well, infinity depending on what you want to do. You can easily complete this entire course spending less than $100 if you reuse materials and keep an eye out for old parts. Everyone will have to purchase a teensy micro-controller (~$15). We will also be using Max/MSP, a software program that is not free. It is, however, available on the Wilson Computers and in the VCCM, and annual student pricing is $59.

The textbook for this class is Handmade Electronic Music by Nic Collins, available for $40. An earlier version of the textbook is available as a free pdf and will probably work for this class, although there are some sections missing.


Attendance and participation are important in building a crafting community. You are expected to be present and prepared for every session, however, two unexcused absences are permitted without penalty. Each unexcused absence over two will result in a lowered letter grade.

Create and maintain an online archive documenting your experiments and post weekly on your progress. The format of your archive is up to you. Most posting/ blogging platforms are acceptable, including wordpress, a simple html page, tumblr, even a well curated and annotated YouTube channel. Your posts should be about both ideas and techniques. Take photos, short videos, notes, and recordings while you work, but also take the time to reflect. Use this website as a space and time to think about the work you are doing in this class. This is not busy work, documentation and notes are an important part of working on complex technical and/or experimental projects. (4 points x 13 weeks = 52 points)

There will be three graded projects over the course of the semester. Successful completion of each project is worth 12 points. (12 x 3 = 36 points)

The Final Project must be significant in scope with a well thought out trajectory–iterations! Projects will be presented publicly at the end of the semester and include a thorough process write-up on your blog (around 1000 words + media). (20 points)

It is possible to get 108 points in this class. Your grade is primarily based on what you do, not what you don’t do. You could slip up on a project, or forget to document a couple weeks–that’s ok. Focus on the aspects and projects that resonate but don’t let yourself off easy–if you show up, work hard, try new things, take risks, and reflect on your work you will get an A.

Course Policies

Please speak with me if you have a disability or another condition that might require modification of the course procedures or exercises. For information see the Student Disability Access Center

The shop has potentially dangerous tools—follow directions and ask questions. Wear appropriate clothing: Closed toed shoes (no sandals or heels), tie your hair back, wear safety goggles when operating power tools, and be attentive while in the lab. Even when working safely, accidents happen. Report all injuries to me, no matter how small. Know how to use the first-aid kit and the fire extinguisher in the room.

I am committed to providing a safe and equitable learning environment for all students. In a course like this, it is important that we build a strong and supportive community. Any type of violence (physical or verbal) will not be tolerated.

I expect you to follow the Honor Code. Production courses often call into question traditional notions of fair use, copyright, and plagiarism. If you have questions about a specific project, talk with me during office hours.

I will make every effort to reply to emails within 24 hours. If I don’t reply within 24 hours, please email me again.

This is a new course, expect that the syllabus and schedule will change as we move through the semester.