The Ploughman's Lunch

Postcards from a PhD

Fun with contact mics

2007-07-24_Piezoelectric_buzzerI decided last week that it was time for a very thorough re-reading of Svetlana Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia. I bought it a couple of years ago, when I was very first considering whether a PhD was a do-able thing for me and re-reading it has been really enjoyable. It’s been throwing up a lot of new ideas and connections and I’ve been churning out reams of notes, so it was nice to have the opportunity to clear my head for a bit by attending a couple of workshops out in the real world.

The first was Texture//textiles//tactiles: a sounding experiment run by sound artist Flora Könemann and arranged by the Yorkshire Sound Women Network. Flora works with contact mics and textiles to create soundart and was in the UK to produce an installation for the Electric Spring Festival. The aims of the workshop were to make our own contact mics from piezo discs and then use these to explore the sonic qualities of textiles, which we’d been asked to bring with us. It was a fun workshop, packed with interesting women and a really valuable opportunity to share experiences and skills. The workshop schedule was thrown out by some of the parts being delivered to the wrong building, so only a few of us got to finish making our contact mics, but as an occasional circuit bender I have a soldering station set up at home, so I’m planning to finish mine off later in the week. As with all the YSWN events I’ve attended so far it’s the opportunity to meet other women working in the same areas, interested in the same things that really stands out.

More fun with contact mics at the second work shop I attended last week, this time organised by Vespertine York and run by Glenn Boulter of Cumbria’s Octopus Collective. The session was based around producing improvised music using tabletop instruments built from chopping boards, guitar parts and contact mics. It was all very much in the spirit of Hugh Davies as egg slicers, chop sticks, violin bows and toothbrushes were utilised to (surprisingly?) melodic effect. I was really impressed with the structure and pace of the workshop and how it developed the confidence of everyone taking part – I have to admit that I find improvisation quite daunting normally and got a lot out of attending.

Both workshops were also really useful for crystallising some ideas a friend and I have been developing about running soundart workshops with children. Looks like a bulk order of piezos might be on the cards.


This entry was posted on February 24, 2016 by in Electronic Music and tagged , , , , , , .
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