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Musical Hardware Hacking workshop with Nicolas Collins

Matthew Sperry Festival

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 10:00 AM - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 6:00 PM (PDT)

Musical Hardware Hacking workshop with Nicolas Collins

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General Admission Sold Out Ended $30.00 $0.00

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Event Details

A 2-day workshop on (musical) Hardware Hacking with composer, instrument builder and DIY advocate Nicolas Collins.

Nic Collins has presented dozens of hands-on workshops in Hardware Hacking all over the world. Assuming no technical background whatsoever, he guides participants through a series of sound-producing electronic construction projects, from making simple contact microphones, through "bending" toys, to making oscillators and other circuits from scratch. The curriculum is drawn from his book, Handmade Electronic Music -- The Art of Hardware Hacking. The workshop will end with a public performance/installation by the participants.

The topics covered include:

  • Alternate microphones (contact mikes, coil pickups, using speakers and headphone as microphones, tape heads, binaural mikes, etc.)
  • Homemade transducers for sending sound through objects for physical filtering (cheap "Rainforest".)
  • "Victorian synthesizer" (making an oscillator with just a speaker and a battery.)
  • "Laying of hands" on a radio circuit board (the poor man's Cracklebox.) "Circuit Bending" (new noises from old toys.)
  • Circuits from scratch: oscillators, tremolo/gate/panner, mixers. preamp/distortion, pitch trackers, weird analog signal processing, sequencers.

In Nic's own words: "I set out to regain the radical rethink of Alvin Lucier's Vespers: to disassociate music and sound from the limited types of objects sold in music stores, and through this disassociation to prompt new musical discoveries; and at the same time to explore how this drama of interaction between object and idea has played out in experimental music of the past 50 years. [...] Participants leave empowered, carrying several new instruments and the skills needed to continue inventing and building on their own."

We will bring most of the electronic parts needed for the projects. In addition, individual participants are expected to provide some materials and facilities (list here.)

We have limited space, so please reserve early!


  • videos from past workshops
  • video of the public presentation at the end of a workshop at the Ecole Supurieure d'Art d'Aix-en-Provence, France, fall 2007.
  • workshop photos on Flickr.
  • Blogs by Audrey Samson and Chad Jones from a workshop at STEIM in Amsterdam in April, 2009.

Nicolas Collins, an active composer and performer of electronic music, is a Professor of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has led Hacking workshops around the world, from Beijing to Brussels to Bogota, and has worked with John Cage, Alvin Lucier, David Tudor, and many other masters of modern music. He lived most of the 1990s in Europe, where he was Visiting Artistic Director of Stichting STEIM (Amsterdam), and a DAAD composer-in-residence in Berlin. Since 1997 he has been editor-in-chief of the Leonardo Music Journal.

Have questions about Musical Hardware Hacking workshop with Nicolas Collins? Contact Matthew Sperry Festival

When & Where

Techshop SF
926 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 10:00 AM - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 6:00 PM (PDT)

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