Classes and Workshops
Robotic Music and Automata
Participants develop programming, electronics, and mechanical engineering skills in order to animate mechanical objects over a software timeline using real-time MIDI control and sequencing. By examining physical examples of instruments and artwork, this class explores a practical approach to constructing mechanical musical instruments and animatronic sculptures.
Students learn MIDI programming/recording, construction, and basic electronics utilizing power transistors, MOSFETs, and relays. They are exposed to a variety of mechanisms and actuators, AC/DC solenoids, motors, and lights as well as the control functionality of microcontrollers and software. By using MIDI, participants learn techniques to perform, record, and edit movements over a piano roll timeline in software. This technique sidesteps years of programming and allows students to explore movement within the fluid workflow of a computer workstation. They can orchestrate mechanical music, produce narrative animatronic puppet performances, and develop sound installations among many other possibilities. The final goals of this class are to learn the process of prototyping and to develop robotic devices that can be scaled up to be installed in a gallery or used as instruments to perform within a live setting.
In addition to learning electronics and MIDI, students explore the C/C++ programing language to enable microcontrollers to interface with the serial/USB ports on their computers. The microcontrollers are the “go-between” for the robotic mechanisms and the software that controls them.
Topics: A Brief Presentation/Seminar on Mechanical Music, Automata, Kinetic and Robotic Artworks, Experimental Musical Instruments
Skills: Programming microcontrollers, electronic music, history of automata and kinetics in art and music, electronic and mechanical prototyping, and acoustic design theory.
Teensy LC Robot Output Board
This extended media course focuses on adult students familiar with traditional sculpture practices or comfortable with the challenge of acquiring a new set of design and fabrication skills. By taking a hands-on approach, students “dive in” to the art of soldering, electronic theory, prototyping, and hardware hacking.
The goal of this class is to explore the fundamental uses of electric and electronic devices and circuits used in creating works of kinetic art. Examples include timers, oscillators, motors, electromagnetic coils, sensors, LEDs, transistor switches, loudspeakers, microphones, amplifiers, and more. Students leave the class with several small-scale electronic sculpture studies that they can refer to in their future work.
Skills: Soldering, prototyping, PCB and breadboard construction, sourcing and identifying parts, reading schematics and data sheets, circuit bending, and electronic design theory.
The Experimental Luthier
Luthiers (Lute Makers) are woodworkers who build stringed musical instruments. Their practice explores a variety of means by which energy transforms and travels from a plucked or bowed string into sound.
This workshop covers traditional, lesser known, and new experimental approaches to stringed musical instrument design and performance. Half of the time is spent reviewing the works of master instrument designers and half of the time is spent preparing (modifying) a stringed instrument that each student brings to class. I supply each student with an experimenting kit which includes a kora bridge, a tromba marina bridge, spring rattles to attach to low strings, damping material, and a scraper bow. We also build contact microphones and rosin bows. It’s quite a noisy, intensive, and informative afternoon.
Skills: Acoustic theory, instrument design history, basic woodworking, basic electronics, digital design (laser cutter), instrument maintenance, performance techniques.