Daizha's TECHNE workshop experience

By Daizha J. These past couple of days, I’ve had the honor of being a participant of Girls Rock Philly and TECHNE’s collaborative project. These 2 day workshops were put on for our Summer Music Institute youth and were led by two very hands on and inspirational instructors, Bonnie Jones and Suzanne Thorpe. When first meeting these two, I could already sense that they were very determined to make sure everyone had a chance to learn something new, but have fun while doing so.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

On Monday, our first mission was to create these contact mics, which I now know are very different from standard microphones in which they do not pick up sound unless it is in contact with its vibrations. Bonnie and Suzanne went through the entire process of cutting wire and soldering and gluing with us until I was our turn to try. I first had to attach the actual mic to a wire, which wasn’t hard once I became accustomed to the soldering iron, which melts metal to help attach wires together. What I did find to be complicated was the fact that I kept applying way too much metal onto the wires, which made attaching them to a quarter inch plug quite difficult since it couldn’t fit within the inner holes of the quarter inch. Our instructors made it quite clear that it was important not to stress about mistakes, for wires can be easily cut and modified. Once all of our mics were made and tested correctly, our next task was to decorate what would soon be our own personal instruments. We were all handed cardboard boxes, magazines, markers, papers and other decorative essentials and were told to get creatively crazy with our boxes. They were then open for experimentation once they were designed and fully equipped with our hand made mics. Bonnie and Suzanne had this pandora box full of fun sound “toys” like sand paper, beads, marbles, etc.  that were all available for testing and experimenting with our boxes. A fan favorite was the rain/ fire like crackle that was result of pouring pop rocks into a cup of water.

On Tuesday, we all met up at the Rotunda on Walnut street, curious as to how we could possibly be prepared to put on a concert with our new self-crafted box. All 8 of us had grown fond of different techniques that were found with our boxes. Some of the girls had discovered a sound similar to the bass guitar by strumming a rubber band wrapped around the box and some had a sort of mechanical buzz by pressing their box with a vibrating toothbrush. I personally favored the sound of me popping a rubber band into my box, as well as brushing a paintbrush along the inside of my box. Bonnie and Suzanne proceeded to show us their way of communicating with us and our boxes through a series of hand gestures and cue cards to the point where we formed a sort of sound box orchestra, which had somewhat of a structure but was still open to improvisation. In return, we had shown Bonnie and Suzanne our way of doing group improvisation by contributing and repeating sounds one by one until we had formed an acoustic music piece. We had used all three methods of hand gestures, cue cards and layering in our show, which we performed that night to all friends and family of Girls Rock. I had a blast working with everyone and collaborating with such odd and unusual sounds had made it one of the most fun and carefree performances I’ve ever done! I definitely left the workshop with a new perspective on traditional music making.