Materials are persistent things.  Materialism is often a bad thing- someone is too materialist, i.e. they are vain, only look at outward appearances, only want sports cars, things.  But materialism can also be defined as truly understanding the implications of the persistence of these things.    This leads to craftiness, innovation, and resourcefulness.  This class focuses on materials and the idea of “in”; i.e. installation, instrumental, environment.  invention/installation/intervention- about a personal invention, reacting to local spaces, local materials, and extra credit for pieces that attempt to solve environmental issues in an artful way.  Ancient Confucian orchestra had eight primal materials: skin, bamboo, silk, metal, stone, gourd, earth, wood.  This class will focus on such kinds of primal materialism, although there can be spiritual/data materialisms.  Certain techniques, such as "circuit bending" crossover into performance technology, so we could say that this is about performance outside the concert hall.  Documentation skills, signal processing for "situations", and perhaps a little bit of musical instrument making will be covered.  How to use materials, meta-materials in a mindful “21st century” way.  “21st century way” or “post-20th century”, means trying to transcend some of the wastefulness that was in the 20th century, an era which saw the invention of many wonderful technologies, albeit through war, waste, urban and suburban sprawl, and pollution.


Spring 2011

Course Title


Course Number

TECH 350


Peter Blasser




Consent of the Instructor

Meeting Times

MWF 11:00 - 12:00 in TIMARA Studio IV

Office Hours

see office door (Presser Foundation Studio) or by appointment

Web Site


Grading (adds up to 100)

98-100 = A+, 94-97 = A, 90-93 = A-

87-89 = B+, 83-86 = B, 80-92 = B-

77-79 = C+, 73-76 = C, 70-72 = C-

60-69 = D, 0-59 = F

quizza (10)

if a particular week has particular information in it, such as list of materials, you will be quizzed on these materials in a simple, fill in the blanks format.

reaction pieces (40):

throughout the semester, you will be responsible to do pieces as reactions to what we learned.  please do one of each type:

reading responses (25):

please choose five of the reading materials and compose a response for each in digital format on our newsgroup.

participation and attendance (25):

a class may have some sort of physical construction involved, such as the acoustic laptop or Max patch for a feedback system, but you will not be graded on the objects. Your participation and attendance, however, will go to your grade, so please be on time and ready for our hour together.

Class Topics


ingredients of electronics.  learn what specifically makes up the electronics we use.  not all capacitors are the same: they are made out of many different rare materials, which often have a story, e.g. the “mining” of tantalum.  ancient metalsmiths worked at the outskirts of the city, the proto-suburbs, and we can see this resonating in a satellite map of cleveland.  in one way technology is always new, and in another way, it has never changed.  quizzum: what materials are in the ideal components of an “environmentally neutral” circuit?


virtual design, architecture - 3d and beyond. learn some of the tools that google has liberated for our use: GoogleEarth for surveying geography, and GoogleSketchup for visualizing inner/outer spaces.  visit racquetball courts, in search of under-utilized or abandoned spaces in the sports complex..  etude: Students will take a 3d model of the TIMARA studios and “intervene” with their own virtual modification, such as a “nurse log” in the locker bays, or a tunnel from the video editing room to the racquetball courts.  


low power materials- “wood”, “trash”.  about wood as a local, renewable resource, and enjoying it as a resonant materials- the idea of a soundboard.  metaphor- the internet is a sounding board for ideas.  using another superb renewable resource- trash, elementary dumpster diving.  assemblage: students use wood, found objects to make an “acoustic laptop”, introduction to piezo-transducers for flex, measurement, audio.  


pipe organs, an history of Lead.  Meet local organ-builder James P. Leek.  a tour of organs, neatly arranged, thousands of lead pipes make a “glorious sound unto God”.  Using lead for art - stained glass, and of course electronic circuits.  You see lead is in our environment, and it is a bad thing when babies have to absorb it, but it is also in our culture; all the poisonous water pipes of Rome became baroque organs.  how plants absorb lead.  what plants absorb lead?  how does lead de-arteface and enter our environment?  

>> do you think that organmaking is a good way to get rid of lead in the

>> environment- make pipes out of it?

> sure its in a relatively stable form, not airborne flaking paint.  no one

> touches the pipes after installation.  tuning is all done with a wand


in the gamelan room- resonant metals/ constructivist feedback.  a baby, when faced with a mirror, will react based on his internal environment; if he is angry he will become more so, and the same with happy.  this is positive, or hysteresis feedback.  negative feedback is involved in making a system stable.  this weeks class meets in the gamelan room, where we will experiment with different kinds of feedback through piezo-transducers on the brass gongs, bowls, barres, and other basement spaces.  See Alvin Lucier, empty vessels.


designed materials, fresnel lense, honey-comb molding, fractal crystal growth, cd, 3d glasses.  meta means with, so meta-materials is something made with materials in a special way that it transcends the original material.  this is a hot topic in physics, especially with nano-technology we can build materials that seem like trad materials, but different.  students to identify a meta-material somewhere on campus, go to it, document it, and with gusto present their findings.


lecture on tubes- descended from hermetic vials of alchemy, these sealed glass enclosures feature many rare metals, as well as the ability to treat electrons as a material.  quizzum: what are the materials in tubes, and how are they dangerous?


data-material, “wool”, rhizomality.  construction: document your acoustic laptop in a meaningful way, a personal history of the construction.  use text, video, and audio in tandem.  clean up your hard drive, and in the process, “mine” old or forgotten materials and scheme a way to re-use them.  the relationship of data and materials- data is a way to avoid out-and-out materialism, iPhone lifestyle.  Wool is a natural material, that is hand made into felt, or knitted in a rhizomal way.   Practicing rhizomality, handmadeness in your data-material.  dialectics, or duality between “natural” and “non-natural”, the metaphor of the “orgone accumulator”.  Student’s hard drive should be clean enough to download the A/V reading materials.


“skin”, low power mathematical music.  

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana is the largest Indian classical music festival outside of India. It was first celebrated in 1978 and has now grown to be an 11-day festival with more than 8,000 attendees with 2,000 appearing for the opening weekend. The year 2011 is the Aradhana's 34th year.  

Indian Musical Instruments are very resourceful, using gourds, goat-skin, bone, various woods, animal hair, to create some truly unique sounds on some beautiful “hardware”.  The music theory is also highly developed “software”.

there is a power in culture that needs no petroleum to create, although we will need to use petroleum to get to Cleveland.  Can we collaborate with ethnomusicology to rent a “marshmallow shuttle”?  will any one ride Lorain County Transit with me to this festival?  exploring thrift stores and urban spaces around Clevland State University

Final Project

can be in any media format- text, video, audio, combination.  the important point is to convey a “thrust”, or “environmental platform”, a model, or way of being, that is artfully presented because in well-thought-out-ness.  this piece can be a physical object, but the key is to present good fore-thought and a stable “inner environment” achieved pre-materialization/manifestation.  Graded based on how foundational the core concept is.

A/V Reading Materials (choose 5)

Duncan Laurie- Rock Music

Mandatory- Jessica Rylan Interview in “Pink Noises: Women in Electronic Music”

Zeitgeist I --- Zeitgeist II

watch both.  they are about the relationship of money to the world.

Maryanne Amacher, read the liner notes to “Teo”, a cd in the con library.

Paul Virilio, from The Original Accident, read “Caution”, “The Invention of Accidents”, and “The Museum of the Accident”.  Peruse Bunker Archeology.  Also see these online resources:

Invention of the accident

Paul Virilio interview

Dhalgren, by Samuel Delaney

Johnathan Meades, “Further Abroad”, videos.  Britain has a deep culture of urban dialectic, and this scathing critique of modernity, post-modernity, pre-modernity, and anything in between in artifice shall be internalized and applied to your work.  The model of Sheffield as a post-industrial culture capital.  Even though Mr. Meades focuses on English subjects, he does it in a thoughtful way, about spaces and places, inner and outer; as radically strong as it is, this way of thinking stands as a critical basis for our discussion on Ohio.  Available on server.

Deleuze and Guattari, “Capitalism and Schizophrenia” “Mille Plateaux”.  Excerpts available online at: http://www.bleb.net/rhizomat/rhizomat.html

Urbanite Magazine, from Baltimore, has a strong focus on Green design, urban farming, visioneering a way to integrate it with Baltimore’s old tradition of horse-driven vegetable dealers, discussing lead in urban soils, crafting and decorating with trash.


Ancient Mesopotamian Metalworking