Nomadic Studio wasn’t just a snappy title, although it was that, too. We worked in the space near-daily and while the panels were fun and informative presentations with Q&A sessions, we also held some hands-on art workshops in the space, as well as in 0170, the science lab satellite studio we had around the corner. When mapping this whole thing out, we knew that we wanted to invite the incredible polymath, Kate Revitte to come on down, and drop some, ahem, science. For familiarity’s sake, I’m going to refer to her as Knox from here on out, as I’ve been lucky enough to get to use her nickname for a while, now.
We kind of left the workshop up to her, and she suggested teaching our registrants how to build and solder some solar-powered theremins. For those unfamiliar, a theremin is one of the first electronic instruments ever, created by the Russian Leon Theremin in the 1920s. Utterly fascinating dude whose musical namesake was an instrument that could be played without actually touching it through the generation of electronic fields. You’ve likely heard it as the spooky sound in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and all sorts of other places. Now, Knox’s workshop wasn’t a build of a pure theremin, but a similar device called a heliophone where energy from the sun transforms light into sound without the use of electricity. The kicker was that these heliophone kits are small enough to build into an Altoids tin. Wild stuff.
Well, Kate took a bunch of us that didn’t know much about electronics and soldering and put us through the paces. After an afternoon in 0170, we all had enough working knowledge of resistors, capacitors, and circuit boards to build these magical tiny sun-powered single-note instruments that fit in your pocket. As the sun changes in brightness, the pitch of the instrument changes. It was eye-opening, fun, and we learned a whole slew of new things. To boot, the heliophones Beth Wiedner and I built went directly into another piece of art that we had at Nomadic. Weirdest, wildest workshop of them all, I think. Salut, Knox. You’re a great teacher.\