Music Hack Day Boston: the art of noise

November 25, 2009

I promised myself that I would actually make something at Music Hack Day Boston, not just hang out while other people made stuff. So I signed up for circuit bender Jimmie Rodgers‘s newbie workshop on making an Atari Punk Console, a simple synthesizer that Jimmie designed and has made available as a kit. It uses a two-up timing chip to drive a speaker which, when tweaked with a pair of potentiometers, makes some very fun electronic squeals. The whole circuit fits into an Altoids tin.

So, while all the real hackers got going on their projects, I settled myself down with a kit and a soldering iron, surrounded by a tableful of kindred spirits. Three of the fastest hours of my life later, I found myself delightedly pushing buttons and turning knobs to  make weird noises come out of my circuit. It was fantastic to reconnect with the pleasure of actually building something and having it work (that’s my handmade synth in the picture above).

I also discovered a new measure of awesomeness in teaching, one that’s so much better than the standard end-of-course evaluations: a whole bunch of Jimmie’s students (myself included) bought him drinks that night at the Echo Nestival.

You can look through a photo gallery, listen to Jimmie talk about circuit bending, and hear some of the great sounds in this piece for NHPR.


  1. I’ve been meaning to put together this mic preamp kit I bought a while back. My soldering skills have held me up from actually attempting it…

    You provide lessons? 🙂

    • Maybe – can you trade bass guitar lessons for soldering lessons? 🙂

      • Sure can!!

        Let’s set it up.
        I’m more of a guitar / piano guy but it all translates well to bass. (plus I bought my first bass a few months ago)

        DM me @dirkler or email me and we can get this started!

      • Actually, I think we both should ask Jimmie Rodgers nicely for another Noise Night open work session – I’m not sure when the next one is scheduled.

  2. […] Punk Console sound generator. I blogged about making one of these at Music Hack Day Boston. Jimmie Rodgers has just put some of the kits on sale at his […]

  3. […] by picking up a soldering iron for the first time in years and making an Atari Punk Console at Music Hack Day last fall, I wrote the following to my 13-year-old self (who, yes, is the dorky kid in the […]

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