Sub Ambient Sound Lab

What is Sub Ambient Sound?

We* coined the phrase sub ambient sound to express the unique quality of sounds discovered through excavation. Through contact with solid objects in an environment these excavations reveal sounds from below the surface of the ambient sound experience. The project is inspired by the writings of John Cage, and Nicholas Collins’ Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking.

The contact microphone created for these experiments celebrates the ubiquitous and mighty piezo, easily hacked from everyday objects…and we love hacking everyday objects!

The handmade piezo microphone, through its sound excavations, reveals new ways of knowing and mapping a place and the material world. In some instances, the exposed sub ambient sounds surprisingly evoke disparate memories. The public is invited to explore sub ambient sounds and build their own listening devices in the workshop Mapping Found Sounds. The workshop builds from ideas of Cage and Collins while it integrates the DIY spirit of the exuberant U.S. Maker Movement.

*Jenn Karson, MFA; Ken Mills, MLA

Mapping Found Sounds Workshop

About the workshop


Track sonic footprints and create an experiential sound map of sub ambient sounds, inspired by John Cage’s experiments with everyday sound.

Workshop Part I
In part one of this two-part workshop, participants make a simple electronic listening device by repurposing the ubiquitous and inexpensive contact microphones (piezos) found in old cellphones, computers, and other devices.

Workshop Part II
In part two, participants discover hidden sounds and contribute to the creation of a unique sound map of Burlington.

“It’s such a different visceral experience…it almost takes you out of your body in a different way than visual does. That sense of awareness is super-powerful.”

Toni-Lee Sangastiano, Artist/Educator

“This is kind of an experiment for me in endeavoring into the unknown, which is always exciting.”

Monica Callan, Artist/Educator


Workshop Press:

Seven Days Newspaper

Burlington Free Press

If you are interested in hosting this workshop at your event or institution, please contact us. It is available for higher educational institutions, festivals and conferences.