Yann Seznec is a prolific inventor, whose tirelessly diverse work within sound technology gives fruit to all sorts of weird and wonderful artifacts; he’s a co-founder of audio-focused Edinburgh games outfit Lucky Frame, makes installation work sonifying mushroom spores, and plays as one-half of banjo duo Seznec Bros. He also contributes prominently to Matthew Herbert’s live shows, including engineering many of the audio contraptions for the One Pig tour.
When we heard the first test recordings Yann made with a series of low-noise contact mics that he’s been building, we were captivated. Unlike a typical microphone, which senses rapid changes in air pressure, a contact mic is affixed to a solid surface, translating the vibrations of surface into a sound recording. The effect is that it’s possible to hear a piano from the perspective of the instrument’s resonant wooden casing, or from the perspective of being inside its pedal column. It can be almost akin to a sonic microscope, picking up detailed mechanical sounds that an ordinary mic might miss. Check out Yann’s wonderful recordings of a sewing machine for an example.
The problem with contact mics is that, for reasons of electrics and voodoo, they typically introduce a high level of noise and hum to a recording. Beginning from some existing schematic sketches, Yann has built a series of contact mic preamps which circumvent this problem, providing a low-noise and high-fidelity audio output. Beautiful!
Yann was kind enough to provide us with a test series of these units, housed in beautiful, characterful enclosures including a cigar case and a sort of wicker box. We’ve started making use of them in scenarios such as on a prepared Rhodes organ and a MIDI-controlled Disklavier keybard (below), and the results are unparalleled. Listen out for these recordings woven in to the fabric of Living Symphonies.
Yann is now taking orders for his contact mic preamps. We can’t recommend them highly enough.