The Science of Sound
  • The Science of Sound

    The Science of Sound is an interactive presentation developed and presented by Tucson, AZ based former High School teacher Michael Dixon. It is aimed at students from ages 5 to 100+ and discusses the science of how sound works and the history of recorded sound. Students perform activities designed to demonstrate how sound travels and how those waves of vibrations are translated inside their brains into what they recognize as sound. They also get a fun and informative lesson on how recorded audio has evolved over the years from the water powered organs of the Banu Musa Brothers of 7th century Baghdad to modern day lossless digital audio and everywhere in between.

    Presentations are traditionally given to groups of up to 40 participants in libraries and schools, and can be scheduled in Arizona, Southern California, Southern Colorado, and Western New Mexico. Arrangements can also be made for other locations for districts with 10+ library/school locations that can be presented to consecutively.

    Perfect for summer library programs, maker fairs, science classes, band/orchestra/choir classes, etc. Can be adjusted to fit themes of: History, Science, Music, Art, and Technology.

       Check out more images of our past presentations at our FLICKR page

    Activities Include:

    • Hands-on Access: Examples of recorded media from the past 130 years including: Edison Wax Cylinders, Wire Recorder reels, Edison phonograph discs, Victrola 78 RPM phonograph discs, 45 rpm records, LP records, Reel-to-Reels, 8 Tracks, Cassette Tapes, and other more obscure and forgotten formats.

    • Record your own Record: Students record their voices; spoken and/or sung, using vintage microphones onto a vinyl record using a 1940 record cutter. They then autograph the record sleeve, and the record is left for the library or school to display.

    • Build Your Own Record Player: Students build their own record players using a cactus needle, pencil, piece of paper, and a piece of tape.

    About the Presenter

    Michael Dixon lives and breathes music and audio recordings.

    He runs five successful vinyl record companies - based on his longtime love of vinyl and making records by hand, one at a time, on vintage record cutting lathes.

    Check out this Arizona Public Media Feature (NPR) about Michael Dixon: Tucson Artist Keeps Craft of Making Vinyl Alive

    The Science of Sound

    Utilizing his skills as a former high school educator Mike travels to libraries, schools and after-school programs with a 1940s Presto 6N disc cutter in tow. His program features a fun audio-visual and kid friendly presentation covering the science of sound and the evolution of sound recording from early devices such as music boxes to the modern forms of lossless digital audio. Hands-on demonstrations include making a homemade record player using only a paper cup, pencil and cactus needle and, of course, the kids make their own record . Recording directly to vinyl through vintage microphones, the kids are thrilled to hear their voices played back on the disc and the record is left with the school or library as a keepsake.

    A partnership with Seattleite Kris Dorr, specialize in hand cutting records live in front of fascinated audiences. The duo have traveled the globe cutting vinyl on vintage Presto 6N lathes for acts such as The XX, Cut Copy, Of Montreal, Sebadoh, Half Japanese, WHY? and many more. have been employed to create their unique vinyl artifacts at parties and festivals such as Sundance Film Festival, Pitchfork Festival, Coachella, SXSW for clients such as (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Fools Gold Records, Joyful Noise Records, LomaVista Records, Burger Records and many more. In the spring of 2014 participated in Converse's #Sneakersclash with a one month residency cutting records in front of onlookers in Paris, France and Barcelona, Spain.

    Bands, musicians, or anyone wanting audio on a record can have their audio cut onto a playable plexiglass disc with Founded in 2010, Mike has made records for over 400 artists to date. Available in picture discs, unique shapes, standard circles, and runs as low as 20, the ability to purchase tiny quantities are a major benefit for new artists and touring acts that cannot afford the minimum order of 500 required by most pressing plants. has cut records for tours, Kickstarter campaigns, art shows and even weddings.

    PIAPTK Limited Edition Vinyl Recordings and Handmade Musical Artifacts

    Since it's inception in 2006 PIAPTK has issued over 150 releases - hand cut using vintage record lathes onto upcycled plexiglass, laserdiscs, picnic plates, cd-rs (playable on both turntable and standard CD player), mirrors, placemats, x-rays, and even 90% cacao chocolate. The label has released ultra-limited records by luminaries such as Ariel Pink, Microphones, Jason Lytle, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Southerly, Little Wings, R. Stevie Moore and dozens of others. Many releases are carefully lathe cut (although some are pressed using traditional record pressing plants) and the packaging is always unique. The records often featuring handmade covers assembled from upcycled materials found at thrift stores and garage sales. The packaging concept regularly drives the record making process itself, and contributes to the overall concept behind each release. The artwork featured on PIAPTK releases are printed using silkscreening, letterpress, linoblock printing, unique paintings and drawings, and are often usually by the recording artists themselves. The microruns seldom make it to release date before selling out via preorders. The typical PIAPTK release's monetary value, on collector sites such as, rarely remain it's original retail price - usually increasing steadily as time passes. PIAPTK has received enthusiastic coverage from outlets such as Pitchfork and NYC based 7 inches Blog.

    Soild Gold Records

    The PIAPTK subsidiary Soild Gold is co-run and curated by Dimitri Manos (of Dr. Dog and Golden Boots). While PIAPTK's releases are focused on unique (and complicated) format and packaging, Soild Gold finds its' identity in consistency and a tightly defined minimalistic visual aesthetic. Every Soild Gold release is limited to 200 copies on gold colored vinyl and 100 tapes on gold colored cassettes. The packaging for the label always features a 1970's bootleg style record sleeve and a full color poster. The label issues these releases in the analog formats only - the music is too big to fit on a phone.


    Interested in booking The Science of Sound for your organization? Get in touch with the contact form below, or email us directly at