Noise: Electricity for Progress is a series of interactive and site specific installations by Philadelphia-based artist Sam Cusumano. Exemplary of the approach to craft that has re-surfaced within the last decade, the exhibition explores the craftsmanship of sound as expressed through a concentration on the repurposing of found materials, biology, and direct audience interaction.

Focused on the synergies between technology and the natural environment, viewers are invited to experiment with creating new sounds using electrical engineering and computing software. Many of the projects utilize organic materials such as plants and fruit, as well as the electrical inner parts of toys or now outmoded devices. These are manipulated to create an alternative interface to achieve various sound effects, thus subverting their original intention. Ultimately, the goal is to illustrate, through manipulation of sound, how technology can relate to the natural world.

At the PAA, Electricity for Progress will present three experiments: Biodata Sonification and Theremin, Personified, and Circuit Breaking and Modification. Biodata Sonification is an audio installation that allows people to experience the biorhythms of plants as music. Viewers are encouraged to engage with large plants fitted with specialized electronic sensors. The changes in physiology of the plant in reaction to human presence are synthesized into compositions in real time.

Paired with Biodata Sonfication is Theremin, which is a manipulated device that reacts to the proximity of an individual from its antenna, changing in pitch and volume depending on the distance. An electronic circuit interprets the radio signal interference of a person into sound, which is presented in direct contrast to the plant reacting to human presence in the Biodata Sonification installation.

Personified allows listeners to hear the music of their own body. Individuals are invited to engage with apples connected to a computer interface, which responds to touch and the intensity of grip. Extremely fine, real-time bio-feedback allows for endless possibilities in the variations of sound that can be produced.

Circuit Bending, and Modification is a display of interactive modified electronic toys. The objects’ electrical inner parts have been manipulated to achieve various effects, such as a telephone imbedded with a 30 second sampler which plays when the receiver is lifted, or a keyboard whose tone can be changed by turning a knob.

  • modified electronic toy

Image: Circuit Bending, and Modification: A display of interactive modified electronic toys, 2013;

organic and found materials; dimensions variable

A resident of Philadelphia since 2001, Sam Cusumano performs and educates under the name Electricity for Progress. Through presentations, exhibitions, musical performances, and workshops, Electricity for Progress provides interactive environments for audiences to explore the devices and systems all around us, making seemingly complex electronic systems understandable and relatable to the natural world. The audience is encouraged to participate through presentations, workshops, and hands-on interaction. Cusumano’s work “Quartet” and “Personified” have been presented through the record label, producer, and sound artist collective Data Garden.


All ages and skill levels are welcome.

Biodata Sonification Workshop

April 5, 11am-1pm

Led by Sam Cusumano, participants will extract data from living biological systems and translate that information into music and sound using open source computer programs.

Circuit Bending and Modification Workshop

April 12, 11am-1pm

Learn how to manipulate simple electronic elements found in everyday objects, such as a telephone or a toy, in order to create playful sound compositions.