Producing music from printers, hacking Speak ‘n’ Spells for backing vocals—it’s not trendy garage band style, however, it isn’t exactly rock ’n roll. A consider the engrossing realm of circuit bending.
I turn on my Casio SA-1, hit the trusty “demo” button, and—after I’m serenaded for any couple of excruciating seconds using the immense sonic ugliness of Wham’s “Jitterbug” (made entirely 32-note polyphony)—my finger hovers more than a big plastic key. A “num lock” key, salvaged from your old Acorn key pad, it protrudes rather incongruously in the pad of rubbery push-buttons usually accustomed to control the small instrument. Following a moment’s hesitation, I tap it. A circuit that I’ve connected messily to among the Casio’s microchips is finished and also the toy keyboard, bought for 50p in a charitable organization shop a couple of in the past, all of a sudden descends right into a rhythm loop sounding something similar to a vehicle crash being undergone an overdrive pedal. This really is circuit bending—not quite what Casio intended.
Explained its pioneer, Reed Ghazala, as “the electronic art from the implementation from the creative audio short-circuit,” circuit bending produces sounds that the device’s manufacturers never imagined of. A Pikachu toy pleading because of its existence. An audience of fur-stripped Furbies singing incoherently to each other in eerily high-pitched voices. Sounds that contains all of the raw emotion that the 10-inch wide keyboard or perhaps a Taiwanese plastic ray-gun can muster—the digital scream from the crashing processor.
Circuit bending is discovered accidentally. Because he informs us on his website, our Mr. Ghazala was, on the fine day within the summer time of ‘66, sorting via a drawer in the workshop, full of various dismembered electrical products. In most his energetic rifling, he became of unify the uncovered circuit board of the toy transistor amplifier with another metal object, causing an unpredicted stream of noise to burst in the small amp. Intrigued with this, he started to experiment and it was soon producing various mutant machinery, from “trigon incantors” to “photon clarinets.”
Ghazala explains, within an in-depth article on oddmusic.com, that “as a child with couple of sources, residing in an occasion when synthesis equipment was both rare and costly, [circuit bending] was an affordable solution by which to understand more about and compose new types of music.”
Something interesting can be created of the mid-day having a screwdriver, a Speak ‘n’ Spell, along with a healthy quantity of murderous rage. His first circuit-bent instrument, named “The Odor Box,” was initially utilized as a soloing instrument inside a friend’s band, plus the classical drums, bass and guitar. Although he claims of those earlier performances that “the audience desired to destroy the instrument and kill us,” he’s since collected a loyal following of “benders” and, because the artist listing for that 2004 BENT festival place it, “is known worldwide because the father of circuit bending.” He’s now compiled an intensive help guide to the techniques and tools of circuit bending, vital studying for just about any ambitious circuit surgeon.
Basically, the current practice of “bending” involves shorting out points around the uncovered circuit board of the device (using something similar to a screwdriver) while stated system is playing certainly one of its tinny notes. This is accomplished with the hope that some spontaneous and aleatory seem will erupt (so far as something can “erupt” from your eight-centimeter foam speaker) because of a crashed microchip or even the torturous electrical manipulation of one other unfortunate component.
When a fascinating short-circuit was discovered, a switch will be installed to bridge the 2 points involved and installed on the exterior case—hence my little Casio’s “num lock” key. Like a reassuring bonus, practitioners needn’t be worried about the chance of brain-frying voltages, because this techno-surgical treatment is performed almost solely on victims from the battery-powered variety. Some instruments are attired with “body contacts,” metal pads made to be bridged with a artist having a part of the body of the choice, effectively rendering themselves an element of the circuit. Discuss an affinity together with your equipment!
Unsurprisingly, the recognition from the art seems to become growing fast—every year since 2004, The Tank, “a space for performing and visual arts in New You are able to City,” has located the BENT festival, which invites “benders from across the nation and round the globe to do concerts using their circuit bent instruments, to educate workshops to children and adults alike, and also to generally descend on the fair city for any week of discussing and revealing their skills.” BENT ‘06—which required place April 9-23—was, by all accounts, inspiring. Explained one blogger as “fun and supremely nerdy,” the workshops ranged from your after-school session offering local children an chance to test their hands at experimentation to some detailed tutorial on constructing versatile square wave tone generators. The live performances certainly delivered the metaphoric goods, with artists merging recorded audio with suitably psychedelic video sequences and live improvised bending.
Obviously, this’d all you need to be another pretentious electronic talent if people didn’t begin using these bizarrely transformed instruments to create fantastic music. The debut CD from Dallas duo Tree Wave, Cabana Air, was launched in 2004 to excellent reviews from critics both inside and outdoors the experimental electronica scene. Their lusciously melodic bend-pop (apologies, I’ve always aspired to invent a genre) creates mesmerizing live shows—fanaticism-inducing performances mixing visuals from your Atari 2600 using the synchronized music of the Commodore 64 as well as an old Compaq Portable II personal computer—both running home-made software that is, like a nice touch, incorporated around the Air.
However, retro consoles are not even close to the limit of Tree Wave’s instrumental eccentricity. Paul Slocum, the duo’s technical half, went towards the extent of conducting a brain transplant with an obsolete printer. His complicated modifications towards the Epson LQ-500’s firmware permit the print heads and roller motors to become controlled externally, supplying a technique for enjoying primitive—though seductively smooth—sequenced tunes.
Admittedly, the development and personalization of Tree Wave’s instruments may well be a little past the technical expertise from the average “bender” (it might easily be beyond me), but that’s not saying that something interesting can’t be produced of the mid-day having a screwdriver, a Speak ‘n’ Spell, along with a healthy quantity of murderous rage.
Another notable musical you’ll need the circuit bending scene is Dutchman Gijs Gieskes, that has, through the years, accumulated a sizable assortment of decidedly odd electronic instruments, including complicated mechanical and electronic sequencers—many constructed from scratch by their own fair hands.
“I began doing circuit bending since i wanted new instruments, but I didn’t have money to purchase them,” explains Gieskes of his summary of the genre within the mid-1990s. “The least expensive items to find were the toys in the secondhand market, however they were limited within their options. So, things i did then only agreed to be open them and find out that which was there to become changed—mostly by touching with my fingers around the circuit and merely seeing what went down.”
He describes his circuit-bent TR-707 drum machine being an instrument from his arsenal he particularly likes. “It has a great deal awesome extra sounds in the bends and there’s a lot of fun to alter.”
Probably the most striking facets of a lot of Gieskes’s homemade devices is the appearance, frequently utilizing beautiful hands-etched circuit boards with knobs and buttons put into curious, visually-pleasing patterns. “I studied industrial design in the design academy within my hometown of Eindhoven, so my background is within design. The seem of my instruments continues to be important, however the design is on top of my list. I would like all the instruments to tell the truth within their design. They ought to not have access to greater than they have to exist, function and remain alive.”
However, in my opinion, certainly one of Gieskes’s most fascinating and startling projects continues to be his experimental music made while using bleeps and bloops of the modified Nintendo Gameboy. A specialized sequencer program enables artists to make use of the Gameboy’s four internal synthesizers to produce complex and dynamic soundscapes. Gieskes, however, decides to keep his music squarely around the minimalist aspect (see “Puzy 99” or “The Birds”). “My Gameboy music is extremely concerning the seem itself, however i do my favorite to get good at making tunes. I believe the important thing to creating great music is simplicity and tune. That is why the Gameboy provides me with great limitations and forces me to consider much more about the tune than simply the seem itself.”
To laud circuit bending because the new rock ‘n’ roll would, possibly, be considered a bit excessive, but it may be only the factor to inject some needed unpredictability in to the electronic music world. However, it might just be a lot of overgrown kids torturing their childhood toys. Anything, I understand that my SA-1 sounds a hell of much better within the throes of short-circuited agony than when it’s playing that god-awful demo tune. Bend me up prior to going-go!
Louis Goddard is really a author, an unashamed enjoyer (and periodic purveyor) of the things pretentious and, most significantly, an infallible gentleman. He resides in Suffolk, England, yet doesn’t possess a tractor. . More by Louis Goddard
Amen Corner ‘Bend Me Shape Me’ 1967
- TheJonaco: This sounds like the UK’s answer to The Rascals- has that blue-eyed soul/rock sound.
- Michael Kenny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuwY1CBuiDE
- redhairkid: Neil Jones, guitarist with Amen Corner, is vocalist Andy Fairweather-Low’s brother in law. Andy’s wife is Neil’s sister.
- david zamir: Used to be my favorite those days, much better than the American Breed version.
- bnegs521: Amen corner < American Breed on this song. Not really close to me.
- Zev Feldman: KILLER ROCK FROM 67
- PavelGaborik: agreed
- pgh45rpms: Song was written by the team of Scott English & Larry Weiss, who also composed “Help Me Girl” for the Outsiders and Eric Burdon & the Animals, as well as “High Ho Silver Lining” for Jeff Beck. US version of “Bend Me Shape Me” was released in late 1967 by the American Breed.
- Sheila Atkinson: love it takes us back !!
- Paul Dirac: ugh! back to the American Breed vid.
- wolfkarel: Very much agreed. It’s ok….but the life has been sucked out of it compared to the American Breed version.
- Jordan Kamnitzer: Different melody and chords. It”s suppose to start in a minor key, and go into a major key afterwards. Too strange on this version of the song.
- davyboy smith: their first hit was actually called gin house blues which got to number twelve in the english charts it had a run spanning ten weeks this was followed by the world of broken hearts which reached number 24
- BluesMarcin: Fajne 😀