By MATTHEW MIRAPAUL APRIL 8, 2004
A DARTH VADER voice changer. A little library of educational Touch & Tell toys. Battery power of Happy Rock drum machines.
Thomas Uliasz found play. However in his hands, individuals toys weren't designed to amuse a roomful of unmanageable preschoolers. Mr. Uliasz had modified them with the addition of keyboards along with other seem-triggering tools so he could play them as instruments.
Mr. Uliasz (pronounced YOU-lee-us), a music performer in Danbury, Conn., is involved in the skill of circuit bending, the creative difference in electronics — usually toys — to allow them to produce new and weird sounds. Benders delve underneath the sometimes fuzzy underbelly of speaking dolls, toy instruments and fundamental keyboards. They rewire circuits, experimenting until they hear tones, beeps or squawks that they like. They solder on switches, buttons and knobs so that you can recreate the novel noises on cue.
Part of the duo Burnkit 2600, Mr. Uliasz is playing a lot of his homemade instruments throughout the Bent Festival, a weeklong event of circuit-bending concerts and workshops. The festival, which ends up on Saturday, reaches the Tank, a middle for that visual and performing arts at 432 West 42nd Street in Manhattan. A festival schedule reaches thetanknyc.com/bent.
Turning electronic toys into instruments involves a lot more work than switching around the synthesizer in the studio room, but Mr. Uliasz will it, he stated, because, ''I'm not getting exactly the same sounds from that synthesizer.''
The Darth Vader toy, for example, was basically a sound processor that deepened its owner's voice. Mr. Uliasz added a port jack along with a pitch-control knob and renamed it the Negative Side Box. When it's linked to a rhythm machine, the circuit-bent toy can convert an analog pedal rotation right into a snarling, stomping beat.
Mike Rosenthal, who organized the festival with Daniel Greenfeld, stated circuit bending was ''a fantastic way to get people looking forward to electronic music.'' Because bending depends on exploration instead of engineering or instrumental skills, anybody can perform it. Electronic guinea pigs by means of battery-powered parrots and crimson dinosaurs are available in thrift shops and rec-room closets, therefore the entry price is low. There's just one rule: for safety's sake, never bend something that is connected.
On stage, circuit-bent toys may be used inside a solo recital or as part of an ensemble that contains conventional instruments. And if the music is rooted in rock, techno or even the classics, compositions are usually free-form. ''The performances are usually somewhat improvised,'' Mr. Rosenthal stated. ''What people enjoy about these instruments is that many options are very unpredictable.''
Circuit bending is really a hybrid of digital culture along with a certain strain of avant-garde music. The practice reflects the creative misuse of technology went after by online hackers, along with the do-it-yourself ethos laptop or computer-game players who modify popular games. Simultaneously, it's very much within the spirit of maverick composers like Harry Partch, who built new instruments to understand sounds he couldn't hear elsewhere. Circuit bending may also be viewed included in the art work movement by which everyday objects are utilized for artistic purposes.
Circuit bending has most likely existed as lengthy as there has been circuits. Lee de Forest, the inventor in 1915 from the vacuum-tube-based audion piano, authored from the ''very weird and delightful effects'' that may be acquired by touching areas of the circuitry. However the genre's leading proponent has most likely been Reed Ghazala, a Cincinnati artist who started bending within the 60's following a battery-powered amplifier in the desk drawer accidentally shorted out, generating the seem of the costly synthesizer. Mr. Ghazala is scheduled to talk at 7 p.m. today in the festival.
Derek Sajbel, a La artist who'll perform throughout the festival as Dr. Rek ShyBel, stated circuit bending has flourished using the maturation of the generation elevated on electronic toys. Mr. Sajbel, who's creating a documentary film about circuit bending and it has put excerpts online at absurdity.biz, stated, ''A lot of those that do bending increased track of electronic toys, so there is a certain feeling of nostalgia which makes it much cooler.''
Indeed, the toys prized by benders, like various versions of Texas Instruments' Speak & Spell products, date in the 80's and early 90's, when complex, infinitely bendable circuits had not yet been reduced one integrated nick.
Tod Machover, a composer and professor in the M.I.T. Media Lab who develops educational musical toys for kids, stated he understood the need to locate new sounds. But he sees circuit bending more like a subversive commentary around the toys themselves. With sophisticated music-making software so easily available, he stated, ''I will not help believing that there's simpler methods to make nice music than taking these toys apart.''
Such thinking won't deter dedicated benders like Mr. Uliasz. On Sunday, he stated, he bought his cats a stuffed toy that purrs digitally because they bat it around. He stated, ''Of course, I will be by taking your factor apart once the cats' interest wanes.''
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A version want to know , seems in publications on April 8, 2004, on-page G00004 from the National edition using the headline: Circuit Benders Unlock the Lengthy Riffs in a nutshell-Circuits. Order Reprints Today's Paper Subscribe
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